EAST Clare might well be represented by two TDs in the next Dáil. Indications in the General Election race suggest there is an outside chance of this result.
New to the election ticket is Scariff’s Michael McNamara, who is flying the flag for Labour in Clare, while Mountshannon native Timmy Dooley TD is hoping to retain his seat for Fianna Fáil after Tony Killeen announced he would be bowing out of national politics.
Change might be what the country is looking for but Paddy Power Bookmakers is only giving change in Clare an outside chance.
The bookmakers predicts those to be returned will include sitting Fine Gael TDs Pat Breen (1/8) and Joe Carey (1/7), East Clare TD Timmy Dooley (1/7), while Independent and former TD James Breen (4/6) is tipped to get the fourth seat.
However, Michael McNamara is next in line with a 5/4 chance, which means that fourth seat could be all to play for and could lead to two East Clare men in the Dáil by March.
Commenting on the odds being offered by Paddy Power Bookmakers, Deputy Dooley said, “I wouldn’t be betting on myself. I’m not really a betting man. They had me ranked as an outsider the last time and I topped the poll so I’m always sceptical about bookies’ odds”.
And so by the same token, you have to wonder if that will mean outsider Michael McNamara could top the poll on February 25.
Mr McNamara himself says he has “no problem being the underdog”.
“The bookies seem to have ranked in order of how well known the candidates are but I don’t know if that’s how the people are going to vote. If you are running as an independent or for Labour in Clare, you are always going to be an underdog but I have no problems being an underdog, all you can do is stand on policies you believe in, listen to the people, explain to the people what you are going to do and after that, it’s up to the people to decide who they want to represent them in the next Dáil,” he said.
Both candidates are out on the countywide canvass and believe if both are elected, East Clare will definitely see a benefit to having two representatives in the Dáil, albeit in all likelihood on opposite sides of the fence.
“It would be beneficial for all of East Clare that there be as many representatives as possible in the next government from Clare, because Clare suffers from all of the same problems you find throughout the country – a dysfunctional health service, cutbacks to education, and most of all unemployment and the solutions to all of those problems can be found nationally and will only be found nationally so it would be important for Clare to have as many representatives as possible,” Mr McNamara stated.
Deputy Dooley highlighted that East Clare hadn’t had a TD since the early 1980s and spoke retrospectively. “Obviously it has been beneficial to have a TD in the area in terms of advancing infrastructural projects of a local nature.”
“It was possible to lobby for increased funding for local roads, so it has been a benefit to East Clare. I was in a position to express a very strong position in relation to the boundary review, which was an issue which was really relevant to East Clare and being part of the Government party, I was able to use my considerable strength to prevent it happening; then I suppose being in a position to represent the local community facilities and clubs that would have sought the upgrade of their facilities,” he added.
This time around, it is expected that Deputy Dooley will be returning to the Dáil in opposition, while the return of a Clare Labour seat after a 19-year absence is possibly on the cards.
Deputy Dooley believes that even in opposition, a representative from the East Clare area in the national parliament will mean access to officials regardless who is in or out of power.
“It is about applying yourself properly and about lobbying at the top and yes, it helps to be in power but for sure it’s not absolutely necessary. If that was the case, it’s only those areas that have a government TD that would get results and there are other parts of the constituencies that get results where you have an opposition person. It’s about the representation really at the end of the day,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr McNamara has said he believed the reason the Labour party in Clare hasn’t seen a representative at national level in 19 years is due to the wealth of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil organisations in the county.
“I suppose the reality is that most towns and villages the length and breadth of Clare have a local Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil organisation and I suppose Labour doesn’t have that yet, although the party has always been historically strong in Ennis and Shannon. We are rebuilding in North Clare and we are in the process of developing the party in West Clare. I think it is largely as a result of not having local organisations,” he said.
Asked why he believed this General Election would see a Clare deputy returned for Labour he said, “I think that people are increasingly aware of the similarities between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and the similarities in their economic policies and how they do government. I think people want to see a change in economic policies from those which we see have clearly failed and also people want a new type of government in this country. I think Labour will offer that new type of government, a more transparent government, a government that’s not a government of vested interests or of any lobby. It is becoming quite clear to people that cronyism has played a large role in the demise of our country it is what has brought our country to its knees and I think people want to move away from that,” Mr McNamara concluded.
Asked what the big issues are greeting them on the canvass, the two East Clare candidates agree unemployment is to the forefront.
“The big issue for people is job creation and mortgage debt relief and the two issues are directly linked. The Government and the Fianna Fáil party policy is very clear that the way to get back to work is to fix the banks, get the banks back into a situation where they are lending sensibly again. Governments don’t create jobs, they create the environment in which jobs are created. Jobs are created by small businesses, by entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, plumbers and carpenters. The bulk of the jobs that have been lost is in small companies that had less than 10 people employed and the route to that recovery is to get credit flowing and get money flowing in the economy again and the fundamental part of that is to get the banks operational,” Deputy Dooley said.
Mr McNamara said that he too was acutely aware of the unemployment issue particularly in light of recently announced redundancies at the Finsa chipboard factory in Scariff.
“Coming from East Clare, I am well aware of the effects of unemployment in the region in particular my home town of Scariff where there were 52 redundancies announced just after Christmas. I have canvassed across Clare and I know that the effects of unemployment are no different in other areas and that we urgently need to get employment into all areas of Clare,” Mr McNamara outlined.