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Strong Independents took from Norton’s vote

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*Ann Norton

Having gone from being the first candidate home in 2014 to the receiving the lowest first preference of all successful Ennis Municipal District, it proved to be an emotional election for Ann Norton.

Although her vote actually increased in the space of five years, it did not match the major surge enjoyed by Mary Howard, Clare Colleran Molloy and Paul Murphy. When speaking to The Clare Echo in the build-up to the local elections, Norton emphasised she was not too fussed about where she finished so long as it was in the top seven, this was a message she reiterated in the moments after retaining her seat.

“My priority today was to get a seat, every election is different and this election was hugely important to me because I was defending my seat, I knew there was stronger Independent candidates running against me this time, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael structured themselves and got their vote but when you look at how it panned out over the few days I was extremely transfer friendly and I was picking up votes from everyone that was being eliminated and that’s what got me through. It was one thing I learned five years ago, I am extremely transfer friendly and at one stage I might not have been thinking like that but once I came in here last night which was a good idea I realised that I am transfer friendly and it was working, I had a nice gap between myself and Dermot Hayes, there was an opportunity to catch Pat Daly which thankfully I did. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter, I’m going to walk into Clare County Council as one of 28 sitting councillors and it’s my job to represent the people of Co Clare and the Municipal District of Ennis and that’s what I intend to do for the next five years”.

For her first five years on the local authority, the mother of three was the most vocal councillor when it came to raising awareness of disabilities and the lack of services and access for people with various needs. She intends to do likewise up to 2024.

“When you look around you and see the amount of people with some form of a disability and not all disability is visual and that is something that needs to be brought to the attention of the people whether it’s through the media or whatever way we can do it. There has been a lot done within Clare County Council since I went in five years ago, I’ve put new structures in place such as the Changing Places bathroom setup that the Council have agreed for any new build to have it put in, that type of a system is for all people with disabilities and it is hugely important. Obviously it’s very close to my heart but there is a lot of older people out there that need support, need aids and appliances and if it’s my voice that has to be heard, fair enough. I do try to draw in as many councillors as possible for them to be aware of the difficulties that are there but I won’t be giving up”.

Less Independents will exist on the Council from next week as no new Independent was elected in place of either Christy Curtin or James Breen. Ann maintained it was critical that elected representatives worked side by side regardless of their political affiliation.

“Clare County Council are quite sensible in their way of thinking and the approach that power sharing seems to be something they are in favour of and I would hope there is an opportunity there. The reality is you get more work done if you are willing to work together for the betterment of the people. If it was one party or the other, it doesn’t always work as well, I would hope we are going to go into this power sharing and the workload will be divvied out amongst the twenty eight. Everyone has their own gifts and their own strengths, that will follow through within all twenty eight of the councillors and that’s hugely important. The one thing I will be looking for is the Health Service Executive and the education training board because they are the two things that I have a huge interest in and I wouldn’t want to see my voice not being out there for those two particular items”.

Newmarket-on-Fergus native, Páraic McMahon is a freelance journalist and broadcaster currently working for numerous national and local publications including The Clare Echo, The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent, The Irish Times, RTÉ, TheJournal.ie, The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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