Rob takes a council seat

Fingal’s newest councillor, Rob O’Donoghue tells John Manning about his hopes for the year ahead as he replaces Cllr Ken Farrell on the council

Cllr Rob O’Donoghue (Lab) who recently took his seat on Fingal County Council
Cllr Rob O’Donoghue (Lab) who recently took his seat on Fingal County Council
Cllr O’Donoghue replaces the retired Cllr Ken Farrell, pictured here with his partner, Ina

Fingal’s newest councillor is settling into his new surroundings and is painfully aware he has some big boots to fill in replacing the long-serving councillor who built up a reputation for being a fierce defender of the interests of the people of Rush and his hometown of Lusk and for being a huge local vote-getter.

Rob O’Donoghue was recently co-opted onto the council after Cllr Farrell retired and he now has the summer to bed in to the job and introduce himself to his constituents before the council resumes meetings in the autumn.

Cllr Farrell has been helping the new councillor settle in and sharing the knowledge that has been hard won in decades serving on the council.

It is some big shoes to fill and Cllr O’Donoghue knows it. He said: ‘Nobody is more aware of the size of the shoes into which I’m stepping, than I am. One does not just replace Ken Farrell.

‘I am hoping to follow in his footsteps, as do what he said he always did and that’s just try to do my best. He told me that if I can’t do something then just be straight with people and I suppose that’s obvious but it’s important not to promise things you can’t deliver or you just end up disappointing people.’

The new councillor has a year to prove himself to the electorate before the next local elections. With his party’s consent, he intends to run in those elections and is in local politics for the long haul but how did he end up getting involved in active politics in the first place? Well unusually, it was a European issue that drew the local man in.

He explained: ‘The Lisbon Treaty brought me into active politics. I did a Masters in European Politics and the Lisbon Treaty came along and I was pro-Treaty and a lot of my friends were not so they told me in no uncertain terms, to either shut up or do something about it. So I said: ‘Right, I will!’

‘So I went through that campaign with a non-aligned group and then after that, I joined the Labour Party.

I looked around the parties and looked at the values they espoused and I was closest to Labour, in terms of equality and defending workers’ rights. It just seemed like the most natural fit for me.’

The new councillor spent 27 years of his life in Rush and now lives in Lusk so is well placed to serve both towns.

His day job has also given him an insight into broader issues nationally and across Fingal. He is a social researcher working for non-profits, principally on issues relating to equality.

He also had a hand in preparing a recent strategy document for the Fingal Public Participation Network which brought him into contact with a lot of people connected with the local authority who he will be working with in the weeks and months ahead.

The Labour councillor is acutely aware this year is important and he has a short window to prove himself an effective councillor for his constituents.

He said: ‘I have a year anyway and I would like to serve the new constituency of Rush and Lusk as well as I can. There are a few specific things

‘I would like to work on like working on bike lanes from Rush and Lusk out to the train station so they could link up with the proposed walkway and cycleway to Donabate.

‘I’m hoping to be able to increase the resources that go into the Rush and Lusk area. When I call around the doors, there is a perception that Rush and Lusk are being left behind some of the other towns in Fingal and I would like to see infrastructure going into both towns that would increase tourism.

‘The Main Street in Rush has been an issue for a number of years.

‘In Lusk there is plenty of heritage out there that can be built upon and the heritage society locally does great work preserving it and bringing in tourists and I think they could be supported a lot more.’

The local councillor believes that Rush and Lusk along with the Donabate and Portrane peninsula creating its own new local electoral area will be a positive step for each of the towns surrounding the Rogerstown Estuary.

He explained: ‘I think it will help. The towns are very different in some ways and similar in others.

‘Even with Donabate in there, we are all basically around the Rogerstown Estuary and maybe that’s what they should have called the new electoral area.

‘I don’t see why the towns can’t work together for the benefit of each other.’

Cllr O’Donoghue knows that ultimately his future on the council will rest with the electorate. He said: ‘I’ve got a year to prove myself to be effective for the area and I intend to be. If I am then I’ll get elected, and if I’m not, I’m sure I won’t.’

He describes attaining a seat on Fingal County Council as a ‘dream come true in many ways’.

He explained: ‘I would have liked to do it for the last 10 years really, ever since I joined up. I would have liked to run the last time but it wasn’t to be. So when Ken said he was going, I decided to go for it. It’s been a steep learning curve so far but sure, I’ll get used to it.’

Cllr O’Donoghue is now the third Labour councillor on Fingal County Council under the age of 40 and he hopes that will help him and the party engage younger voters at the next local elections.

He said: ‘In the past, I was a substitute teacher in St Joseph’s and I’ll be trying to engage ex-students politically to try and turn out and vote so I hope they didn’t hate me too much.

‘I think there’s a great opportunity there. The last two referenda were bread and butter issues for the Labour Party for years and most of the kids I would have had in school, not all of them, but most of them, would have been on the same side in those issues. I think those campaigns show there is scope for engagement with young people.’

On the party’s prospects at the next local elections, he said: ‘I think we are in a rebuilding process and you see that in the polls but politics is a long-term game and I would like to be in it for the long-term to work towards reviving the party’s fortunes on a local level and I’m quite happy to do that.’

However, the new councillor said he has no ambitions beyond the council and is not interested in a political career on the national stage, at least for now. Now

He said: ‘I genuinely absolutely don’t have interest in that. I’m just getting my head around this position.

‘It’s a big step up and I have nothing but respect for anyone who takes it – but ask me in 10 years time maybe.

‘I’m looking forward to being just in the middle of it and working on issues and trying to make the lot of communities in Lusk and Rush better.’

Sharing more of the issue he would like to work on in the year ahead, the new councillor said: ‘I’d like to see the parts of the greenway funded in Lusk and between Rush and Donabate and I’d love to see some movement on the Main Street in Rush and the Urban Framework.’

Cllr O’Donoghue added: ‘I’m going to put in the hard yards and see if I can be effective for the people of the two towns and I’ll be going out and hitting on people’s doors and asking them what they want and then I’ll try to follow through for them. I think there is scope for all the Labour candidates in the area.

‘I hope to keep working on projects that Ken started like the Lusk 2020 and Balleally Park which is now coming to fruition – that was a big Ken project and I hope I’ll be lucky enough to be there when it finally comes through.’

And what leaf is he most likely to take out of his predecessors book? Cllr O’Donoghue said: ‘I suppose I’d like to be like Ken in so far as he didn’t speak at every council meeting but when he did, he commanded the respect of the people around him. I’d aspire to be like that so when I do say something it is meaningful rather than just hot air, I suppose.’

The new councillor joins the council in a competitive election year and will have a busy time ahead both in the council chamber and out on the stump around north Fingal, canvassing door-to-door.

Fingal Independent