Clodagh Higgins is the current Mayor of Galway City (2022-2023) and is a Galway City Councillor for the West Ward representing Salthill, Taylors, Hill, Knocknacarra and Rahoon. She was elected a Fine Gael Councillor to Galway City Council in the local elections in May 2019. She is also a practicing Psychologist and a Peace Commissioner. During her election campaign she campaigned on a platform that was community focused, and she was interested in developing facilities.
Where were you born, and where did you go to school and college?
I was born in Athenry and attended primary school locally. I then attended Dominican College, Taylor Hill in Galway for secondary school. For my third-level education I studied Psychology in various universities in Dublin, Wales and Ulster.
What was your childhood like growing up?
I had a great childhood which I have many fond memories of. My parents had a number of businesses which I grew up in, learned the ropes, what it was like to deal with people, and it gave me a wonderful sense of belonging at a young age. While there are five children in my family, I had two siblings close in age to me, and we were like the three musketeers doing everything together. Looking back, if I could describe it in three words, I would say my upbringing was carefree, adventurous and creative, imbued with key values such as respect for others.
Was it always a passion of yours growing up to get involved in politics, and to be Mayor of Galway?
Indirectly I suppose it was. My grandfather was a staunch supporter of Fine Gael, and he was a big influence on all of us as kids. That sense of public service was instilled in me from a young age, and we were always encouraged to help in the community. For instance, I would have joined my local Tidy Towns group when I was 7 years old, helping with clean ups, and then later I was Chair of my local Tourism Committee and so forth.
Does politics run in your family?
It’s a generational weakness! A relative of mine William Duffy was a member of the House of Commons in Westminster, and he represented Galway South in the first Oireachtas. My great granduncle was a candidate for FG in the city in the 1950s. My cousin Sarsfield P Cunniff was a Democrat member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. My cousin Tom Higgins was a former Councillor and Mayor of Waterford and contested the 2011 general election. Another cousin of mine Miriam O’ Callaghan was a member of Offaly County Council, and my sister Lorraine was a member of Seanad Eireann from 2011 to 2016.
How do you achieve a work/life balance?
So many of us struggle to achieve it! If we don’t practice self-care, it is so easy to burn out. The lack of a work-life balance impacts all aspects of your life. It can be difficult to achieve, and in my case, I have a four-year-old who I have to balance with my mayoral duties. There’s no prescription as to how you successfully strike the balance so it’s up to everyone of us to work at creating it. We all have to get better at putting boundaries in place so that you can truly unplug! I prioritise my health and try to either meditate or go for a walk or cycle daily. This year as Mayor is incredibly busy but I make space in my schedule for family time. I always make sure I drop my son to school every day and then have circle time daily where we talk about how he is feeling and how his day went. I prioritise having quality time together as a family. Achieving a work-life balance is a process and I’m learning and adapting as my circumstances change.
How long is your term as Mayor of Galway?
The term of Mayor of Galway is one year. My year commenced in June and will conclude in June 2023.
What are your plans when your term as Mayor is over?
I will continue in my role as Councillor and will continue doing the very best for my community.
What is your vision for Galway City and suburbs?
My vision for our city is for a city where people want to live, work, raise a family in, experience, invest, and socialise as a matter of choice rather than having to. I want Galway to be the most appealing, livable and well managed community in Ireland. I want Galway to be a city with an emerging urban vibrancy guided by a small-town sense of community. I want our city to be a beautiful, compact city with a distinct character and a vibrant culture and a diverse smart, green, innovation-based economy. I want our city to be an accessible city connected by green spaces, bike trails and mass transit. And of course, I want our city to be a safe city with a positive identity with positive perception.
The fact that you are a qualified Psychologist, does this make you more empathetic to the mental health issues affecting people in Galway, and how do you plan to address this?
I really feel that my background in Psychology has benefitted me in my role as Councillor. I definitely have different conversations with my constituents than other Councilor’s. I understand the unique challenges people have and try and articulate their issues in the most compassionate way to resolve them.
Furthermore, I set down a motion which passed that will see a new Galway City Council led group established to combat the tragic loss of lives on the River Corrib. This will allow all stakeholders to come together and work together to improve safety on the River Corrib.
You hosted a Mayor reception for the All-Ireland minor football champions. This was a fantastic achievement, and a wonderful boost for Galway football.
I was delighted to host a Mayoral Reception for the All-Ireland Minor Football Champions. They deserved us as do so many athletes who achieve levels of distinction. Indeed, I also marked the momentous achievement of the Galway Intermediate Camogie Team winning the All-Ireland Championship with a Mayoral Reception too. These two teams worked hard, performed, and delivered for the people of the county and they certainly brought the glory days back for Galway supporters. It was a wonderful achievement which demonstrated the talent, teamwork and technical skills imbued in both teams. It was a great honour for me as Mayor to do this.
As Mayor of Galway have you travelled to many interesting places?
Since taking up office I got the opportunity to visit our sister cities; Chicago and Milwaukee – which was a wonderful experience for me as I represented the city abroad. Chicago and Milwaukee are real and active partnerships. The relationships that have been built up between our countries over the years has had many mutual benefits for all. I attended the largest Irish festival in the world in Milwaukee and worked on the Galway stall which promoted tourism in the city and county. It was fantastic speaking to so many over the three days who plan on visiting Galway during the coming year.
What advice would you impart to anyone contemplating a career in Politics?
Go for it! If you want to help shaping your community don’t contemplate, just go for it!