TARA O’CONNELL SUCCEEDS HER DAD ON YOUGHAL TOWN COUNCIL
By Christy Parker
TARA O’CONNELL has been selected to succeed her late father Tommy on Youghal Town Council. The co-option took place unopposed at a special meeting of the Youghal Labour Party in the Gate bar on Thursday night October 6th. Labour Party official George Cummins oversaw proceedings which were also attended by local branch Secretary Sean Rush, party members, the O’Connell family and friends. Mr Cummins extended his condolences to the O’Connell family on Tommy’s passing last month following a brief illness.
For Tara, 39 and the eldest of two girls in a family of four children, the occasion was one of pride laced with poignancy. “I was very proud to succeed my dad but very sad he wasn’t there to see it,” she recalls, “particularly as it was something he always wanted for me.” In the event a prepared speech she had scribed went unread. “I just felt too emotional when the moment came,” she says.
Tara traces her interest in politics to an early age and her dad’s influence. “I remember canvassing with my father when I was about eight and loving the razzamatazz of it all,” she remembers. “I also had a teacher whose dad was a politician and that intrigued me also.
In time the issues and practice of politics formed a driving force in her life and she duly joined Sinn Féin as had her father before his transference to Labour. After many years in SF, including a stint as chairwoman, she again followed her dad’s footsteps, this time into the Labour party. “I felt their social policies better suited my own ideas on social issues,” she explains. Much of her time in Sinn Féin coincided with the conflict in Northern Ireland and she remains a Republican at heart. “I am delighted to see peace in the Six Counties,” she states, “but I very much support the goal of a united Ireland.”
In latter times, as Chair of the Save Youghal Ambulance group, Tara has been to the forefront of the fight to retain an efficient ambulance service in the town. There are on-going negotiations proceeding on that issue, she says” but we hope to issue an update shortly.”
On a broad level, Tara strongly advocates fairness and equality and would trumpet the cause of the less well off, the disenfranchised and the marginalised. “I feel that people on the lower end of the economic scale –the ordinary workers and the unemployed- always take the brunt of things and the latest cutbacks once again exemplify that,” she states.
Her new role as town councillor, Tara “will be following up issues raised by father,” including his rent/rates reduction initiative and a feasibility study into restoring drift net salmon fishing on the Blackwater. “But I very much intend to make my own impact as well,” she insists.
A single mum of a teenager daughter, the new councillor sees Youghal’s future best served by self-sustainability. “Large industrial investment is not going to come here in the foreseeable future,” she believes, “so we must to rely on ourselves. That’s why groups like the Youghal Concerns Citizens set such a great example. We have all got to work together to build a better future. I believe at this moment, tourism and heritage projects, along with promoting and assisting the establishment and development of small, individual businesses, offers our best options.”
Pragmatically, she realises that town councils have limited, ever-diminishing power. “That’s why I have always found it unfair that some people automatically blame the council when anything goes wrong. Sure they make mistakes like everyone else, but I think all the councillors have the good of the own at heart and try to do the best they can within the limits imposed on them.”
That may all change for better or worse very soon. In about seven weeks Environment Minister Phil Hogan is set to present to the cabinet his Local Government reform proposals. Things are almost sure to change and maybe change radically. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” says Tara. Meanwhile she intends to make every moment count on behalf of the town that her late father loved dearly and was staunchly proud to serve.