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Deputy Cathal Crowe

Hectic year for first-time TD Cathal Crowe

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WHEN Patrick Wallace, the Returning Office for the constituency of Clare declared the final result in General Election 2020, it fulfilled a long-time goal for Meelick man Cathal Crowe. He had been in politics for a decade and a half at that point, but, by his own admission, he had been “like a child looking through the turnstile at Cusack Park, dying to get out on the pitch”. The first sitting of the 33rd Dáil saw the ball thrown in and Deputy Crowe has been playing at a blistering pace for the last year. “It has been a learning curve and an immense honour,” he said. “Getting the [Dáil] seat was a landmark moment. I’d been trying for a while and, despite the good vibes on the ground, the count was still a nail-biting event and I’m very appreciative of our peculiar PR-STV system. I might have wanted a better result for the Fianna Fáil party, but Clare got the deputies that it wanted.”

Appointed as party spokesperson on Tourism and Aviation, Deputy Crowe is also a member of the committees on Health and on Children, Disability, Equality and Integration. Alongside a gruelling schedule of constituency work, committee business and Dáil appearances, the former teacher has also stepped back into the virtual classroom in response to the pandemic. “I’ve been doing some Zoom teaching for eight or nine schools,” he said. “I’ve made myself available as a sub too, so long as that doesn’t displace anyone else. As a teacher, I have an insight into the situation facing schools and have been able to champion their causes.”

Fitting some home schooling into his own schedule is another important priority and Deputy Crowe told The Champion he is keenly aware of the struggles that this added responsibility is putting on families. “Like all families, we’re juggling at the moment and if there’s anything positive out of the pandemic, it’s that I’m getting a bit more time with the family,” he said. “I’m very conscious that there is huge upheaval for so many people. People are in traumatic situations and many are facing an uncertain future. When I was a county councillor, some of the main issues coming to me were to do with roads and hedges. Now, it’s existential matters. Peoples’ businesses are going to the wall. Families have questions about attending funerals of loved ones who have died from Covid-19. 18 year-olds are wondering if they’ll be sitting the Leaving Cert.”

Being a member of a government party, Deputy Crowe said he is happy, overall, with the allocation of speaking time in Dáil Éireann. “The party whip’s office allocates the time and I’m happy to be able to raise issues, but that’s really only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what a TD does,” he said. “As party spokesperson on aviation, I’ve made the situation at Shannon Airport my calling card. It is struggling now, but will be the catalyst to the recovery of the region, and I am putting a lot of work in to secure its future.”

Always active on social media, Deputy Crowe understands its importance in responding to constituents and in maintaining a profile. Public representatives today are more contactable than ever and midway through the interview with The Champion, another phone goes off. This time it’s a call from the Taoiseach’s office. “Micheál Martin has given me a lot of latitude in my role as spokesperson on tourism and aviation and I’ve really been getting my teeth into a lot of work that will boost Shannon,” he said. “On the health committee, we’ve been working on issues like the vaccine roll-out and on the children’s committee, we’ve been involved in topics like the Mother and Baby Homes and in providing better support for children with special needs.”

The working week is a long one, but the pay-off is a weekend hike, where possible. “I try to make the week days really count and not to work at the weekend, is that’s possible,” he said. “It’s great to get out for a hike with the kids. Like everyone, we’re not able to see all of our loved ones and missing grandparents. The work is really energising though. I could be dealing with issues over the Broadford bus on a given day, then it might be school places in Ennis the next, but I enjoy the work and get energy from it. One of the most rewarding things you can do is to help people. It’s one thing being able to fix a hole in the road, but it’s something else altogether when someone is crying tears of joy because you’ve been able to help them in the fight to get life-changing medication. There’s a real richness in helping people who are in traumatic situations.”

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