Labour’s hopes of maximising its vote in Longford ahead of next week’s presidential election suffered a setback this week after one of its local councillors sensationally resigned from the party.
Granard Town Councillor Tommy Stokes said he had become “disillusioned” with the party in recent months, citing a series of policy differences as the main reason behind his sudden departure.
In an interview with the Leader on Monday morning, some 72 hours after he informed party headquarters of his decision, Cllr Stokes also revealed he would be supporting Independent front runner, Sean Gallagher over Labour presidential candidate Michael D Higgins when voters go to the polls next Thursday (October 27).
“No I won’t be voting for Michael D (Higgins),” he replied whilst reflecting on his decision. “I’ve decided to go back to working as an Independent councillor as I feel I can get more done and be of more assistance to people that way.”
A member of Granard Town Council for over a decade, Cllr Stokes only became a Labour party councillor in June 2010.
At the time he said the move was purely designed to boost the local jobs market and attract inward investment to the north Longford town.
Some 14 months on, the Granard based businessman said his brief association with the Labour party was in no way linked to murmurings of discontent or a lack of political support.
“I just feel that the time is right to go back as an Independent (councillor). They (Labour) have been very good to me and I have met some very nice people. We just have different views on things,” he said.
Asked to elaborate on those exact differences, Cllr Stokes declined to go into specific detail, claiming his resignation was likely to be met with the support of close friends and family.
“This is not something that I have suddenly decided on, I have been thinking this way for some time. They (family) are 100 per cent behind me,” he said, despite admitting fellow town councillor and Labour representative, Cllr Sean Howard was “very disappointed” at the news.
Reaction to Cllr Stokes’ decision has so far been met with a muted response from the party locally. Labour County Councillor and the party’s sole representative at county council level, Cllr Mae Sexton was unavailable for comment this week.
Meanwhile, a statement from Labour party headquarters confirmed Cllr Stokes had formally stepped down for “personal reasons”.
“While we regret his decision, Cllr Stokes has left the party on good terms,” said the statement.