Sinn Féin’s Kevin Meenan, who will officially be co-opted back onto Louth County Council at a special meeting at County Hall on Monday evening, says he is “fully up” for a return to local politics – and says his preference would ultimately be a return to Dundalk Town Council, where he sat for 15 years between 1999 and 2014.
Meenan was selected unopposed to replace Ruairí Ó Murchú TD on Louth County Council at a selection convention held in Dundalk on Thursday evening. Ó Murchú himself was co-opted to the local authority in 2017 after Meenan stepped down. Now, with the shoe on the other foot, Meenan told LouthNow.ie that he is excited to return.
“I’m very happy to be back,” he told us on Friday morning. “I’d been helping Ruairi since I stood down the last time so I still had my finger on the pulse for the last couple of years. It’s something I thought long and hard about when it was mentioned to me.
“I’m fully up for it now. The more days had passed, the more I wanted to get back. I had my mind made up. I’m eager to get back now and work for the people I have worked for in the past.”
For the last 15 months, Meenan has been working as a project co-ordinator working with young people based in Muirhevnamor, doing cultural awareness and working with young people across Dundalk.
He says that he has kept in close contact with Deputy Ó Murchú over the last two-and-a-half years, discussing and moving forward issues that Meenan himself had been working on as a councillor.
“Ruairi and I would have discussed issues that in the past, I had dealt with. I kept a keen eye on things, in the local press as well,” he explained. It appears as good a time as any to be rejoining the Sinn Féin fray as a frontline politician, on the back of the parties’ success in this month’s general election.
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Now, while efforts in Dublin are being focused on government formation, TDs new and old can spend time on the ground in their own constituencies and councillors, with weeks of intense canvassing behind them, can focus on their day-to-day issues.
“The party is doing really well. I would have canvassed for Ruairi in the last local election as well as this General Election. I have canvassed for Sinn Fein for the last 25 years and I have never seen a reaction like it” Meenan said, of the party’s recent upturn in support. “It’s very good at the moment. I would have a close working relationship with Ruairi as well, especially as he is now a TD.
The Annagassan-based representative says that housing is the issue that he and his colleagues are receiving the most representations about but given his work over the last 15 months, he believes youth services – and more support for them – is vitally important.
“Anti-social behaviour is a big thing in the past as well, linked probably to drugs. In the sense of me working with young people for the last 15 months, is the lack of youth services. It is a big thing and it has a role to play in the overall drug problem, in educating our young people and trying to give them something to do.
“I would have first hand experience of that and the lack of these facilities across Dundalk. That is something I’d be keen to get my teeth into it especially in light of the tragedies that have happened – young people taking their own lives, accidentally overdoses or getting caught up in the drugs game,” he said.
Having first been elected to the council in 2004, Meenan is now – along with party colleagues Tomas Sharkey and Pearse McGeough – both the oldest and newest member of the current council. He sat on Dundalk Town Council for 15 years between 1999 and 2014 and told LouthNow.ie about his desire to that body restored and autonomy given to Dundalk and Drogheda.
“I was lucky enough to be part of the old Dundalk Town Council and I seen it then when it was submerged into Lounty County Council.
“I said at the time I didn’t think it was right. Dundalk is a huge, sizeable town. I really enjoyed the Dundalk Town Council. I felt in the meetings that politics was kept aside. The 12 councillors that were there always made decisions in the best interests of Dundalk. There was never much party politics going on. I think that creeps into the county council. Dundalk Town Council was seen as very progressive throughout the years.
“Dundalk and Drogheda are two very big towns, although similar in some circumstances they are different too. They are unique and have their own identities. I would love to see both have their local authorities restored to what they were when I was first elected.”