THE battle to win one of the four Dáil seats in the Clare constituency hotted up this week following the entry into the race of Councillor Ann Norton.
“I feel there is a seat for an independent female candidate. It has been a number of years since there has been a Clare woman in the Dáil.
“I wouldn’t be entering the race unless I felt I had a chance of winning a Dáil seat in Clare, said Ms Norton
“I believe this is one of the reasons why people should vote for me. People shouldn’t vote for me just because I am a woman,” she added.
Councillor Norton believes she has a huge amount to offer as a businesswoman, health advocate and a person who has benefited from having a very diverse life.
“There are 27 female deputies to date and there has only been 95 women elected to the Dáil. I think I will be a very strong female candidate,” she explains.
Councillor Norton will contest the next General Election against some of the political heavyweights Deputies Pat Breen and Joe Carey, who were selected on Fine Gael’s Dáil ticket last week; Deputy Timmy Dooley and Clare County Board GAA chairman, Michael McDonagh, who were ratified by Fianna Fáil. Noleen Moran is to run for Sinn Féin.
Deputy Michael McNamara, who was readmitted into the Labour Parliamentary Party last week, is expected at a forthcoming selection convention.
Senators Martin Conway and Tony Mulcahy are regarded as the front runners for the addition of a third Fine Gael candidate in the county, while Fianna Fáil may also decide to add another convention contestant, Councillor Claire Colleran-Molloy.
Clare County Council chairman, James Breen, who was the last independent candidate elected in Clare in 2002, still hasn’t declared his hand, while Kilrush Independent Councillor, Ian Lynch is also weighing up his options.
While Councillor Norton was the preferred choice of Shane Ross’s new Independent Alliance (IA) to run in Clare, the 42 year-old mother-of-three has opted not to join this political grouping.
The Clare Champion understands that the IA is still planning to run a candidate in Clare. Efforts to contact Deputy Ross about his plans for Clare proved unsuccessful on Wednesday.
Last March, Councillor Norton highlighted a number of issues at a meeting organised by the IA in Tullamore, as she wanted to see what this new group had to offer prospective Dáil candidates.
Having met Shane Ross and other Alliance deputies in recent months, she discussed various issues with them but felt deep down it was in the best interests of the county to go forward as fully independent candidate.
“I have always stood on my on two feet and made my decisions good or bad. I am 100% sure I want to run for the Dáil as a true independent,” she explains.
Following the election of seven independents to Clare County Council, Councillor Norton believes this technical group works extremely well, as members support each other’s motions but can still make up their own minds and speech freely without the constraints of a party whip.
“I believe I have a lot to offer Clare people in the Dáil. There will always be people who want to vote for a party but people out there who want real change.
“I don’t want my generation to become Skype grannies. I want to educate my children so they can stay in Ireland,” she says.
“I have so much fire in my belly with the idea of running in the General Election. I believe I can make a difference and be a strong voice in the Dáil for Clare people. Independents have made a huge difference in the Dáil over the last few years,” she adds.
If elected, she insists she will no difficulty travelling up and down to the Dáil and meeting family commitments, as she has been juggling both for years in her role as Clare Crusaders’ clinic manager and managing director.
“I am extremely lucky to have a fantastic husband and three children who are fully behind me on this decision. I have a great extended family who are always there regardless of what happens.
“I come from a business background in the tourism industry and ran a beauty therapy clinic in Ennis for 11 years,” she said.
Currently employing eight people, Clare Crusaders provides free therapy to over 400 children and have assisted over 800 families in the last eight years.
While some people view Clare’s location between two cities, Limerick and Galway, as a disadvantage, she believes it is an advantage.
She believes the next government needs to continue attracting more passengers through Shannon Airport; promote and realise the full potential of the airport and the industrial estate and attract more international companies.
The 20th anniversary of Ennis being named Ireland’s first Information Age town is coming up in 2017. Councillor Norton says the new Shannon Group could work with local information technology companies and aviation companies to develop a new information age technology innovation cluster.
She believes there is enough expertise in the region for Clare to become a world leader by developing and exploiting a new niche in information technology using local university graduates.