Technology not needed to win, says councillor

BARACK OBAMA used the latest technology to get his message across to voters.

But being in the techno dark ages isn’t a barrier to getting elected – as one of Ireland’s longest-serving local politicians can testify.

Noel Collins, who has served on Cork County Council since 1974, hasn’t got a home phone, a mobile phone, a fax or a computer.

He doesn’t own a car and he can’t drive.

Is that an obstacle? Not for the Midleton-based Independent who will probably be one of the first councillors to be re-elected to County Hall following the June 5 voting.

The local authority offered Collins, like other councillors, the use of a €3,000 laptop.

But he declined.

“I still use the old Brother typewriter I bought in 1967. I bang out everything on that. I use carbon paper for press releases, or sending out letters. I’m finding it increasingly hard to get carbon paper these days,” Mr Collins said.

The 68-year-old, who was born in Lusk, Co Dublin, was originally a social worker in London before coming back to Ireland and “falling in love with Cork”.

Now a full time politician, he gets lifts from friends and sometimes has to take taxis. Most of his “clinics” are conducted on the streets of Midleton, Cobh, Youghal and the villages that surround them.

The only time he holds a proper sit-down clinic is at Joe’s Bar in Church Street, Midleton.

“I do it every Saturday and I stay there until I’ve seen everybody who comes in.”

Mr Collins maintains pressing the flesh is better than sending out emails, twitter or blogging.

“I always carry a notepad with me to write down people’s problems,” the councillor said.

Helping people out often includes filling lengthy application forms and he has done this in some rather unusual places.

“I was once asked by a woman to fill out some forms while we were attending mass. I helped her out. I don’t mind helping out people, no matter where they stop me,” he said.

“You can have all the technology in the world but it won’t do everything for you.”

Mr Collins was first elected to Midleton Town Council in 1967 with Fine Gael. He had a falling out with the party and successfully contested the 1974 county council elections as an Independent.

If, as expected, he retains his seat, he would be a 73-years-old by the time the 2014 Local Elections come around.

But he has no intention of retiring even then.

“I’ll keep on fighting as long as I can,” said the long-serving councillor.

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