9 July 2009 Edition
LOCAL ELECTIONS: First Sinn Féin woman takes seat in Bandon
Tus maith, leath na hOibre – A good start is half the work
BY ELLA O’DWYER
BANDON, County Cork, is another of those areas that saw a breakthrough for Sinn Féin in the local elections when Rachel McCarthy (26) was the first woman ever to take a council seat in the town for Sinn Féin.
The McCarthys always had republican tendencies and when Rachel was only 17 both she and her father joined Sinn Féin.
“The family was having a meal in the Munster Arms Hotel in Bandon,” Rachel recalls, “and there was a Sinn Féin meeting going on upstairs. My dad suggested we go up and sit in for a while. It was out of that meeting that we came to join the local Charlie Hurley Cumann in Bandon and we never looked back.”
This year’s local elections were the first time Rachel stood – and in a town not traditionally associated with republicanism. Bandon was, as the new councilor says, “a Plantation town”, one of many former garrisons for British soldiers in Ireland in the early 1900s.
Rachel retained the Sinn Féin seat in Bandon, first secured by Sinn Féin’s John Desmond in 2004.
She also contested the county council election, doing very well by securing half the quota. So, as Rachel says, “It shows there’s support out there for Sinn Féin.”
A major obstacle for Bandon Town Council is that it lacks urban status, meaning that all the important decisions are made for Bandon by Cork County Council.
“Cork County Council allocates only a token budget for Bandon Town and every year we have to go cap in hand to get it. So recently when it was proposed that ‘paid parking’ be introduced in the town we protested and finally secured assurances from Cork County Council that 100% of the profit from the scheme would go to Bandon Town Council. That’s an important victory because the town is very lacking in facilities.
“There’s nothing for people of any age group here – no amenities, no swimming pool or cinema, nothing of that nature so the funds coming from the paid parking could go someway towards addressing that shortfall.”
Evidently Rachel has been quick enough to get her teeth into local concerns, issues like the difficulties arising for small towns when they don’t have that urban status. On the project of addressing that matter, she’s already managed to secure the support of Bandon Town Council across the board and including all parties. A good start.
But then McCarthy has never been short of support in Bandon and she had a good innings from the outset. One of her sources of encouragement is lifelong republican Noel Harrington who, this year, took the first Sinn Féin seat on Kinsale Town Council in 89 years.
“Noel ran a fantastic campaign,” Rachel says. “The feedback from his campaign team said it all.”
It was unreal going around with Noel, his campaigners said. “Everyone knew him and the response at the doors was brilliant.”
Rachel’s support network doesn’t stop there, though. She happens to be the partner of one of Munster’s Sinn Féin’s Organisational Development Unit, DJ O’Driscoll, but don’t make the mistake of thinking she’s anything but an individual in her own right.
CLEAN UP: Rachel Mc Carthy and Sinn Féin team with one of the rubbish bins they sponsored and placed along the Bandon Riverbank