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Mountshannon's Fiona Levie who is running is the Social Democrat's candidate, in the Killaloe area, for the forthcoming local elections. Photograph by John Kelly

Levie aims for election success

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As a lone parent raising four children on her own and a house renter, Fiona Levie knows what it is like to struggle financially before overcoming several obstacles to become a business consultant and lecturer.
Experiencing the highs and lows in business has steeled the Mountshannon resident for the rough and tumble of local politics before she decided to contest the next Local Elections in the Killaloe Municipal District.
Her husband is now classified as a missing person, leaving her in an unusual and difficult limbo.
Ms Levie explained that she moved to Spain for six years with her husband and young family after they were offered an opportunity to take over a yacht brokerage.
Following the death of her father, she returned to Ireland in late 2010, but her husband remained in Spain, leaving her to raise their children on her own without his support.
“I came back with nothing and had to start all over again as a lone parent with four children,” she said.
He broke off contact with his entire family and friends at that time but kept in contact with Ms Levie intermittently until 2015 when he disappeared entirely despite her efforts to reunite the family.
“By this time I understood that he was somewhere in Asia. I am still married to my husband and I find myself in a position where I am unable to legally divorce unless I find him,” she said.
“Despite trying various means to find him, including alerting the Garda Missing Persons Unit, I have still been unable to locate him, and to my knowledge he never came back to Ireland.
“I am quite private but it is part of my life. It has happened and there is nothing I can do about it. It is a sensitive issue but I am not keeping it a secret.”
In 2019, legislation was passed allowing a person to be declared deceased if they can’t be found after all reasonable steps to locate them have failed. Ms Levie isn’t ready to take this drastic step yet.
Her return to East Clare involved a lot of hard work and graft.
“My family business was badly hit, tourism was hit by three or four years of bad weather. If you are cruising on the Shannon, you need good weather. A few years after I had returned, the company folded but I wasn’t involved with it at that stage,” she said.
“I had to take lone parent’s allowance to survive. I know what it is like to lift the cushions under your couch looking for coins to get milk for your kids.
“I worked very hard over the last 14 years to be completely independent running my own consultancy business.
“I hit the ground running and got my children settled into Mountshannon National School. I went back to college at the University of Limerick, completing a BA joint Honours in Spanish, New Media, Culture Studies with a bit of sociology.
“I did a Masters straight afterwards in Project Management. I was asked to help a new start-up company in Tipperary with a high-technology project for the hospitality industry, which I did for two years,” she recalls.
Another door opened with an offer to work as a lecturer with the Project Management Centre in UL before she lectured as an Education Consultant with Tangent – an innovation offshoot of the business school in Trinity College Dublin after completing a Post Graduate Certificate with Trinity.
The online lecturer and business consultant has worked for the Clare Local Enterprise Office facilitating women in business and running start-up innovation workshops.
Now living in Mountshannon, the 55 year-old mother-of-four was always interested in national and international politics, joining the Social Democrats in late 2019.
Last summer, she met Clare Branch chairman, Gary Miley who she credits with revitalising the local organisation. Hilary Tonge in Ennis is also a Local elections Candidate.
“For me, it is now or never getting into local politics. The Social Democrats are the right fit for me, I am not aligned with the right or left. The party are so supportive,2 she said.
After becoming a member of Mountshannon Community Council, she volunteered as secretary for four years and previously served as a public relations officer for the local camogie club.
In 2011, she was one of the founders of Mountshannon Scout Troop.
Her lecturing work continued with the UCD Professional Academy before her business consultancy work sparked off the establishment of her own consultancy business collaborating with other consultants serving the needs of global corporations such as Allianz. Improving facilities and amenities for young people in East Clare is one of her key priorities. Stressing people need to feel their voices are being heard about concerns around immigration, she believes communication and consultation need to be dramatically improved with local communities if Ireland is to meet its international obligations.
“People are concerned about the undocumented coming into the country. International protection applicants have integrated well in Scariff. We need to celebrate successes as well. If there isn’t a balanced approach with the distribution of refugees throughout the country, there is going to be resentment,” she said.
“The government did well at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, if they could do the same now and people could see the figures for the distribution of international protection applicants.”
More social and affordable houses as well as public transport are also needed, she said. She believes more psychologists and counsellors should be based in secondary schools.
Growing up in Williamstown, she was a neighbour of Councillor Pat Burke in nearby Dromaan.
Councillor Burke was the first person she told she was considering contesting the Local Elections even before her own children.
“I know Pat Burke most of my life. He is a gentleman. I am running to give people a choice.” she said.
“No female candidate has been elected in East Clare , apart from Mary Mannion, Parteen, who was elected for the Progressive Democrats in South-East Clare.
“If I don’t get elected but do well, it will encourage other young women to put their hat in the ring. The outgoing five councillors have done a great job, but I think people need a female perspective,” she outlines.
Born in Cork, her grandfather, Daniel Levie was an architect who designed the Imperial Hotel.
At the age of six, her father’s uncle bought land near Williamstown near Whitegate, which became Williamstown Harbour,
A keen boat enthusiast, her father, Peter Levie set up Shannon Castleline, a cruiser hire company based in Williamstown. The company employed about 12 full-time staff in the mid-seventies.
After attending Mounthshannon National School, she followed in her brothers’ footsteps to secondary school in Cork.
In the nineties, she worked in Dublin before coming back to East Clare in 1998 for a family management buyout of the company that was owned by her father’s uncle.
Over a five-year period, she worked with other family members to transform Shannon Castleline into one of the best-performing companies on the River Shannon.
“We were on a crest of a wave. We were turning business away at the height of the Celtic Tiger,” she recalls.

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