County Mayor refuses to rule out run for Dáil

John Bohane talks to Cork county mayor Danny Collins about his aims for the year ahead and the possibility of a Dáil run. 
County Mayor refuses to rule out run for Dáil

Danny Collins, newly-installed as mayor of Cork county, is determined to work with the people on the ground to help tackle the issues facing Cork. Pictured are: Danny Collins, County Mayor and Michael Collins TD (Ind). Picture: Andy Gibson.

Danny Collins, newly-installed as mayor of Cork county, is determined to work with the people on the ground to help tackle the issues facing Cork 

The Independent councillor, who represents the West Cork Municipal District, is looking forward to getting out and meeting different groups in his new role. 

“There is great community and voluntary work going on throughout the county,” he said. "I want to help and work with these groups during my term. They are putting in so much time promoting their villages and towns. 

"I want to reassure them that Cork County Council is there to work with them." 

The new mayor has several targets he hopes to achieve during his 12-month tenure. Increasing the funding County Cork receives and attracting more tourism are two priorities. 

“I want to meet the relevant ministers and find out why Cork isn’t getting sufficient government funding as we should be in terms of roads funding, coastal funding, CLÁR funding and rural regeneration," he told The Echo. "We have massive issues with our piers. Trying to attract more tourists into County Cork is also vital. We need more cruise liners coming in. 

"Rural Ireland is still not being looked after properly. There are also health issues I want to raise. The ‘Belfast or Blind’ bus, which brings people from Cork to Belfast for cataract surgery recently returned from its 96th journey. We could have a small unit in Bantry Hospital to deal with this once or twice a month.” 

Tributes to family

During his maiden speech upon his election as the Mayor of the County of Cork, he paid an emotional tribute to his family. He admits his late parents Seamus and Patricia were his ‘heart and soul’. 

“It was great to have family members present on the day I was selected as the new mayor," he said. "My family and friends have been amazing. I dedicated it to my family, especially my late mother and father. They were my heart and soul. 

"It broke my heart when my mother died in 1993. I was only 16 years old at the time. 

"She was a great community worker and person. I got to know my father more after my mother passed away. We bonded very well 

“I also dedicated it to the people who got me into Cork County Council. The people of the Bantry electoral area who voted me in." 

He intends to work on a number of key issues for the area during his tenure. 

"From a local perspective, the bypass for Bantry needs to be expedited and the flood relief scheme is a major issue. 

"I will try to represent the people of Bantry and the whole of Cork County to the best of my ability,” he added.

Topped the poll

Mayor Collins topped the poll in the Bantry Electoral Area 2019 local elections, having initially been co-opted to Cork County Council in March 2016 following the election of his brother Michael to Dáil Éireann. 

He said working behind the scenes with Michael initially led to him getting more actively involved in politics. 

“Michael has been a big influence on my political career. I was always involved in many different community groups. I suppose how I got into politics was when Michael ran for Cork County Council in 2014. I oversaw the canvassers in the Bantry area. Working on his council campaign gave me a great drive for politics."

After Michael got elected, he was told his next aim should be the Dáil. We were overwhelmed when he got elected in 2016 and the seat then became available for me in the council. I worked hard when I was co-opted into the council, and I hit the ground running. It is all about working hard and representing the people. I put my success down to always doing my best for people.” 

His political work has also benefitted the 47-year-old's personal life. 

He lives in Bantry with his partner Noreen Coakley, who he met during the last council elections. 

“She was in the bar one night and I asked her would she like to come out canvassing?

"She said if I got elected, she would take me for a drink in the Blue Loo in Glengarriff. 

"We went for a drink that night and we are in love ever since.” 

Outlet centre

Returning to council issues, Mr Collins expressed his frustration at a recent draft direction issued by the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien which could force the council to scrap plans for a Kildare-village style outlet centre in East Cork.

He is worried the powers of local authorities are being ‘diluted’. 

“I would like to see the council get more legislative powers," he said. 

"It is sad to see a Minister and the Office of the Planning Regulator going against decisions we made for our communities. It is a disgrace. They lost the court case and now they are trying to get us back.

“They are diluting our powers on a yearly basis. We are on the ground meeting with our constituents every day. TDs are in Dublin four days a week, while councillors are meeting local people every day of the week.” 

Potential run for the Dáil

The new mayor, who was raised in Lowertown in Schull, studied catering and hospitality at the Regional Technical College (now MTU), and initially worked at several businesses in Cork and England.

He purchased the Boston Bar in Bantry in 2006 and he intends to balance his new mayoral duties with a few hours in his popular business. 

“I want to be seen working here as I need to see my locals who are the people who pay my mortgage," he said. "You must be there yourself. I have very flexible staff and I thank them for that. I told them to bear with me for the next 12 months.” 

Interestingly the new Mayor of the County of Cork refused to rule out the possibility of running in the next General Election for the Cork South West constituency where his brother Michael is already a sitting TD. 

“It is not a non-runner. There is talk of them changing the number of seats in several constituencies nationwide. We will take every day as it comes. We will get over this year first and we will see after that. 

"Michael got a massive vote in the Bantry, Beara and Mizen areas but he also got a big vote in the Bandon and Clonakilty area in the last election. Independents play a vital role in Irish politics and in their local communities. We will cross that bridge when it comes to it.” 

The new mayor who is a sports enthusiast said he likes to relax by following sports. 

“I love sport. I am a member of the West Cork Vintners Society, and we have ten golf outings every year. I love hurling. I am a mad Liverpool fan and I love soccer.”

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