Peggy Nolan celebrating her re-election with her Fine Gael party colleagues (missing from the photo: Gerard Farrell) PICTURE: MICHELLE GHEE
Women in Politics: Peggy Nolan is to be the only woman sitting on Longford County Council, writes Jessica Thompson
With only two female voices in the council chamber for the past five years, women have been scarce in Longford county council for some time.
And that's not about to change as Peggy Nolan steps up to be the only woman elected to Longford County Council for the next term.
The other woman in the chamber for the past five years was former TD and long-serving councillor Mae Sexton but, after being robbed of her seat by Fianna Fáil's Martin Monaghan, she will not be returning to the chamber.
It became clear in the early tallies that Monaghan had secured more than a hundred first preference votes than Mae, giving her a lot to catch up to.
Transfers, however, didn't quite do it and Mae found herself eliminated on the ninth count.
The Longford town woman's colleagues have expressed their utter shock and disappointment at her elimination.
“It's a dark day for women,” said Cllr Peggy Nolan of her female colleague's departure from the council chamber.
“Ten women put their name forward for election to make a difference and to serve their community.
“Politics is a ruthless and unforgiving game, but it makes me feel doubly privileged to be there and to serve the people of Longford again over the next five years.
“Women have a different perspective to men and I will have my foot to the throttle, make no mistake about that.”
With talk of gender quotas and balance going around, you'd be forgiven for assuming that female candidates would like to see more equality in the chamber.
However, Peggy Nolan values work ethic and suitability for the job and says she disagrees with the concept of a gender quota in local politics.
“I don't believe in all this talk of gender balances. You have got to remember ten women put their names on the ballot paper, but so too did ten other men who didn't get elected and no one is asking questions as to why they didn't elected,” she said.
“The simple fact of the matter is people didn't come out to vote and that's the bottom line.
“For me, gender should never come into it. It has always been about work rate, making plans to make Longford a better place for people to live in and to make sure we get our fair share of the national pie.”
Mae Sexton's exit from the chamber also brings the number of Independent candidates in Longford County Council down to three.
Independent Cllr Gerry Warnock said that smaller parties have been squeezed out due to low turnout of voters last Friday and expressed his disappointment at being the only Independent councillor in the Longford Municipal District.
“Mae had a battle on her hands for the last seat with Martin Monaghan,” he said.
“I think she had maybe too much ground to make up. It’s unfortunate to see a colleague in that situation but I think the low turnout really set the cat among the pigeons in the mid-Longford area.
“It’s politics but if you want to break the wheel, as Khaleesi would say, people need to come out and they need to vote and make the changes. There’s no point giving out about Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil if they don’t vote. And I think Mae was a casualty of that this time around.”