ON Monday, Dr Michael Harty announced that he is not looking to be re-elected to the Dáil and in an interview with The Clare Champion, he said the outgoing Government has failed rural Ireland, while the administration didn’t accept obvious solutions to major problems facing the country.
Dr Harty also revealed that he had turned down invitations to stand for established parties in the General Election.
“Obviously, the economy has recovered and that brings benefits to everybody. But I think there is still a huge dissatisfaction within rural Ireland that they are being left behind, that services are still being withdrawn to rural Ireland,” he commented.
As it stands now, he feels that the likes of Leo Varadkar, Simon Harris and Eoghan Murphy do not understand the needs of a county like Clare.
“I think that the Government is urban-orientated. We have the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Health, the Minister for Housing, who are all urban-based TDs. They don’t have a sense of rural Ireland. They don’t have any empathy with rural Ireland and I think that has come through in their policies.
“There was a commitment that any policy decisions that were made by Government would be rural-proofed and I don’t think that has been the case.”
He said he had made a proposal for a rural relocation scheme, which would allow people living in emergency accommodation or facing homelessness in cities to move to vacant rural properties.
However, he said the Government opted not to progress it.
After two consecutive spells in Government, he feels Fine Gael will not be returned to power this time.
“I think there will be a change of government. Fine Gael have been in government, in coalition with Labour or in the present arrangement, for nine years now and I think there is a mood for change.
“I suspect that it will be another minority-led government led by, I think, Fianna Fáil, who will probably have more seats on this occasion. My prediction would be they will go into coalition with Labour and the Green Party, if they’re willing to do so.
“Whether they’ll have the chance govern independently as a minority government or whether they’ll require a confidence and supply agreement with Fine Gael supporting them will depend on the numbers.”
In Clare, his departure from the field will boost the candidates from outside Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and Dr Harty expects one person from beyond these two parties to get over the line.
He also expects Fianna Fáil will win a second seat for the first time since 2007, with Fine Gael losing one.
“I think it’s going to be 2-1-1. Fianna Fáil, who should have won two seats on the last occasion, with 31% of the vote, didn’t and I think this time around, they will. I think one of the Fine Gael seats is vulnerable. And I would hope that an independent or a Green would take the fourth seat.”
He said if he had run again and been elected, it would have meant leaving his practice.
“There was no guarantee that I would be elected but if I was elected, I would have to resign my general practice list in Kilmihil and the likelihood of a doctor coming to that village under present circumstances of contracts was small.
“Coming from a No Doctor No Village campaign, where I was advocating for the retention of medical services, in particular in rural Ireland, if I was to choose the Dáil above choosing to continue in practice, I think I would have been betraying that ideal of no doctor, no village.”