Tough times ahead, but Winters is looking to the future

Fine Gael Ballina town councillor, Mark Winters

Fine Gael Ballina town councillor, Mark Winters

“I’m not a career politician, I’m here to give the people a voice,” was the quick snap reaction from Fine Gael Ballina town councillor, Mark Winters when asked if he would consider running for the county council or higher office in the future. “I can bring about as much change for the better as a town councillor, I’m here to give the people a voice as long as they elect me.”

The Gurteens based financial advisor was co-opted to the council in place of Ernie Caffery in 2003 and returned in 2004, and he held the title of cathaoirleach in 2006/2007, an honour that will live with him until the day he dies, he told the Mayo Advertiser. “If I never get elected again, that is something that will live with me forever. It’s the greatest honour for anyone from a town to be elected to a position like that, I thoroughly enjoyed my year in the chair.”

Civic pride

Winters had a very simple explanation for why he put his name on the ballot paper for the first time, when questioned about his reasons for getting involved in local politics. “It may sound cheesy, but it’s not. I felt a sense of civic pride and service to my town. I was involved in the street festival for a number of years and held a number of positions in that organisation, and it gave me a great sense of pride and achievement in what we had done there, so it was probably the next step and I haven’t regretted it since.” Representing the people of his locality in Gurteens is something that Winters relishes, and he is delighted to have seen some changes in the area since he took his seat at the council table. “I’m delighted to have seen the changes come about in the last few years, when I got elected first we had what you could only describe as a by road in and out of the area, now we have a proper road in and out, along with lighting and footpaths and all associated services. All in all there must have been around €2 million spent on updating the services there, all of them which were very badly needed at the time.”

Development levy the wrong decision

The current economic downturn has seen things slow down dramatically as Winters has seen in his own line of work, but he is fearful that projects that Ballina needs could be put on the long finger until we see a turnaround. “I’m afraid projects like the N26 which is badly needed will not see the light of day in the lifetime of the next council and even maybe after. There are other projects like the arts centre for which funding has been allocated that I would be afraid could see its funding cut due to the downturn, or we might not see much progress on the Market Square project.”

The decision this week of Ballina Town Council to pass the supplementary draft development scheme is something that Winters was fiercely against and he made his feelings known on the matter in no uncertain terms in the council chamber. “It was wrong to pass that at a time when we should be showing developers that we have faith in them and that we believe the times will turn good again. There were eight submissions on the issue all against, four of them were from developers who at the peak were employing over 200 people directly and are now down to a handful each. I defy anyone to go down to the dole queue and find someone who thinks it’s a good idea for Ballina Town Council to slap an extra €3,500 on top of cost of any new house that is going to be built. We already have levies in place on water and sewerage and the money should have been found somewhere from there. There were people putting out the message that if we didn’t pass it Mayo County Council were going to punish us somehow over it, but there is nothing written down anywhere that says they can charge us more for water and sewerage than they charge anyone else.”

Tough times for all

In his line of business Winters has seen the slowdown first hand and the effects it has on people. “There are people who I meet who are struggling to make the repayments on their mortgages and others who can’t get a sniff of one, whereas a few years ago they were being thrown out. It’s tough times for all of us and I will do my best for the people who put me there, and will until they don’t want me there.”

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