WHILE it had been expected, it was only this week that former TD Michael McNamara confirmed that he will be standing in the General Election.
Having started his political career as a European election candidate, he stood for Labour in the 2011 General Election and won a seat.
With Labour taking a hammering in 2016, he failed to hold the seat, despite putting up a credible display and winning 4,472 first preferences.
He had sought Labour’s nomination to run in the Ireland South constituency in the European election, but has now left the party and will be running in the General Election as an independent.
His chances will have been boosted by this week’s announcement by Dr Michael Harty that he will not be in the race.
There is a feeling in local political circles that there is a strong possibility of one candidate from beyond Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael being elected, and the departure of Harty from the race will be welcomed by the other independents and Roisín Garvey of the Green Party.
Mr McNamara suffered a close family bereavement this week, but still made himself available to speak to The Clare Champion on Wednesday morning, while grieving.
He said that a large gap has opened between the prosperity of Dublin and a declining west of Ireland. “I work quite a bit in Dublin and I’d be up and down quite a lot. There has been a big gulf emerging. I read recently that traffic on the M50 has increased by 85% between 6am and 7am. You were in Scarriff this morning at 9.10am. There was a factory there once, a hotel there once, this wasn’t a 100 years ago, maybe 20 years ago, but now there is nothing.”
He feels the two main parties have not delivered for peripheral regions. “I do accept that Dublin recovered more quickly but I would have thought the purpose of Government is to intervene, that it’s not just a market recovery. The purpose of Government is to intervene and make sure that it is spread. This Government simply failed to do that. You can blame the party in Government, but there was a confidence and supply agreement, Fianna Fáil were very quick to tell us about what they achieved, when there was a budget and a €5 increase in something or other, they would claim the credit for it. I don’t think Fianna Fáil kept any great pressure on the Government either, Fianna Fáil’s priority is Dublin and Fine Gael’s priority is to hold seats in Dublin.”
He attended a reunion of old college friends late last year, many of whom live in Dublin, and he said the attitude he found there to the government was quite different to the perception in Clare. “By and large they are quite happy with the performance of the Government, compared to what I hear around Clare, across the board.”
Since he lost his seat in 2016, three of the four Clare TDs have been members of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and he doesn’t believe they influenced policy very much.
“The three party TDs, I never saw them pushing their own party or questioning their party’s direction. Maybe they were doing so in private, I don’t know, but I certainly didn’t see them making any headlines on having pushed for an agenda or a change of policy or direction on anything.”