FORMER Clare TD Michael McNamara’s bid to run for Labour in the upcoming European Elections ended in Cork last weekend, when the party selected Sheila Nunan.
Reflecting on Wednesday, Mr McNamara said there had been signs that his bid would fall short. “It was disappointing but maybe not entirely surprising. It became apparent to me that I didn’t enjoy the support of parts of the party during the campaign. The chairman of the party, Jack O’Connor, is running in Wicklow, Brendan Howlin is obviously from Wexford and both of those counties are in the huge constituency that is Ireland South and they were there in numbers on the day.
“There was also a good crowd from Cork. It was held in Cork and I don’t think I enjoyed the support of Cork either, frankly. But I was very appreciative of those who travelled from Clare, Kerry, Limerick and Tipperary to support me and also, the Clare Labour party for the support they gave me during the course of the campaign. In particular, Seamus Ryan was very helpful and did a lot of work with me in the campaign.”
The East Clare man added, “The turnout was low for a variety of reasons. I think there’s a degree of apathy in the party at the moment and, secondly, the weather conditions were terrible. We were driving through snow; it couldn’t have been worse. Nevertheless, a good group came from Clare, a group came from Kerry, from Limerick and Tipperary and I appreciate that greatly.”
He first came to prominence when he ran as an independent candidate in the 2009 European Elections, winning more than 12,000 votes, but it seems unlikely he will stand as an independent again. “I haven’t really ruled it in or out but it would be very difficult. The constituency is effectively half of Ireland now. From a logistical and financial perspective, I think it would be a very difficult election for independents to get involved in. But it isn’t something I have given any thought to, to be honest with you.”
Mr McNamara also said he has not yet decided if he will run in the next general election, having lost his Dáil seat in 2016. However, he says that there are significant challenges to be taken on, such as the increasing economic dominance of Dublin, while he also feels strongly about the pressure small farmers are coming under.
“There’s an increasing awareness that our agricultural model is becoming unsustainable. Farmers are being forced into carrying more and more stock. They are buying more and more rations and buying in more and more fodder. They’re not doing that out of avarice, they’re doing that out of necessity.
“If you had a herd of 30 or 40 dairy cows in the 1980s, you’d have a great quality of life and support a family. You simply wouldn’t do that now with the same numbers. The price of a litre of milk is the same, the price of a kilo of beef is the same but the cost of producing a litre of milk or kilo of beef is greatly higher and, of course, the cost of living is greatly higher.”
Producers are the ones losing out, he feels, and that must change, he insists. “I think we are reaching a degree of unsustainability in how we produce food in Ireland and how we buy food in Ireland. I’d like to campaign on that issue because it’s something that’s important to me.”