The first shock in the race for next year’s council elections came to light yesterday (Thursday ) with the news that Fine Gael’s Ruth Illingworth is to step away from Mullingar politics for good.
“By next summer I’ll have done 10 years, and I think that’s enough. It’s time for new faces and new blood. That’s it for me and politics. I don’t want to be one of those political figures that goes on and on. I want to go out as a winner. I’ve been elected twice, and I’ve seen the desperation of people losing their seat, and I don’t want to be one of those,” she said.
“Ten years is a lot in political life. I mean, 10 years ago Barack Obama wasn’t even a senator, and Bertie Ahern was the most popular politician in Ireland. I was happy as a town councillor, and wasn’t really aiming for the [county] council. I’m happy to bow out,” she said.
Cllr Illingworth, who has spent two terms on the soon-to-be-defunct Mullingar Town Council, was expected to seek selection on the Fine Gael ticket for the new Mullingar-Kilbeggan electoral area which had its convention in the Newbury Hotel on Friday.
With the precedent set in Athlone - where a positive gender quota being pushed by Fine Gael’s central executive saw Cllr Gabrielle McFadden guaranteed a place on the ticket without facing a delegate vote - Cllr Illingworth was considered by many to have been a shoo-in for Mullingar-Kilbeggan.
However, the only diktat imposed by the party heirarchy in Dublin was not the gender quota as happened in Athlone, but that delegates would just put one candidate forward from each of the two old areas onto the ticket.
Though this was suspected to be the reason for the retraction of her name from the ballot sheet last Friday night, Cllr Illingworth told the Advertiser: “The only directive on the night was to pick one from each of the old areas... I had decided a couple of days before to remove my name”.
“It’s been a part of life I’ve enjoyed, but I want to move on to other things, [although] I will work hard for the other candidates,” said the academic and historian.
She confirmed that she will “do a lot of work” in the run-up to the 2015 same sex marriage referendum.
“That’s something I really want to see,” she stated.
“Also, the promotion of Mullingar and its history is something I want to spend some time on,” she concluded.