Former Cathaoirleach of Roscommon County Council, Ivan Connaughton, officially resigned from the local authority at Monday’s monthly meeting but refused to rule out a return to politics at a later date.
The Independent councillor, who will be replaced by 21-year-old Ballyforan woman, Emer Kelly, told Monday’s online meeting that he had experienced plenty of highs and lows since first being elected in 2014.
“A councillor may not get thanked in the community by many but it’s important that people and communities are represented even though the powers that be, through legislative measures up in Dublin, are taking some of the power away, which is something I don’t agree with,” he said.
Among his highlights as an elected representative, Connaughton mentioned representing Roscommon as Cathaoirleach in New York and as part of a delegation to China in 2018.
He said he was also honoured to accompany the late Cloverhill woman, Tracey Brennan (neé O’Hara), when she and fellow Pembro drug campaigners visited Leinster House.
“When I was asked to accompany the late Tracey O’Hara as Roscommon’s first citizen when she, Vicky Phelan and Áine Morgan were lobbying the Government for the Pembro drug in Leinster House.
“To listen to their stories and how open and frank they were, it really opened my eyes and it was a long journey back to Roscommon that night but a huge honour,” he said.
The Athleague native admitted, however, that he wouldn’t miss the “rhetoric of meetings”.
“Particularly when the media is present…and the issues that are raised continuously at meetings. Maybe there’s a process where engineers and staff could be contacted in advance for many issues,” he said while also admitting that he had grown “disillusioned” by the amount of red tape, both at local and national level.
“(Such as) the restriction of emergency works at Lough Funshinagh and my proposal at the March meeting, to bring in an expert to give a presentation on pumping, which wasn’t supported by the executive and some of the members. That really put the tin hat on me making my decision. Maybe I would have seen out the term only for that.
“I didn’t get the support but it’s not sour grapes. When I meet you all I’ll wish you well and I might be working on projects with some of you and I will continue that for the betterment and promotion of Roscommon as I’ll always do,” he said.
He did, however, call for more people with differing backgrounds to be given an opportunity but didn’t think such a move was possible under the current system.
“There is definitely change needed and I know some of the councillors might not like to hear that,” he said.
Mr. Connaughon said he was pleased that the committee put in place to find his successor had chosen young Ballyforan woman, Emer Kelly.
“While I was the youngest person on the council at 38 years of age, my committee have gone 17 years younger and they have selected a 21-year-old by the name of Emer Kelly from Ballyforan.
“Emer has a bright future in politics, as you will see when you get to know her. I have no doubt that she’ll be a role model for the next generation and I’ve no doubt that the experience she gets will stand to her when she makes the natural progression to Leinster House,” he said.
The popular auctioneer added that business was only part of his reason for stepping down and said that now he would have more time to work in his own community.
“I want to thank the executive present and past of Roscommon County Council, all staff members both indoor and outdoor, the current members and the members I served with prior to the last election. I also want to thank my canvassers and those who have supported me.
“I wish the executive and members all the best going forward. A week is a long time in politics and a month can be a very quick time in politics. I once told Majella Hunt that I’d be retired out of Roscommon County Council before she was and I’ve kept to that commitment!
“I was involved in my own father’s election when I was 16 back in 1998, when I was director of elections for that campaign and for two elections after that. I also worked on General Election campaigns for Michael Finneran and for myself and Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice. It has been a great education and it has been a huge asset to me that I was a county councillor.
“Unfortunately, I’m leaving under these circumstances but on a bright note, there’s a younger person getting involved. When you talk about female participation in politics, at least there’s a female representative in the Athlone Municipal District when the process is complete”.
As for a potential return to the ballot at a later date, the Athleague man said it was “very unlikely” but refused to rule anything out.
“Anyone who knows me, it’s very easy to say that I could make a quick decision and enter political arena in future. I’ll rule nothing in and I’ll rule nothing out!”