Although he left himself with a single month to canvass for the local elections, Joe Killeen is confident it won’t affect his chances of success.
At the end of April, he concluded his year long term as President of INTO and did not dedicate time to his campaign until his commitments with the teacher’s trade union had subsided. “In my life I have been a teacher, farmer and community activist and of course I’ve been involved in a high level at the trade union so I’ve always had to prioritise and make the best use of my time and concentrate on particular areas by keeping other areas going”.
A first cousin of former Minister for Defence, Tony Killeen, Joe is hopeful he can repeat the ex TD’s 1985 achievement of winning a Council seat. “I have supported his campaigns and his ideas and I have an interest in politics for a huge number of years. I’ve been involved in the rural bus system based in Feakle and I was instrumental as part of a committee of getting that bus route extended to North Clare to make sure people who live in rural areas who may not have transport at their disposal or may wish to use the public transport that they can get to their local shopping centre and can return home on that system. I like the community side of politics and the idea that a group can facilitate or bring about improvements in their own particular area and be supported in recognising the agencies that can bring about changes in support of the community”.
“It is my first time ever contesting a political election but I have been involved in the community and voluntary sector all my life. I was a member of the Strategic Policy Committee of Clare County Council for community and cultural which I found very rewarding. In the meantime I have concentrated as a primary school teacher on improving the conditions in schools and ensuring that the resources are there to make sure every child in our schools gets the best possible opportunity of the best possible education”.
Through his role on the INTO which represents 44,000 teachers, Joe has come to the view that politics is the main vehicle to drive change in Ireland. “I have visited schools up and down the country and I realised that if something can be changed, the only ways to bring change about is at a political level. I can see that our area needs representation on Clare County Council to try and make sure we can bring about whatever improvements that we can to our own area. I’ve been the Chairperson of the North Clare Show for the past ten or fifteen years, we recently bought a field and it just compounded the view that if people get some leadership and a bit of positivity they can do an awful lot for their own area but they need the help of outside agencies to help them to do that”.
He is not alone in holding this opinion, Sheila Nunan, General Secretary of the INTO is standing as a Labour candidate for the European elections in Ireland South having received the nomination ahead of former Clare TD, Michael McNamara.
Since 1987, Joe has been Principal of Lough Gutra N.S. in Gort and sees similarities rather than differences in handling teachers and the people of North Clare. “As the principal of a rural school you’re dealing with an area that has many farm families, you have families who work in the hotels and hospitality industry and you become acutely aware of the financial difficulties some families would face and you also become acutely aware of the fact that families who are in need of a little bit of support need the political contact to access the benefits and supports that are there for them, they are just unaware of the supports out there. I’ve dealt with those situations all my life and maybe more acutely know dealing with DEIS schools in the INTO I’m aware of the many areas where families would be very much in need of support”.
In September he returns to his position at Gort and stated his confidence at managing the full-time position with that of a county councillor if elected. “I’ve maintained a North Clare while I was teaching as a principal and during my time with the INTO. I have continued to keep that farm running during that time, I’ve been involved with the IFA all my life”.