Home News Election Diary: Rural Ireland, Portlaoise Hospital and INTO forum

Election Diary: Rural Ireland, Portlaoise Hospital and INTO forum

Every day between now and Election Day on Saturday, February 8, we’ll be bringing you a daily bulleting from the campaign trail – from Laois-Offaly, Kildare South and various snippets from around the country.

Difficult years for rural Ireland are over, says Charlie Flanagan

Laois-Offaly TD and Minister for Justice & Equality, Charlie Flanagan, has said the difficult years for rural Ireland are over and that its fight back is well underway.

Making the point that he believes in rural Ireland and wants to see it reach its full potential, Flanagan said:

“Ten years ago, rural Ireland was a place of mass unemployment, and soaring emigration with little reason for optimism.

“Today, it is fighting back. 77,000 jobs have been created outside of Dublin since mid-2017, but that is just a start.

“Right now, Fine Gael is investing €1 billion in job creation measures in rural areas. Our party is delivering improvements in towns and villages with populations under 10,000.

“We are implementing our eight regional enterprise plans, which will deliver even more opportunities.”

Referring to the importance of Rural Ireland, Mr Flanagan said:

“I want to see it flourish. That’s why, over the past few years, I have worked tirelessly with my colleagues to ensure adequate investment. Such investment is vital to undo the harm Fianna Fáil wreaked on rural Ireland during its time in office.

“I utterly reject,” continued Flanagan “any notion that Fine Gael does not care about Rural Ireland.”

Laois candidates to attend INTO forum in Portlaoise

The Portlaoise branch of the INTO are holding a pre-General Election public forum in the Midlands Park Hotel this Wednesday, January 29,

“It is an area that has been almost invisible in the election coverage to date,” says Portlaoise INTO branch secretary Darach Kennedy.

“But it may also provide an opportunity for other issues to be raised and discussed. All three of the sitting Laois TDs, as well as other candidates, have confirmed that they will be in attendance.

It may provide a rare opportunity for voters to engage with multiple candidates in the one venue in advance of polling day.”

Portlaoise A&E is top priority, says Fleming

Sean Fleming has said his top priority as a TD for Co Laois (if re-elected) will be to secure the retention of the Accident & Emergency Services in the hospital in Portlaoise on a 24 hour a day/7 day a week basis.

“I met with the Hospital Action Committee in recent days and had a very productive and constructive meeting.

“I said the first thing I will do when the Dáil resumes will be to ask the new Minister for Health to meet the Hospital Action Committee and interested parties locally to see first-hand the absolute need for the retention and enhancement of services in the A&E Department in Portlaoise.

“Also, I will use this meeting as an opportunity to impress on the new Minister the need for other improvements in services in Portlaoise in view of the fact that Co Laois and surrounding areas is the fastest growing area in the country.”

Tweeter to follow – Hugh O’Connell

Political correspondent of the Irish Independent and the Sunday Independent (and other parts of the Independent family) is one of the top reporters in the country having made his name in TheJournal.ie and then the Sunday Business Post.

Witty and good-humoured for the most part, he’ll more often than not hit you with useful observations and send reasoned political observation into your timeline.

Worth listening to – Calling It (Newstalk)

Newstalk have a very snappy little Podcast Calling It – a series of short five to six-minute podcasts focused on each constituency.

Virgin Media political correspondent Gavan Reilly gives the background to the constituency, context and the list of candidates.

Ivan Yates then calls it in his own unique style.

From afar – A politically divided relationship 

You often hear of politically split marriages but there’s a couple in Cork that are taking it to a completely different level.

Fianna Fáil Cork County Mayor Christopher O’Sullivan is a candidate in the Cork South-West constituency where one of his opponents is – wait for it – council colleague and girlfriend Holly Cairns who is running for the Social Democrats.

Can you imagine the drama if they’re in a battle for the seat?!

O’Sullivan is favoured to win a seat in the three-seater. Cairns is a 4/1 outsider but not completely without hope.

Constituency watch – Kerry

Like them or hate them, Kerry are always central to Irish life – be it their footballers, as a holiday location or for their politicians.

Kerry is a large single county five-seater constituency. Two of the outgoing TDs are Michael and Danny Healy Rae, who took the first two seats in 2016 with over 38% and over 30,000 first preferences between them.

Both are back in the mix again as are outgoing TDs Brendan Griffin (Fine Gael) and John Brassil (Fianna Fáil). Sinn Féin’s Martin Ferris, who was a TD for 18 years, has retired and the party are hoping that Pa Daly can hold the seat for them.

Mike Kennelly (an uncle of former Kerry footballers Tadhg and Noel and a brother of Tim) is a county councillor and is running as Griffin’s Fine Gael running mate.

As well as Brassil, Fianna Fáil have two female councillors, both named Norma, on the ticket. Norma Foley and Norma Moriarty both got big votes in different areas in the local elections and are looking for a Dáil breakthrough.

Aontú, the Greens and the Irish Freedom Party all have candidates while there are two non Healy-Rae candidates as well.

Interestingly, there is no Labour party in Kerry, a notable absentee given it’s the home county of former leader and Tanáiste Dick Spring and they had a TD from 1943 to 2002 and from 2011 to 2016.

List of candidates: John Bowler (Irish Freedom Party), John Brassil (Fianna Fáil), Ted Cronin (Independent), Pa Daly (Sinn Féin), Norma Foley (Fianna Fáil), Sonny Foran (Aontú), Brendan Griffin (Fine Gael), Danny Healy-Rae (Independent), Michael Healy-Rae (Independent), Mike Kennelly (Fine Gael), Norma Moriarty (Fianna Fáil), Cleo Murphy (Green), Sean Murphy (Independent)

SEE ALSO – Check out all the LaoisToday 2020 General Election coverage here

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Steven Miller is owner and managing editor of LaoisToday.ie. From Laois, Steven studied Journalism in DCU and has 14 years experience in the media, almost 10 of those in an editorial role. Husband of Emily, father of William and Lillian, he's happiest when he's telling stories or kicking a point.