More than 40 people attended a ‘Town Hall’ style meeting in Kilcullen last Thursday evening, May 11 to meet candidates running for the Municipal District of Naas which includes Kilcullen.
Nine candidates, representing a broad range of parties and none attended and tried to give a good account of themselves.
The fact that Kilcullen has been shunted from one electoral area to another three times in the past number of years, and therefore, not a place to launch a successful political career was the driving theme of much of the evening’s discussion.
It’s arguable that the town hasn’t been terribly well represented.
Billy Hillis, from nearby Brannockstown, is the nearest thing to a local politician the town has, and he has suffered in the past from changes in the electoral area, losing his seat at the last election.
The meeting was also dominated, strangely enough, by discussions about another, and larger town in the area, namely Naas - where the difficulties of maintaining a small business appeared to exercise the minds of many.
There was a discussion about whether raising, lowering or giving a holiday from rates was the way to encourage commerce or not.
Each of the candidates tried to say how much they would work for the people of Kilcullen.
Some took the “I’m here to listen” approach, while Darren Scully promoted his propensity to “stand up to (council) officials”.
And he did his fair share of standing up to a member of the audience who questioned why he had never come near her business.
He said that he preferred to deal with the representative body of businesses in the town, namely the North Kildare Chamber of Commerce.
When he was pressed in particular if he would represent all of his constituents it was clear that the discussion had arrived at a point he must surely have expected it to - the November 2011 controversy that saw him resign as Mayor of Naas shortly after he declared twice in a few days on various radio stations that he would no longer deal with black Africans.
“Will you deal with all ethnic groups?” a woman asked.
“Yes,” he replied.
“WIll you deal with individual traders?”
“And black Africans?”
“We’re a fine town and we’re very inclusive,” one man pointed out.
“I have a black brother, who’s adopted from Africa. Why should I vote for you?” another man asked pointedly.
“Well you’re entitled to vote for whoever you like,” was the answer.
“All I can say is that my views were misrepresented,” Cllr. Scully pointed out. His resignation as Mayor, 24 hours after he made his controversial comments was, he said, the fastest political resignation in Irish politics.
“Since that time I’ve met with many groups, including the African Council. It’s a been a learning experience for me.”
“So your views have changed?” he was asked.
“Yes,” he responded.
And then it was back onto traffic improvements needed for the town and a debate about the difference between Naas Town Council vs Naas Electoral Area and who exactly paid for which swimming pool.