*Photograph: Gary Collins
Lahinch will be showcased all over the globe next July as The European Tour comes to town with The Irish Open taking place in Clare, Cllr Bill Slattery has already praised the event for helping to improve infrastructure in the popular coastal spot.
Last weekend, he was selected as Fine Gael’s only candidate to represent the party in the Ennistymon area for the upcoming local elections in May. Both he and Fianna Fáil’s Richard Nagle have been the only individuals to express an interest to fly the flag for the big parties in North Clare. Cllr Slattery isn’t surprised by the lack of people stepping forward for Fine Gael though he does expect another candidate will be added to their ticket.
“I wasn’t that surprised because of the revisions of the boundaries back in 2014 when the old Ennistymon which used go from the Bellbridge Hotel up to Ballyvaughan that extended as far down as Loop Head lighthouse right up to Ballyvaughan and it brought in eight councillors, I was the only Fine Gael councillor in the Northern side of that boundary in 2014 and I had been the only active member of Fine Gael working in this area since then and I had been working in the old area so I was familiar with the area that has come back in now with Ruan, Boston, Tubber, I felt I was the person here on the ground and I wasn’t surprised because the other area had gone into the Killaloe area and was being represented by councillors such as Pat Burke, for that reason I wasn’t surprised that there was nobody else to contest the convention”.
When it comes to the elections in May, Slattery admitted to The Clare Echo, “I’ve worked very hard so I would be quietly confident of holding and retaining the seat”. His involvement with Fine Gael stretches back to 1978 but stated, “I’ve been involved in community work all my life”.
At the beginning of the year, a story was published in The Clare People which highlighted that Slattery had not submitted a single motion to Clare County Council in 2017, when asked if he received a reaction from the public as a result, he replied. “No reaction because I represent the people that elected me in the North Clare area, if there are issues that occur or are brought up at county level I speak on those motions and if I feel its warranted I support and speak on the motions of other councillors.
“I put in my motions every six weeks into the Municipal District and I speak very strongly for the people that I represent and all the motions I put in are relevant to the people that elect me not to the county and for that reason I don’t really get involved in motions because sometimes they can be a waste of the Executive’s time, a lot of them are repetitive and for that reason I get involved in the debates but I don’t put in the motions. I certainly put in motions and they are sent to the local media prior to every Municipal District meeting for the media to come and only some of them come, I have always submitted my motions to the media prior to the Municipal District meetings”.
As it stands, Bill is Lahinch’s only councillor, he maintained “it’s vital” the coastal town has representation on the Council prior to The Irish Open next year but highlighted that he can see the European Tour event is already improving the area. “Most of the motions and requests I’ve had in for the basic infrastructure in Lahinch is now coming to fruition because of the Open, they are on the pipeline and they have been shovel ready for the last three or four years and I have been pressing for our car parks, foot paths, laneways and all that is going to be done, I worked very hard on these for the last five years and I’m glad to say they will be done because the Open is coming”.
Though his relationship with Fine Gael has been a constant for the last forty years he did step back from the party after unsuccessful election attempts in 1985 and 1999. The lessons learned in those campaigns have stood to him but Bill is still disappointed with the way Fianna Fáil behaved following the death of Frank Henchy in 1997. “I first was in politics in 1985, I contested an election with the late Frank Henchy securing 675 votes when the quota was only 800 but I wasn’t elected because we were too close to each other, Frank was from Lahinch and so was I. He had been an outgoing councillor for many years but I got a very respectable vote.
“Frank was there until his death in 1997 and I got the co-option that time but unfortunately Fianna Fáil who had the majority in the Council Chamber stole our seat, I went for the convention for that nomination but I got that in 1997 but unfortunately Tom Burke in Corofin took that seat through the Fianna Fáil party from Fine Gael and I think that was very bad at the time but for that I would have been involved a lot longer. Then I contested the election in 1999 with Senator Martin Conway and Joe Arkins, I won that convention with Joe Arkins and Martin Conway was added afterwards and the two of us went forward but again being too close to each other we split the vote and none of the two of us were elected. I wasn’t active then as I was because I was disappointed with what happened in 1999, then in 2011 Fine Gael came back to me and asked would I go for co-option after Martin Conway was elected to the Senate and I went forward and I’m there since”.