Clare GPs have delivered a political bombshell following their decision to field a candidate in the forthcoming general election. It’s a decision that will make the constituency one of the most keenly contested in the country.
The Clare Champion can exclusively reveal that a local doctor will officially launch their general election campaign at a public meeting in Corofin community hall next Tuesday night at 8pm.
Two weeks ago, the ‘Champion was the first media outlet to flag the possibility of a local doctor contesting the next general election in the four-seater Clare constituency.
GPs are remaining tight-lipped about the identity of the candidate, who will be unveiled to the public at this meeting, which looks set to attract another full house 12 days after more than 450 doctors, public representatives and members of the public attended a second meeting in the “no doctor, no village” national campaign.
The dramatic entry of a GP candidate has sent shockwaves through the local political landscape as the general political consensus suggests a local doctor will be well placed to win a seat.
The decision to enter the Dáil race was confirmed late on Wednesday night following a meeting of Clare GPs.
If all 50 Clare GPs unite behind their selected candidate and request their patients to vote for the doctor, it will dramatically improve their chance of making a political breakthrough.
Clare deputies Pat Breen, Joe Carey, Michael McNamara and Timmy Dooley will be anxiously waiting news of which doctor has been selected to enter the political arena.
Clare has a history of electing doctors to Dáil Eireann. Dr Moosajee Bhamjee created political history against the odds when he became the first Muslim to be elected to the Dáil at the 1992 General Election in the Banner county, which was traditionally a Fianna Fáil stronghold.
Having joined the Labour Party in 1991, Dr Bhamjee wasn’t tipped to take a seat, which he achieved at the expense of Fianna Fáil’s Brendan Daly.
The consultant psychiatrist declined to stand again at the 1997 general election and retired from politics to continue his career in the health service.
Dr William “Bill” Loughnane was first elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fianna Fáil Deputy for the Clare–Galway South constituency at the 1969 general election.
The East Clare fiddler was re-elected at the 1973 general election for the same constituency. He was elected for the Galway West constituency, which at that time surrounded Galway Bay to include North Clare at the 1977 general election, and was elected for the Clare constituency at the 1981 and February 1982 general elections.
He died in October 1982 shortly before the November 1982 general election.
Interestingly, the decision to enter the Dáil race comes less than a week after Government deputies were given a two-week deadline to secure a rescue package for rural practice to avoid the prospect of a GP entering the Dáil race.
They were urged by doctors at a public meeting in Corofin on Thursday night to convince Health Minister Leo Varadkar to sanction funding totalling an estimated €13.8 million nationally.
This would facilitate the restoration of distance coding, which provided additional funding for rural GPs who had to make more frequent house calls in isolated areas and the restoration of the Rural Practice Allowance worth up to €16,000 for an individual practice.
Frustration and anger with the delay in resolving these two issues was expressed by a number of speakers at the meeting.
In fact, there was standing room only as latecomers were forced to strain their ears to listen to speeches from the back of the hall.
Before the meeting drew to a close, one resident proposed that the Department of Health and HSE, who are involved with negotiations with the Irish Medical Organisation, should be told by local deputies they had two weeks to resolve the main two outstanding issues.
“If this is not forthcoming then a GP candidate should contest the next General Election. Believe me, if that is put on the table, then decisions will be made within two weeks,” he said.