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Ann Norton. Photograph by John Kelly

Norton calls time after a decade dedicated to people of Clare

Another new councillor will be elected in the Ennis Muncipal District following confirmation Ann Norton (Ind) will not be contesting the June local elections.
Following the shock departure of Fine Gael councillor Johnny Flynn from the election race, Councillor Norton’s decision not to run again boosts the chances of a new independent candidate winning a seat.
Having served two terms from 2014 to 2024, Councillor Norton (52) said she had always given herself a ten-year timeframe to achieve certain goals in local Government.
The Independent councillor believes she used her time in politics to highlight various issues affecting people with disabilities.
She now wants to spend more time looking after her daughter, Nicole, who has cerebral palsy and other issues, as her health has deteriorated in recent years.
Due to the increase in hospital visits with Nicole, Ann explained it is hard to focus on caring for her in the hospital when her phone is ringing in connection with council work.
“I always try to do my best to help people. There have been times I have found this difficult because Nicole has been sick. When Nicole goes into hospital, I go with her.
“We could spend between seven to ten days in hospital.
“I am there with her around the clock sleeping on the floor. I will always stay with her. Running Clare Crusaders for the last 20 years I have focused on providing therapy for children,” she recalled.
While the mother-of-three wasn’t always sure if she would be able to give up her council work after ten years, she is now at peace with her retirement from politics.
Her highlights include serving as Ennis Mayor for two terms from 2014 to 2015 and 2021 to 2022 and Clare County Council vice-chairman from 2022 to 2023, which included deputising for the first citizen, Councillor Tony O’Brien at various civic functions and events.
“It was great to be acknowledged as an independent. This was one of the great benefits of power sharing which gave members from all parties and independents the opportunity to be in these positions.
“The majority of people who run in Local Elections are there to try and improve their local community. I was very proud to be Mayor of Ennis and the council vice-chairman. It is great to be able to represent Clare and Ennis at various events.
“I enjoyed being able to speak positively about what has been achieved in Ennis and Clare at events throughout the country. My family was very proud when I served in these positions.
“I have been very passionate about advocating for people with disabilities and family carers because it has been part of my life for 26 years.
“I feel I have listened to people who needed support, gave them the best advice possible and represented them for decades.
“I decided to run for the council to try and highlight issues affecting people with disabilities to make people realise the difficulties that are out there. I will continue to be outspoken on this issues,” she said.
As a member of the Ennis 2040 committee, she is disappointed with the way development proposals for the town have become so divisive.
“Ennis 2040 was a very good initiative. There is an opportunity to develop and bring in European money. Ennis 2040 is there to develop business, and economic development. The expertise in Ennis 2040 was brought in when the council looked at developing the DAC.
“I find it quiet sad it has taken a nasty turn in Ennis. The idea of Ennis 2040 was to bring in jobs and develop Ennis because we are a small town between two cities.
“There has been such a negative turn on Ennis 2040, I feel we are ruining the reputation of our town. We are not doing Ennis any favours being so negative.”
Asked about the reduction of parking in Abbey Street, she replied change is hard for people. “If we want to see positive change, we have to open our minds and broaden our horizons. Everything isn’t going to be what people want.
“I think it is very important that people are listened to during public consultation for Ennis 2040 proposals. I hope people give their opinions during public consultation.”
She believes there is support from a lot of proposals in the overall Ennis 2040 plan.
Acknowledging members in the Save Ennis Town group have legitimate concerns, she hopes to see the River Fergus being utilised more for future developments.
“Parking will always be an issue. The council are following policies being delivered by the government who are providing a lot of resource for Active Travel and very little new money for parking.
Some of her achievements included successfully lobbying for changes in the national building regulations in the Changing Places initiative, which involved the provision of proper changing areas for people with disabilities in amenities and facilities such as John O’Sullivan Park, Lees Road, Ennis.
“This made a big difference to peoples’ lives. Over the last ten years, I found when it comes to disability and making proposals, there was an openness in the county council to listen to what I had to say.
Within a year of being elected, Councillor Norton became a member of a multi-agency disability steering group on housing which paved the way for independent living facilities to become part of social housing for people with disabilities.
Following years of consultation and work on governance, a new Clare Housing Disability Strategy 2002 to 2027 was published last June to facilitiate independent living in social housing.
She believes this will ensure people with disabilities will get the opportunity to live independently in local authority accommodation with co-operation from the HSE to put the necessary supports in place for individuals’ needs.
“There is a wide range of disability. The idea is a person’s needs are assessed at the application stage before a house is build so if a person needs high dependency care, their house will be adapted. There is no point in having a standard house and then having to make all the changes.
“The number of people with disabilities who are housed in Clare is quite high, which is something the council are proud of.
“Housing has been provided for people with complex needs.
“The idea of young people in their thirties and forties living in nursing homes is not acceptable. This is being looked at by the disability steering group
“Nicole is now 26 years of age. The thought of Nicole being in a nursing home with elderly people restricted to this environment would be heartbreaking.
“Unfortunately, there are people with disabilities who don’t have family members who can look after them or who can advocate for their needs who end up in nursing homes,” she said.
The Barefield native hopes to continue highlighting disability issues and will remain on the multi-agency disability steering group, which includes representatives from the council, HSE and Brothers of Charity.
“If people like me don’t keep highlighting disability issues, there is a danger these issues will be forgotten about.
While she believes the council will provide more houses for people with disabilities, she is worried that the HSE may not provide enough respite over the coming years.

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