Westport’s first lady of politics

Margaret Adams.

Margaret Adams.

“When you’re a mother and you’re used to minding the kids at home and doing the sums there, it prepares you for doing the sums and the other kinds of work as a councillor.”

Next year will mark Margaret Adams’s 35th year as an elected councillor serving the people of Westport, first as a town councillor and more recently also as a county councillor for the past nine years. When Adams was first elected as a county councillor 1974 she was a mould breaker and became the first woman elected to Westport Town Council. “I was very young when I got elected, I suppose,” tells Adams. “I was a young mother with two children under the age of two at the time and it was a big decision to make and I wouldn’t have been able to do it all without the support of my husband, because it was tough enough raising the children never mind balancing that with the work of being a councillor.” But does she regret it? “Not a single bit, I love it. Getting out there and meeting the people of the town and then doing my bit to help them when I could. It’s a very rewarding thing to do and I’m still enjoying it.”

Following the family line

Adams followed in her father’s footsteps, who himself sat in the town council chamber and was the chairperson of the council. “Following on in the footsteps of my father is something that I’m immensely proud of and getting to be the first female chairperson of the council is something that I’m very privileged to have done.” While the political game was in her blood, Adams didn’t just walk into her seat and has been working hard for the people of Westport since the first time she put her name forward. “I didn’t just get my seat from my father, he had passed away a while before I ever decided to go for election so I had to prove myself as politician that the people of Westport could believe in and I hope they still do.”

Time dedicated to the cause

Since her election to the county council nine years ago, Adams has dedicated herself whole time to being a public representative, which enables her to give her all to her constituents. “Since I got elected to the county council I’ve been a full-time public representative to the people of my area. Seeing first hand the amount of work that you go through every day and the demands that can be placed on you as a councillor, a lot of the people out there wouldn’t realise it. And you also have to remember that the vast majority of the councillors also hold down day jobs at the same time. I was elected to the town council a long time before there was ever any kind of payments given to a councillor, it wasn’t for the money I got into this, nor is it why any of the rest of them got involved in politics.”

With 35 years behind her as a politician Adams has seen a lot of changes in Westport and she is happy to have been involved in a number of projects which have bettered the town. “We have recently saw the upgrading of the sewerage scheme in the town, which was a major investment in the town’s future, also the fire station and the continuous improvement on the roads network in and out of the town, though we’re still waiting for the N5 improvement but hopefully that’ll happen soon. I’m happy that I was able to play my part in all those projects and others like the lighting upgrade in Aughagower and the Custom House art studio, they’re all things I’m happy I was able to see done.”

The next generations

Earlier this week there was a ceremony in Dáil Eireann to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the first woman being elected to the houses of the Oireachtas, where all the current and former female members of the Oireachtas came together to celebrate that milestone. Getting women involved in politics is something that Adams feels is essential for the future of the politics, “I do hope that more will get involved in the future, some might think it was easy for me because of my farther going before me but it was as hard as it was for anyone. We do need to see more women becoming more vocal and getting involved in the issues. I would like to see more getting involved in politics here in Mayo”. Being the second generation of her family to sit in the town council chamber, would Margaret like to see a third generation take up the challenge in the future? “I’ve hinted at it a few times, but I think my children, seeing the amount of work that has to go into it along with all the time, may have been put off.” So we might have to skip a generation and start training in the younger ones for the future and see will they take it up.”

 

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