By Dan Danaher
THE four main political parties have been accused of wasting hundreds of thousands of euro on electioneering for European elections, which would be better spent on delivering community projects throughout Clare.
That’s the verdict of Richard Cahill, who entered the Euro South race on Monday, just before the close of nominations, to become the only new Clare candidate in this constituency.
The Sixmilebridge community activist, who doesn’t have any money to spend on a traditional campaign, believes the main parties – Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin – are squandering money on posters, election fliers and advertising, while some people are struggling to put food on the table.
“There are people who are wondering where they are going to get food to feed their family. Political representatives are spending hundreds of thousands of euro on posters and election literature. They are saying they are true representatives; they must be joking. This type of spending is obscene and makes me sick.
“Having to feed a family with €5 in your pocket and pay for a teenage student who is going for a outing to the zoo. How do you manage this? That is the grim reality for many people in the country.This money could be put to much better use in communities throughout Munster,” he said.
European candidates can spend up to €230,000 on election literature and marketing during the campaign.
Born in Dublin, Mr Cahill’s family moved to Rockmount Cross, Ennis, in 1978 when he was 13 and he attended St Flannan’s Secondary School. He set up home near Sixmilebridge in 1995 and has five children.
If elected as an independent, he says he will work to reduce unnecessary administraive and bureacratic red tape, with greater emphasis on the provision of direct suports and services to communities. He also intends to fight for effective measures to combat the spread of social inequalities and put in place structures that will ensure future European funding is directed towards the most marginalised in society.
The seeds for his election bid were sown back when he met MEP Francis Jacobs during a meeting hosted by Irish Rural Link in the West County Hotel in March. Acknowledging he is involved in a ‘David and Goliath’ battle, Mr Cahill says he is confident he will be in contention for a seat.
“I am extremely confident I can ‘rattle’ a seat. Other political representatives are disconnected from what is happening on the ground,” he said.
Having met hundreds of people throughout Munster during his community work over the last 19 years, he estimates he has up to 400 volunteers, who are willing to actively campaign for him using social media and other forms of communication.
Mr Cahill will be relying extensive network of contacts he has built up over the last 19 years to help him secure thousands of votes.
“I have a firm belief in the people of South Munster and Leinster that you don’t to spend hundreds of thousands of euro for their support.
“People are voting more and more for personalities rather than parties. I have developed a great network of contacts in the community and voluntary sector throughout Munster who are chomping at the bit to support me. The reaction I am getting from people is brilliant.
“For me, the community and voluntary sector in Ireland is the very fabric of society. Organisations such as the Samaritans or the Clare Cancer Centre in Kilnamona, a playground group or the GAA club have held Ireland together through austerity.
“You get the best value for money from a volunteer. Yet the volunteer sector has been subject to some of the harshest cuts, up to 75%, which has virtually wiped some of them off the map. Ireland would be up the swanney without volunteers, yet they have not been properly recognised,” he continued.
“People have said it is great to see a new independent candidate running from the community and voluntary sector.”
Apart from sitting MEPs Brian Crowley and Seбn Kelly, he claims some of the other candidates are not well known by people in the constituency, which gives him more confidence he can make an impact and be in contention for a seat.
Having gone through school with undiagnosed dyslexia, Mr Cahill believes this taught him a huge amount about life, how to listen and deal with things using a different perspective, which helps him to devise solutions to problems.
The former electrical contractor threw himself fully into community work after two accidents left him incapitated and has lived off an insurance protection policy in recent years.
He was one of the founders of The Bridge Complex, which was set up to empower people in the Sixmilebridge community to help themselves through the provision of support, education, structures, networks and facilities.
Having become a member of the Shannon Area network in 2004 and Clare Community Forum in 2005, he was elected as a delegate on the Community Fora National Representation organisation annually from 2008 to 2012.