“I am not a natural politician,” Mae Sexton told the Leader, as she chatted happily in the surrounds of her home in Longford town recently.
“But it was my dad’s values in politics and those championed by Philo Kelly that attracted me in.”
Never a woman to hold back on issues that matter – whether it be in Dáil Eireann or a local authority chamber – the seasoned politician believes that her role is to be a voice for those who don’t have one.
“I also got into politics for public service – not personal gain,” she pointed out.
“I have never wasted taxpayers’ money. At the beginning of my political career, I campaigned successfully on a number of major environmental issues including Ballymahon Dump and proposals to build on a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) at Commons North in Lanesboro.
“I was also involved in the fight to save Longford Courthouse, and I have always had concerns over the lack of investment in employment in Longford; as an Independent, I found it difficult to influence change in that particular area.”
So, with clear intent, Sexton set about making political affiliations for herself.
She was attracted to the Progressive Democrats because of its “fresh approach” under the leadership of Mary Harney.
“I really felt that the party didn’t have a civil war political history, and I was also impressed with the fairness of their tax policies, accountability and drive to get investment into the country. The party’s fresh approach impressed me, and I was confident that if in government, I would have a better chance of influencing decisions – for the benefit of Longford – within a small party. I was right.”
Sexton believes that Longford benefited greatly under the Progressive Democrats’ tenure.
“Once in government, the party listened to my case for Longford and over a period of time – from 1997 under Mary Harney’s stewardship – Longford got a fair share of investment from industry – Green Isle, Panelto, Century Homes; then Abbot located here and then the HQ for the Prison Service arrived in Longford. Mary Harney was also responsible for the provision of the money to build what is now Longford Women’s Link (LWL).”
Sexton says that she never expected to keep her seat in Dáil Eireann after boundary changes were made and Longford/Westmeath became her new constituency. In 2007, she not only lost her seat, but she had to stand and watch as the party she was affiliated to crumbled. She ran for both Longford town and county councils in 2009 and won a seat on both local authorities, and she emerged again during the General Election of 2011 – but this time on the Labour ticket.
“I had major health isssues, but thankfully that is behind me now,” she recalled.
“While undergoing treatments in hospital, I was pursued by the Labour Party at the highest level; I even took calls from Eamon Gilmore while still in recovery. Because it was clear that a new government would be a coalition, I again took the view that it might be beneficial to Longford to be part of a party that could influence – so I agreed to run for Labour.”
The run was brief, and after failing to secure a seat, she declared on the Joe Duffy Show in 2011 that she was no longer affiliated to the party.
“I really believed that the party would bring a new type of politics to the table and the nods and winks would go,” she fumed.
“I thought that the privileged and protected tax evaders and super wealthy and golden circles were no longer going to be tolerated and the party was going to insist on a renegotiation of the bank bailout.
“It has been suggested that I am critical of the Labour Party because I was not given a Senate seat, but if that was my motivation for running for them, I would have secured that prior to joining the party – again it comes back to the point that I was in politics for public service and not private gain.”
She reveals that she was then offered two opportunities by the party to join committees, but rejected both offers.
She looks ahead to the future with considerable optimism although it is unclear what her future political intentions are. However, she is clear about the need for politics to change.
“The dishonesty in politics has to change – my intention will always be not about me, but about people , fairness and honesty,” she concluded.