CLARE’s five Oireachtas members are now using new methods of communication such as the Zoom application during the national lockdown as a result of Covid-19 regulations
Traditional tried and trusted methods such as meetings constituents in a bar or community centre in towns and villages throughout Clare are a non-runner due to new social distancing requirements.
However, Clare deputies and Senator Martin Conway insist they are still busy dealing with constituents queries and concerns,
Deputy Joe Carey told the Clare Champion he is very busy as he is now the only government deputy after Minister of State, Pat Breen failed to get re-elected after the recent General Election.
The Clarecastle Deputy said he is receiving a lot of communication from employers, business groups and individuals concerning the impact of Covid-19 via the phone, email and social media platforms like Facebook.
If people want to contact him through applications such as Zoom, he is available to use this form of communication, which he uses occasionally.
He said this application is useful for remote meetings involving a group of people.
Deputy Michael McNamara confirmed he is receiving a lot more phone calls from constituents who are looking for information to deal with different problems and issues.
Most of his queries come via phone, Facebook and emails and the former Labour Deputy admitted he doesn’t use Zoom very often.
One of the biggest challenges he has found during the Covid-19 crisis is the difficulty to locate officials in state authorities as a lot of office are closed while some staff are also on reduced working hours.
The Independent Deputy confirmed that while people are working in his constituency office it is not open so people can’t drop in when they want to like they did previously before the restrictions.
Deputy Cathal Crowe admitted he didn’t know Zoom existed a month ago but now uses it regularly for conference calls with local Fianna Fáil councillors and constituency staff meetings.
The former first citizen finds this application is very efficient sharing files and documents with third parties during remote meetings.
While Deputy Crowe will continue to using Zoom as an option after the ending of the Covid-19 restrictions, he has pledged to return to meeting people in traditional clinics throughout the county.
He continues to use Facebook, phone and emails to deal with a lot of queries he receives from constituents.
Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne doesn’t have a confirmed office space as she was unable to complete this task before restrictions came into effect in March.
The newly-elected Sinn Féin Deputy is interacting with constituents through various avenues – phone, facebook, whatsApp, email and some have called to her house. He is also using Zoom also for meetings.
She confirmed all the traditional face-to-face clinics have been cancelled throughout the county due to the restrictions.
While Senator Martin Conway’s constituency office is closed his secretary can still access all his email correspondence working from home.
Senator Conway recalled he has been exceptionally busy before and after his re-election to the Seanad.
The Fine Gael senator said one of the complex problems was dealing with foreign embassies to assist up to 17 Clare people who wanted to get home from countries including India, Peru, Australia, Turkey, Spain, the United States of America and England.
“I had to deal with a particular tricky one with the Portugese ambassador when two young ladies ran out of money while they were on holidays and their families had no money to give them.
“I had to contact the equivalent of the St Vincent de Paul to help them out. I dread to think what my phone bill will be when I get it next month. I am lucky to be in a job and be re-elected so I am happy to do it,” he said.
Following the Covid-19 crisis, he said a lot of people had to learn how to navigate the social welfare system for the first time, some of whom found it overwhelming.
The Ennistymon Senator estimates he has dealt with about 150 social welfare queries from constituents in recent weeks.
He also had a lot of queries from people over the aged of 66 who were working but didn’t qualify for the €350 Covid-19 weekly payment because they are in already in receipt of a pension.
Despite representations, the government decided not to make an exception for this particular group of people because it could cost another few hundred million Euro.