Walking the independent line

“If you believe in something, I think you have to be able to speak on it and not being tied to a party line as an independent allows me to do that.”

Walking the walk as an independent councillor is not an easy one, with elections looming on the horizon next June a lot of planning and preparation has to go into your campaign. And that work is a lot harder if you have to canvass the largest constituency in Mayo and possibly the country. But since he was elected in 2004, Mulranny-based councillor Michael Holmes has been doing his best for the people of this vast, expansive and sweeping landscape of north Mayo.

Having first run for the County Council in 1999 and only losing out by a solitary vote for the seat, Holmes took to the task in 2004 with gusto and secured his place on the council at his second time of asking, but he is enjoying the work, as he told the Mayo Advertiser earlier this week. “I suppose it depends on what day you ask me, but no I do love the work I’m doing. I enjoy helping people out and it’s why I have got involved in different things down through the years. You have to enjoy it and the punishment that comes with it. I have been involved in groups for the last 30 years, my time holding a number of different positions in the IFA gave me a good insight into what it would be like in the council. But it’s the meeting of different people on different days that keeps you going, you’re constantly trying to get this and that done and when you can for someone it makes it all worthwhile.”

The great wide open

The Belmullet area is no easy task to serve, due to the sheer geographical size of the region, and it’s not getting any easier, according to Holmes. “If you drove from Newport to Dooagh in Achill and then up to the tip of the Blacksod peninsula and back into Belmullet and then back to where you started off, the whole day would be gone. I think sometimes it’s a huge area for the four councillors to cover, because of the size. The population might be higher in other areas, but it’s the getting to people that’s hard here, but they’re just as important as any other voter in the county, no matter where they live in Mayo. We have a huge road network all over the constituency and people living in every little corner of it. The network may be large, but it’s the quality of them that’s a serious issue in this area. I’ve said it before that the Celtic Tiger didn’t come here and if he did, he turned around because of the rocky road that met him on the way into the area. The road from Castlebar to Belmullet is what can only be described as third world in places and it’s just not good enough. Then we have the Curran road in Achill, which is 80 per cent done, it was an ambition of mine to get that road done when I got elected and the 80 per cent which has been done is fantastic. But the final 20 per cent is a nightmare, hopefully it’ll be done in the very near future because the last bit of it is terrible.”

Building up the infrastructure in the Belmullet area is the key to developing the area according to Holmes. “We haven’t had the infrastructure developments that we would have hoped for in this area. Achill and Belmullet are two areas in the county that have huge tourism potential and could grow rapidly, but we don’t have modern sewerage systems in either place yet and we have raw sewage being pumped into some of the most picturesque bays in the world. It’s just not right in this day and age.”

Doing what you can for the people

The new rejigging of the electoral area boundaries for next year’s local elections has seen Holmes given what some might see as an extra advantage. “People might see it that way with Newport coming into the electoral area this time and me being more geographically linked to Newport than Bangor Erris. But it’s still going to be all about what the people want on the day. I hope and believe that I have done enough for people to think, yah, he did his best for us and he’ll continue to do that for us again. I’m a firm believer that people should vote for the person they believe will do the best job for them, and hopefully they’ll think that I have done a good job for them over the last couple of years.”

With next June approaching fast, although he hasn’t set out on his re-election campaign yet, Michael is looking forward to getting out there and meeting the people again. “I’m looking forward to it, getting back out there and talking to the people and seeing how can I help them out and listening to their issues and give them a voice.”


Page generated in 0.0894 seconds.