Cllr John Shaw.

John Shaw to bow out of politics

In a surprise announcement, the newly elected mayor of the Municipal District of Mullingar Kinnegad, Cllr John Shaw, has revealed that he is bowing out of politics.

Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner, Cllr Shaw said he has given 15 years to serving on the county council and now he wants to concentrate on his career as an auctioneer and raising his young family. Furthermore, he finds being a councillor increasingly time consuming and "frustrating" because of diminished powers.

"I never had earmarked a long career in politics. I had no background and was not affiliated to any political party. Friends approached me in 2009 about running for the council and the idea appealed to me and still does, but I have my term done," he said.

"It has been very rewarding, and I did enjoy it, but the system has changed an awful lot since I was first elected."

Cllr Shaw spoke about how the powers of the local representatives have been diminished by changes in legislation, the Lobbying Act and GDPR, all of which he accepts were necessary changes, but "they haven’t helped the role of the councillor".

Councillors used to have a say in housing applications, grants and planning, but not any more – which makes their job difficult because they cannot give the public the feedback that they used to be able to give, he added. Even in the drafting of the most recent county development plan, he said, the councillors made a few minor changes, but the executive had the power to overrule them.

"It used to be a two-way system," but not anymore. He stressed that he did not blame the staff, who are as good as any the council ever had, but everything has been tightened up regarding information that can be shared, and the decision-making process has become more complex. The staff have to deal with different agencies – "there’s a web of people involved".

Cllr Shaw said that being a councillor is a lot more time-consuming than it once was. He works as an auctioneer with Egan Auctioneers in Mullingar and he and his wife Lisa have two young sons – Jack (7) and Ben (4).

However, before he retires from the council, John is determined to see the regional sports centre at Robinstown advanced.

"I have been pushing for the regional sports centre for a long time. I was chairman of Westmeath County Council in 2017 when we first started putting aside €390,000 a year for it, money that came from paid parking in Mullingar and therefore, from the people and customers of Mullingar," he said.

He is hopeful that full planning permission for the centre will be granted during his tenure as mayor and he is looking forward to plans for the design of the new swimming pool going to tender in the coming weeks.

Although he is not seeking re-election next year, Cllr Shaw says he will remain on the council until his term is up in June 2024. In the meantime, he is looking forward to officiating as mayor at the fleadh in Mullingar in August.

He is excited about the regeneration projects in Kinnegad, Castlepollard and Mullingar, which he hopes to see progressed during his tenure and is looking forward to the opening of the Killucan to Thomastown cycle path and the off-road link in the near future.

Cllr Shaw was born and grew up in Raharney, which he declares is "a wonderful place to grow up". He was raised on a small farm and played hurling from an early age. "I spent my childhood on the pitch," he laughs, adding "you couldn’t come from Raharney without being into hurling, but it has stood me well".

He says sport is a great way of breaking down barriers. Having attended St Mary’s NS in Raharney, he went on to St Joseph’s in Rochfortbridge, where sport meant he was "suddenly part of a team".

He went on to play hurling for the county for many years and for Raharney up until last year. He also coached the county minor team last year. As his boys get older and take up the camán, he looks forward to spending a lot more time coaching underage teams.

One of the biggest problems facing Cllr Shaw when he decided not to seek re-election was "telling people". "Once you get into politics it’s hard to get out," he remarked.

He thanked all his family, friends and supporters, and the local Fianna Fáil organisation, for their support and kindness before, during and after his election.

"Every councillor needs that support network to be successful," he said.

Although he is bowing out of politics, Cllr Shaw would encourage others, young and old, to get involved. "If you have an interest in local issues and think you might be good at helping people solve problems, it would suit you. It’s very rewarding," he said.