Emer emerges as county’s top vote-puller

Undoubtedly one of the biggest stories coming out of this year’s local elections in Roscommon is the phenomenal success of independent candidate Emer Kelly, who topped the poll in the Athlone Local Electoral Area (LEA), receiving the most number one votes of any candidate in the three local LEAs.

With 1946 first preference votes, Cllr Kelly surpassed her LEA’s 1403-vote quota to be elected on the first count, along with Cllr Tony Ward (1786) and John Naughten (1750).

Although this was the Ballyforan native’s first time running for election, Cllr Kelly has been a member of the council since being co-opted after former councillor Ivan Connaughton stepped down in 2021. Aged just 21 at the time, that elevation made her one of the youngest councillors in the country. Her election last weekend marked another new record set by the councillor, as it makes Emer the first female candidate to ever be elected in the Athlone LEA.

Speaking to the Roscommon People on Sunday, Cllr Kelly explained the achievement is bittersweet, pointing out that the fact the area had never had an elected female representative before her is a “sad statistic really”, and noting, “We’re a little behind in society; we should be seeing a better representation of women right across the board”.

“But it’s also a good day”, she continued, “A sign we’re making progress in our area. And I would encourage more women, and people in general, to get involved”.

As to the campaign, she said: “I knew coming into this that it was going to be a tough few months ahead. Being co-opted is one thing, but to actually put yourself in front of people for an election is huge, and it can be quite daunting.

“Luckily, I had a massive team of supporters behind me. We were canvassing right from the start and we must have knocked on almost every door in the constituency. We really put ourselves out there and tried to talk to as many people as possible, and just spoke honestly (conveying) that we were going to try our best to represent them”.

Cllr Kelly said that the profile she’s built from her time on the council was a positive for her campaign.

“I really value that over the last couple of years since I’ve been sat on the council, I’ve had the opportunity to work with both community groups and individuals. They’ve seen that I am dedicated to my role as a councillor, that I am able to perform for them, and that I try my best to achieve goals and secure funding to improve the way things are.

“People have put their faith in me now and they’ve shown up in huge numbers, and I’m really grateful for everyone who came out and supported me”, she told the Roscommon People. “That support will not be lost on me going forward”.