Councillor Cathal Crowe may become one of the youngest public representatives to contest the next general election in Clare but he chose an old style Fianna Fáil rally-type event to officially launch his bid on Wednesday afternoon.
Standing on an open top trailer surrounded by political posters from the last three local elections, Councillor Crowe also turned back the clock by launching his election campaign outside the home of the last Dáil deputy from South-East Clare, Paddy Brennan.
The fact that the Brennans were Free Staters and staunch Cumann na nGaedheal members didn’t deter the 34-year-old from declaring his intention to run in the next general election at Brennan’s Cross in Meelick.
The passionate historian recalled that while on the run, the Brennans often took shelter at his grandparents’ house in Woodcock Hill, just three miles from the cross.
With former Clare hurler Niall Gilligan providing the warm-up speech, Councillor Crowe then outlined his vision. “For 95 years, this corner of Clare has not had a TD that they can call ‘one of their own’. I hope to put that right. I am a born and bred Meelick man, I teach in Parteen school and absolutely love the heart and soul of South Clare.
“I feel at home here. I understand the issues, I know the people and I work hard to represent them. The people of South Clare have been hugely supportive of me over three council elections. I hope that you will stand with me as I seek a county-wide mandate,” he stated.
A new report published by the Constituency Commission recommended that the high variance in the constituency be addressed by the transfer of 5,994 in the electoral division of Ballyglass in the Limerick City and County constituency to the Clare constituency.
This will restore the breach of the Clare boundary for the next general election and provides Councillor Crowe with a political platform to mount an election bid.
“Welcome home Westbury, Shannon Banks, Carraig Midhe, Parteen and Ardnacrusha. South Clare is no longer straddled by two Dáil constituencies – it is now united, it has cohesion and it has the potential to elect a TD,” he predicted.
Having being elected to Clare County Council in both the Killaloe and Shannon Electoral Areas, he topped the poll in the Shannon area in 2014 and secured the highest vote for a Fianna Fáil candidate, with 1,929 first preferences.
Councillor Crowe brought the shoes he wore out through months of canvassing before his first election in 2004 at the age of 21, while he was a final year student in the University of Limerick.
“I was advised to burn shoe leather and that is precisely what I did. I have bought a new pair of shoes and am prepared to wear these out too,” he said.
Having studied politics in UL, Councillor Crowe worked for a year as a parliamentary assistant to MEP Brian Crowley, which fostered his love for the political arena.
On his return to Meelick, he started working closely with his “friend, mentor and colleague” Limerick Deputy Willie O’Dea in the Parteen and Ardnacrusha area, which had recently joined his constituency.
While Deputy O’Dea was unable to be present at the launch due to a previous commitment, Councillor Crowe stated the Limerick deputy is “pledging to fully support me and wants his loyal voters in the border areas of South Clare to support me going forward”.
He also signalled his intention to win two seats for Fianna Fáil in Clare in the next general election.
“Timmy Dooley, Clare’s current Fianna Fáil TD, is a friend of mine. I have canvassed for him in several elections. He is a good man and a good representative for Clare.
“If selected to run for the Dáil in an internal party selection convention that is likely to happen before Christmas, I hope to work closely with Timmy to deliver a second seat. It can be done and every effort will be made to make it happen.
“In my 13 years as a Clare councillor, I have represented both the Shannon and Killaloe electoral areas. This equates to half of the county and includes some of Clare’s most rural and urban settlements.
“I understand the issues of the county. We have a housing crisis. Mortgage approval is still beyond the reach of many and rents are over-inflated. A generation of young people cannot afford buy or build homes. Crazy high rental payments mean that others are left with pittance in their pockets at the end of each week,” he said.
Married to a “wonderful, beautiful and supportive wife, Maeve,” Councillor Crowe said he has two lovely boys, Sam and Charlie and, like so many young couples, know only too well the costs of childcare.
His father, Mike, is a retired fireman and his mother, Irene, is a retired nurse, which has fostered his desire to be a strong advocate for health services in the Mid-West.
He highlighted the need to provide more community childcare facilities, sewerage treatment plants for villages such as Broadford and O’Briensbridge, special needs assistants, classroom accommodation, gardaí and continued investment in Shannon Airport and the Shannon Free Zone.
“The full potential of Clare can only be unlocked with the support for bedrock rural services. I have a strong track record for supporting rural post offices, the expansion of broadband schemes, the investment of funding in local roads, the provision of desperately needed flood relief schemes, the stimulation of rural planning and for supporting those who farm,” he said.
By Dan Danaher