It’s 3 pm on a Tuesday afternoon and with just three days to go to the local elections The Mayo Advertiser is out on the hustings with Cllr Jarlath Munnelly.
The Killala man is keen to get to every house in Lacken and he ticks each residence off as he is ferried around the village by one of his loyal, campaign supporters.
The area is one of the more remote corners of the county and it is a spectacularly scenic spot, even on a drizzly, damp day, overlooking as it does the sandy expanse of pristine Lacken strand.
Lacken is once again being brought back into the Ballina Electoral Area, having spent five years right on the border of the huge Belmullet area. Cllr Munnelly represented the people here during his first term on Mayo County Council from 2004 to 2009 and he is far from a stranger. In fact, he seems to be a very popular figure if the warm welcome on the doorsteps is anything to go by.
Most of the locals he chats with express their satisfaction at returning to the Ballina electoral area as they feel more at home there than in the Erris municipality.
“I suppose this was really on the periphery in the Belmullet area so they’re glad to be back. They want a local representative,” says Cllr Munnelly. That statement is well backed-up by one man’s claim that he hasn’t seen or heard from a Belmullet area councillor since the last election. He’s a Fianna Fáil supporter but he doesn’t dismiss out-of-hand Cllr Munnelly’s appeal for some support on Friday either.
Cllr Munnelly assures us it isn’t always this easy, particularly on the canvass this year, with his party in Government and the electorate ‘definitely asking some questions’ of him. Mostly though, national politics takes second place to the local issues that people expect their county council representative to take on - the ‘hardy annuals’ such as roads, housing grants and hedge cutting high on the agenda.
Cllr Munnelly is generally considered to be ‘safe’ in this election but he won’t be taking much comfort yet in his touted position as a strong frontrunner. He’s quick to point out that there’s no such thing as a safe seat and if people want him to represent them on Mayo County Council again, he will still need the votes to add-up on Saturday in the count centre, the same as any other candidate.
After almost a decade on Mayo County Council, Cllr Munnelly isn’t as naive as he was on his first time out in 2004. He jokes that he thought he was Robert Kennedy back then - charging into the fray with big ambitions to shake things up.
However, he also says that that naivety was, to a certain extent, necessary at first to have the confidence to get involved in the game because it is hard to put your name forward to the people.
Now, he believes his record speaks for itself. He’s more realistic about what he can achieve and he doesn’t make promises he can’t keep.
“I think there’s only a certain amount of time that you can get away with talking about what you will do in the future," he outlines. "After you’ve been there for a while, you have to stand by your record of what you have done already.”