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Priorities force Staunton to give up politics

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Staunton to opt out of politics, for now


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Neill O'Neill


WESPORT Town Councillor Myles Staunton has announced he is withdrawing from politics. The two term Fine Gael councillor has always been regarded as one of the bright lights of politics, in Westport and in Mayo, and his decision will be a shock to the local party faithful.  However, he has refused to close the door on a return to political life, and would not rule out a potential tilt at a higher office in the future, something with which he has often been linked.
With Cllr Peter Flynn also opting out of public life ahead of next year’s local elections, the town’s political landscape is in line for a major change. Speaking to The Mayo News, Councillor Staunton, currently Leas-Cathaoirleach of Westport Town Council, explained that while his reasons were non-political, if Westport Town Council was not being abolished, he would be looking to retain his seat.
“I’ve decided on this occasion not to put my name forward for the new larger Municipal District Area.
“I am certainly not giving up on politics for good, I have served for ten years and would like to think my track record will be judged well. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into politics, and believe it is only as strong as the people in it. On this occasion there are significant changes taking place where town councils are being abolished, and when I do something I want to give it 100 per cent. Until now, I have been able to manage to balance having a solicitors practice and a young family and at the same time make my contribution to my town. However, I now feel, unfortunately, given the size of the enlarged area, it would be very difficult for me, or any person in full time employment, to give it 100 per cent and I don’t feel it wold be right to put my name forward if I can’t give it 100 per cent.”
“I feel this is a moment when I need to think what the priorities are. I have a very young family (Myles and his wife Lorinda have children aged nine, seven and 17 months). My children mean the absolute world to me and while they are so young they need to be my priority, and I have a growing solicitor’s practice (Myles employs five people in his Castlebar Street office) and our diaries are always busy. If I took on a constituency that runs for 150 miles it wold be too much. This has been a difficult decision to make as I have a real interest in contributing to public life, but for now, I think it is the right decision.”
From a Westport family with a rich political lineage, Myles Staunton grew up surrounded by politics. His late father Myles was a Mayo County Councillor, Senator and TD, while his great grandfather, also Myles, served as Cathaoirleach of Westport Town Council 100 years ago. Unsurprisingly then, Myles has always been considered as a potential candidate for higher office, such as Dail Eireann or Seanad Eireann, something he spoke clearly on yesterday, when asked if his decision spelt the end for the Staunton political dynasty.
“If the circumstances were right, I would not discount running for election again, but in terms of the Dáil, currently, the opportunity does not arise and I do not see it arising in the foreseeable future. We have a very strong local Minister, who is working very hard in a portfolio he is suited to and, if there was an opportunity, and the party saw that I was a suitable candidate to run for such an office, I would certainly consider it.
“I am not losing my seat. I have always been comfortably elected, which I am grateful to the people of Westport for, and I will be leaving in a positive way, which will hopefully leave the door open at a later stage and who knows at what level I will put my name forward in the future.”

Abolition
Myles has led a ‘unique’ campaign, supported by his eight colleagues on Westport Town Council, to oppose Government plans to abolish town councils next year. This brought them to Strasbourg where they made a representation to the Council of Europe, yet he doesn’t feel that putting his head so far above the parapet against the policy of his own government will have damaged him politically
“My stepping down is not a rebuke of the decision to abolish town councils. We have been to Europe about that and our position was vindicated. We need to also remember that this bill has yet to go through the Seanad, which will be interesting, even though that the party whip will likely come into play and the legislation could be passed. As a town councillor in Westport, I have done everything possible to ensure the town’s voice was heard on the matter, and to say the plan to abolish the council, without meaningful consultations, is wrong and that there are still alternatives.
“The Government has a job to do and it has been incredibly challenging for them. I think history will judge the Government and Enda Kenny very well, to have inherited the problems they did and sort them out, but in terms of my own decision, I would happily go forward for Westport Town Council if it was being retained.

Talent vacuum
According to Myles the new local government set-up lends itself to those not currently in full-time employment, who may have difficulty giving politics the commitment it needs. He said that the other groups in the town will now have to be stronger, as their focal point - the town council - will no longer be there.
“I am concerned for Westport town that it will have to find its feet again. It is going to be significant that the commercial rates will no longer be solely for the benefit of Westport town and items like the amenity grants for the various organisations could be in danger. I have concerns, I see change down the road but you need a strong town to attract people and progress the surrounding areas.”
“I hope the Fine Gael candidates get the recognition during the local elections for what the party has achieved nationally, particularly on the economic side.
“I have young children and I don’t want to have any regrets. They are my priority. I grew up with politics I saw the demands on my father, politics is very demanding at any level, particularly nowadays. That is key to my decision at the minute and the people close to me support my decision, I have had a wonderful ten years and I’ve enjoyed my time in what is a very progressive council, this is a break for me.
Myles Staunton Senior passed away in June 2011. His son, and political heir apparent, feels his father would support his decision.
“My father was a great support to me in anything I ever did, but he also had a great perspective and always said my intentions in politics were a decision for me. He would understand and would like the fact I am leaving the door open to come back into politics. I have to thank him and my mother Marianne for everything they have done for me, and also my brothers and sisters, my wife Lorinda, without whose support I could not have entered politics in the first place, her parents Peter and Maureen Donnelly and their family, particularly my brother-in-law Richard, who have always been a great support to me, my friends and colleagues in politics, the staff in my office, particularly Denise Wynne, and the people of Westport for always supporting me over the past ten years.
“I’m not disappearing, I’m a young man, I  have a great understanding of how Westport functions and will be a help to any organisation in any way I can be. I still have ideas I would like to progress in terms of contributing to my community. I’m leaving politics behind for now, but I’m certainly not walking away from Westport Town.”