*Ruairí Keenan. Photograph: Tom Micks

ENNIS’ Ruairí Keenan is the youngest candidate declared in Clare for the local elections.

Born in Dublin, Ruairi and his family moved to Clare in 2005 when he was just two years old. He is a past pupil of CBS Ennis and Rice College.

Presently, he is doing a diploma in accounting with Pitman Training while the 21 year old is a familiar face as a retail assistant at Liddy’s Eurospar in Roslevan. “I’m currently living and working on the Tulla Rd so my main priority for starting off was the Tulla Rd because I’m known quite well in Liddy’s Eurospar, quite a common theme at the door is the question ‘Liddy’s right’, it works out quite well in my favour”.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Ruairí explained why he decided to enter the election race. “I’ve always had an interest in politics for the better part of a decade, I always had it in the back of my mind that I might run or I might not but I decided to take a leap of faith, the worst that can happen is I’ll get my name out there, the best case is I get a pretty decent job out of it”.

“It was a snowball effect, issues were coming up, in the back of my mind I was thinking maybe I will and then another issue would come up, more issues kept coming up and I said if nobody is going to do it then I’ll do it myself, if I don’t get elected at least I might be able to start a conversation about the events happening in the town like with Ennis 2040, it is flawed, it is has nice intentions but poor execution,” he added.

There is a need for a young voice on the local authority, he felt. “There is under-representation of course, if I got on the Council I would decrease the average age for a councillor in Ennis by a decade or something along those lines. People my age don’t care about politics, they don’t register to vote, even if they did vote they don’t know who they voted for. My friends wouldn’t be able to name a county councillor but since I’ve gone forward I notice people my age are getting more interested”.

On why he left it so late to enter the race, he said, “I hadn’t made up mind but it wasn’t until very recently that I properly decided. Studying was a factor and studying the race itself, I wanted to know what I was getting myself into and not be the person coming into the race who didn’t know what I was running for or who didn’t have policies or a position, I don’t want to be the guy who is running because he is young, I wanted to stand for something, I knew either way I was going to run in 2029, it was late March when I properly decided and then there was a lot of late nights doing a lot of research, doing Google docs and Excel sheets to put posters together, getting all the information”.

Plans for a mixed-use development on Abbey Street as part of the economic and spatial strategy were criticised by the Oakleigh Wood resident. “The main one is the plans for Abbey Street car park, a lot of people see it as a car park but it has so much more of a historic value with events such as the Fleadh Cheoil and Christmas Markets which would be far less without it, it is where Muhammad Ali was in 2009, it is a very historic area of the town, it serves a much greater purpose than as a parking space”.

Working in retail, he is aware of the impacts to businesses as experienced in parts of the town centre with the ongoing public realm. “O’Connell Street is being dug up, that is causing drastic decrease in footfall in the town and a lot of damage to small local businesses which need people going into town every day, they may not plan on going to the shop but they walk by and pop in”.

He is “conflicted” when it comes to the Ennis Data Centre. “A part of me sees it that a lot of green area will be destroyed for this data centre but on the other hand there will be a lot of jobs. Even if we get a few hundred jobs it will help the economy which is badly needed. It has pros and cons.

According to Keenan there is “a conflict of interest” when elected members of the Council are also operating as board members of Ennis 2040 DAC. “It is its own company but the board members include three elected members of the Council, I see that as a conflict of interest”.

When it was put to him that the inclusion of six Council representatives, three elected and three non-elected offer a link between the DAC and the local authority, he responded, “Government should have a say on it either way. Should public and private be in bed with each other, I don’t think so, the typical use of a board of directors would be to incentivise profit margins but I don’t know if that is happening here but I do know three councillors are on the board of a corporation, the said corporation that is involved with significant infrastructural projects in the town”.

Keenan is viewing his bid for the Council as a potential stepping stone to running for Dáil Éireann. “There is future to it because you can move up the ladder. Maybe in ten or fifteen years if I get the job and I do a good job maybe I’ll decide let’s give a crack at a TD and put my hat in the ring”.

Despite a relatively unknown profile in areas on the outskirts of Ennis such as Doora, Barefield, Kilnamona and Clarecastle, Ruairí believes voters in such parishes will acknowledge the importance of representation from the county town. “Ennis is the economic centre of Clare, we have Shannon as the industrial centre but Ennis is the economic and commerce centre of Clare, what happens Ennis ripples out to the rest of Clare’s economy, if we have more tourists in Ennis then we have more people going to the Cliffs of Moher, flying into Shannon, it might take a little while for us to see it but we have to be able to hold our breath a little bit to hope the ripple effects do come which they very likely will if we get the increased tourism and spending in Ennis”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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