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Election Diary: Meet the Kildare South candidates, farmers, families and the battle for Portarlington

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

Meet the Kildare South candidates in Newbridge this evening

The people of Ballybrittas, Portarlington and Killenard have been moved into Kildare South for this election and if they are unsure as to what way to vote, then there is an event in Newbridge this evening that may be of interest to them.

A Meet the Candidates event for South Kildare will take place in Newbridge Town Hall this evening at 7.30pm.

The public forum which will focus on allowing the audience to question candidates on their track records and policies is being jointly organised by Newbridge Community Development and Kilcullen Community Action.

Ten of the eleven candidates have now confirmed they will be attendance. Kildare resident, Shane Beatty of Newstalk will be MC for the evening. A similar event held for the local elections in 2019 was well attended.

A special welcome has been extended to people from Portarlington and surrounding areas who now vote in the South Kildare constituency.

Doors open at 7pm as candidates will be available to meet people before and after the public forum and to distribute election manifestos.

Fine Gael supports working families with five fold increase in childcare payments

Growing the economy and affordable childcare go hand in hand, Laois-Offaly election candidate and Minister for Justice & Equality, Charlie Flanagan said, as Fine Gael committed to supporting working families with €400 per month for under 3s and four weeks extra per year free pre-school.

“Our economy has never been stronger. More people are working in Ireland now than ever before and incomes are rising,” said Minister Flanagan.

“However, this progress cannot be taken for granted. We are only half time on Brexit. We must put our best team forward to ensure the opportunities families have worked so hard for are protected.

“Childcare is central to Fine Gael’s plan to support working families while securing our economic growth.”

Fine Gael in government will provide:

  • €400 per month for under 3s. Fine Gael will increase the current universal payment of €80 per month to €400 per month for all parents with children under 3 over the next five years.
  • 4 weeks extra childcare under ECCE scheme. We will increase the number of weeks available under the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme from 38 weeks to 42 weeks – up to 8 weeks extra per child (as is a two year scheme).
  • Support for low income families. €150m will be invested to increase both the threshold and the subsidy under the National Childcare Scheme. This will allow parents– including of school age children– to receive a payment based on their income, benefitting more hard working middle income working parents.
  • Childminders and parents using childminding services should also benefit from these subsidies. Working with childminders, we will publish a Childminding Support and Inclusion Plan that will assist transition.
  • More family time. We will extend parental leave for both parents to 9 weeks each in the first year.

 Minister Flanagan stated: “We have already increased funding in childcare by almost 250% from €274 million in 2015 to €638 million this year. Under our Plan, in 2025, the childcare budget will be over €1 billion.”

Farmers must get a Fair Price for the Food they Produce

Sean Fleming, Fianna Fáil candidate in Laois-Offaly and a TD since 1997, has said that the new Common Agricultural Policy be fully funded and be fair and safeguard direct payments to farmers.

Speaking at an IFA debate last week for the candidates, he siad that the 3,500 forgotten farmers (under 40 years of age) who commenced prior to 2018 have been totally ignored by this Government and must be dealt with as part of any new negotiations.

A National Food Ombudsman would be established by Fianna Fáil and this would ensure that they would be given statutory powers to enforce laws that prohibit unfair trading practices in the food supply chain.

The new National Food Ombudsman would also ensure price transparency.  This would be of particular relevance in the beef and grain sector.

Fianna Fáil in Government would ensure a Suckler Cow Payment of €200 per head.

He stressed the importance of creating a sustainable forestry sector and highlighted the major problems that have recently occurred in the sector as many felling licences for people to cut timber and take to the local sawmills have been put on hold and an urgent solution is required on this.

“Farming continues to be one of the main sources of employment and income throughout rural County Laois.

“For this to continue farmers who are the producers of high-quality beef, milk, grain, sheep and pigs need to be sure that they get a fair price for their product.

“How can farmers be expected to produce cattle at a financial loss to themselves and their families?  It simply cannot continue.

He concluded by saying that farmers who are self-employed people are entitled to equal treatment as all other people who pay income tax and gave a commitment that Fianna Fáil would ensure that discrimination against farmers and self-employed people in relation to tax credits would be eliminated.

Fiona McLoughlin-Healy brings her election campaign to Portarlington

Fiona McLoughlin-Healy, the Newbridge-based independent councillor was also out and about on Sunday as the battle for a seat intensifies in the last week of the campaign.

“Lots of people were annoyed about the boundary changes and about not knowing any of the 11 candidates,” said Fiona after her canvass of the town.

“I was able to reassure people that if elected on February 8th I will work to represent ALL of my constituents. My work and policies on accountability in the distribution of public monies and on public transport and policing really resonated.

“I was welcomed into peoples homes as myself and my team learned about local issues with flooding, lack of a 24-hour Garda presence despite concerns about crime in the area, the shortage of school places and the need for a regeneration programme for the town centre and for support of local business, and the lack of a hospice in the Laois, Offaly Region.

“Thanks so much to Caroline, to Martin, to Helen and to all the people of Portarlington for being so open to an Independent with a track record of standing up for my constituents.”

Former Laois County Councillor was canvassing in Portarlington over the weekend for Cathal Berry

Canvassing in Portarlington the Berry Way

The canvassers were out in force in Portarlington over the weekend supporting local independent candidate, Dr Cathal Berry. The single focus for Cathal and his team;  securing every vote possible and highlighting Cathal’s unique skills and competence to represent the people of Kildare South.

Cathal’s background as a medical doctor, a veteran, farmer and resident of Portarlington are all important differentiators for the discerning voters of Portarlington, argue his campaign team.

The constituency now includes in excess of 12,000 inhabitants of the greater Portarlington area, stretching from Gracefield to Ballybrittas.

Among those on the campaign trail, supporting Cathal and canvassing on his behalf, was former Independent Councillor from Portarlington and Chairperson of Laois County Council, Paul Mitchell.

“I decided to support Cathal Berry as soon as he declared he was running because in addition to having an inspiring life story, he has been living in the town for the past 16 years and people are still regretting not supporting Cathy Honan when she ran in the 1980s,” said Paul Mitchell.

“Several people have said to me over the past few days that if we had a TD based in Portarlington, we would never been moved to Kildare South”.

Worth a read – The Guardian’s take on the Healy-Raes

The London-based Guardian newspaper no less sent one of their correspondents to Kerry to report on the phenomenon that is the Healy-Rae political machine, one that saw brothers Michael and Danny win almost 40% of the vote between them in 2016 and take the first two seats.

“Ireland has a tradition of mocking people from Kerry as clueless hillbillies, a baseless caricature repeated in a thousand jokes,” reads the opening paragraph.

“The Healy-Rae family has fuelled the ridicule – intentionally or not – by creating a political dynasty in the county with PR stunts, outlandish proposals and controversial statements.”

“But the Healy-Raes, who hold three county council seats and two seats in parliament, tend to have the last laugh. They are savvy populists who have not lost an election since entering politics four decades ago – a remarkable record given the fact they run as independents.”

Constituency Watch – Clare

The four-seat Clare constituency was the home constituency of Eamon de Valera, who held a seat there from 1921 to 1957. His grand-daugher Sile de Valera was a TD from 1987 to 2007.

But as well as traditionally being a strong Fianna Fáil base (they have had three of the four seats on a number of occasions but have been down to one for the last two Dáils), it’s a constituency that has occasionally thrown up a wildcard.

Moosajee Bhamjee was elected for Labour in 1992 and was Ireland’s first Muslim TD, while Michael Harty, on a “No Doctor No Village” platform was elected in 2016.

Michael Harty isn’t seeking re-election on this occasion.

Pat Breen and Joe Carey (both Fine Gael) are on the ballot paper again, as is Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley. Michael McNamara, who was a TD from 2011 to 2016 for Labour, is running as an independent this time.

Clare candidates: Pat Breen (FG), Joe Carey(FG), Martin Conway (FG), Cathal Crowe (FF), Timmy Dooley(FF), Roisin Garvey(GP), Michael Leahy (IFP), Trudy Leyden (Ind), Rita McInerney (FF), Michael McNamara (Ind), Conor O’Brien (Renua), Theresa O’Donoghue (PBP), Joseph Woulfe (Ind), Violet Anne Wynne (SF), Conor O’Brien (Renua).

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

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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.