2019 Elections: Gillian Coughlan – Fianna Fáil
Writes Ciaran Dineen
Contesting this year’s Local Elections in the Bandon-Kinsale LEA is current Fianna Fáil County Councillor, Gillian Coughlan. Gillian is a native of Bandon, where she still resides today, along with her husband Don and three children. Cllr Coughlan, by day, is a secondary school history teacher, which she teaches through Irish at Coláiste an Phiarsaigh in Glanmire.
In her youth, Gillian went to Trinity College Dublin where she studied History and Political Science, before returning home to Cork to complete a Higher Diploma in Education in University College Cork. Gillian was co-opted into the County Council in 2016 following the General Election win for Fianna Fáil’s Margaret Murphy O’Mahony TD. Despite being based in Bandon, Cllr Coughlan has made a concerted effort since then to try and represent all of her Municipal District, which included Crosshaven, Kinsale, Belgooly, Nohaval and parts of Carrigaline.
Journey to Politics:
Gillian has long had an interest in politics, despite the fact that she comes from a family which has no ties connecting to it. The history teacher began to realise that despite having a degree in politics, she needed to immerse herself in internal party politics to fully understand what it all actually meant. Gillian was approached by various parties around this time, but felt that Fianna Fáil was best suited to her.
“As a historian, I felt that the work towards achieving a solution in Northern Ireland was very impressive”, Cllr Coughlan tells The Carrigdhoun, “I had never intended to run for office with a political party but when Fianna Fáil approached me I thought about it and consulted with my family and decided to go with them”, she continues.
In 2004 Gillian ran for Bandon Town Council but was unsuccessful on that occasion. However, come 2009, with more experience under belt, she was elected to the Town Council. Unfortunately, in 2014 all Town Councils in the country were abolished under the Local Government Reform Act. The Councillor then sought nomination for both County Council elections in 2014 and General Elections in 2016, but was not picked by her party to be on the ballot paper. Thinking that her opportunity would never come, Gillian was delighted to be asked to fill the void left by Deputy Murphy O’Mahony following her election to the Dáil in 2016.
On Co-Operation in Municipal District Meetings:
Since the abolition of Town Councils, the importance of Municipal District meetings has become vital for the development and progression of towns and villages. Councillor Coughlan believes that cross-party co-operation in these settings is fundamental, and is a huge advocate for working with colleagues, no matter what their political background is. “It’s so important to work together for the sake of our constituents,” Cllr Coughlan explains. “I think we now see across the board that conflict between parties will not result in progress and we need to find a common ground.
It is the only way that politics can really work and I am gratified by the way I have seen co-operation within my ward. I’m the only Fianna Fáil Councillor in Bandon-Kinsale at present and I find that from each of my colleagues that there is great attention to detail and a great grasp of understanding what the local issues are. I think that’s what the public want to see in their politicians, this idea of working together for their interests, rather than fighting and wasting time.”
On Representing The Eastern Side of the Constituency:
Boundary changes will see Crosshaven, Carrigaline and Ballygarvan are re-unite into the one area following the elections in May. However, for areas such as Ballymartle, Nohoval and Belgooly, they run the risk of being overshadowed by the likes of Kinsale and Bandon.
Speaking about being a Councillor for all areas Gillian says, “I have put down good roots, mostly in the Kinsale area, but the party has been very supportive in making me aware of any particular issues. If I am invited to events or notified of issues in the eastern part of the area I certainly make it my business to investigate and follow up on them. For example, something that I raised early on in my tenure was the speeding issue in Belgooly and I’m glad to see that the local group were able to fundraise for speed lights and they have been erected.
However, there is more work to be done there and I actually think that Cork County Council should make a plan for Belgooly because of the mushrooming that has happened there during the Celtic Tiger. It’s the beginning of the Wild Atlantic Way but no one seems to realise that the village is even there. Cars travel very fast throw the area because the road signs aren’t good enough to indicate to drivers that they are entering a residential area.
So, to come back to the question, I certainly keep in touch with the eastern part and I have family and friends who live in that area and they will not let me forget, but the end of the day I have to say that I really do care about that area so it is important to me. I was struck by the level of frustration at meeting in the area a few weeks in relation to water quality and how that is affecting residents and businesses. It is something that I aware of and as a sitting Councillor I am in regular contact with Irish Water trying to solve the problem.”
Other areas that need improving according to Gillian is that of housing and transport, both of which need to be addressed urgently but also with a long-term development strategy in mind. To find out more about Councillor Coughlan’s views on this you can contact her during the lead up to the election by emailing her at @firstname.lastname@example.org or calling her on 086 8814196.
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