Wexford gearing up for General Election
ELECTION candidates are on the move and they're coming to an estate near you to offer promises, promises and more promises in exchange for your vote.
On his first general election campaign, Sinn Fein Cllr Johnny Mythen is finding an open door wherever he goes but the question remains can the Enniscorthy man do enough to secure that coveted fifth seat?
Cllr Mythen said job creation and the need to develop more indigenous industry are key tenets of his election campaign. Among the issues he has been hearing about are flooding, property tax and water bills, the lack of a mental health unit in the county and the need for better health service provision.
Cllr Mythen said: 'People are starting to receive their bills for the LPT and the water meters. The closure of St Senan's has impacted people in a real way. Most people are not satisfied with the budget, especially the older people with the increase in prescription charges.'
He said the unemployment rate for 18-year-olds to 35-year-olds is frighteningly high in Enniscorthy and New Ross. 'We don't have a magic wand. Rosslare Harbour needs to be developed as it has such potential. We need to have a beet industry in the county.'
Cllr Mythen has been canvassing with his team across the county, getting very good feedback, he said.
'People want a change. They have seen the government trying to buy the election.'
He is hoping to get a 'bounce' from 1916 centenary.
Like father, like son?
The Browne name is arguably the strongest political name in the county and James Browne is hopeful of retaining the Dáil seat previously held by his father in the election.
Cllr Browne said everyone in Fianna Fáil was bracing themselves as they went on the campaign trail in 2011, but both he and his team are getting a warmer reception this time around.
'Back in 2011 you just knew you were going to be lifted out of it. What we did in 2011 was we fronted up. We did the normal canvas; we didn't hide. That has stood to us this time around. People haven't had to wait five years to get on to us. Also maybe they don't want to give it to the local guy. A lot of people have moved on.'
Having started his campaign in October, Cllr Browne stepped away from his barrister work. He said he is taking nothing for granted coming into the general election.
Cllr Browne said the lack of broadband is a major issue for people in rural Wexford, who feel abandoned by this government. Saying that broadband is as important as electricity for businesses, he said many people have to endure inconsistent broadband.
'This affects people in a lot of different ways. So much activity is done online from Skyping loved ones abroad to farmers using broadband for their work. The perception on TV is that things are picking up, but as you get away from the towns especially you see that this is not the case.'
He said his party made a lot of mistakes, adding that party leader Michael Martin and members have held their hands up about this.
'Economies in Greece, Portugal and Spain, among others were decimated. It was a global recession. It wasn't one party in Ireland which caused it. If you reduce all this down to Bertie Ahern and Fianna Fáil the logic is that it will never happen again.'
He said the party is still suffering in the polls, standing at around 19 per cent compared to double that figure in the party's heyday.
'I'm very hopeful; we're getting a very good response. I've a website and a Facebook page dedicated to my political work. It's up to me to prove myself now. I certainly wouldn't be taking anything for granted. That is why I ran for the town council and then the county council. I want to meet as many people as possible over the coming weeks as that's the best way to hear about the issues.'
too busy to knock
'Too busy to knock on doors,' was Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform, Brendan Howlin's response when asked how his campaign is going. He said he has delivered one billion euros to the county through capital projects, from schools to roadways, adding that he is hopeful that people will bear this in mind when they cast their vote into the ballot boxes.
'I am still fully engaged in economic affairs. I have met thousands of people over the Christmas period and I think there is a broad appreciation that the country has moved forward and that we're back from the brink.
'There is a feeling that we need to ensure that the recovery is sustained and that every part of the country benefits. There is an understanding of what I have delivered for Wexford and as the economy revs up again and industries take advantage of natural gas coming on stream and both bypasses and the infrastructure in terms of education and the hospital, with its 24/7 A&E and my input with Labour at cabinet, I am confident.'
He said more work has to be done in the county, including in Enniscorthy where a flood defence system is needed and in Rosslare Harbour where a new entrance to the port is planned, ahead of the construction of the final section of motorway along the south east of the county.
'Two months before the flooding I launched the flood relief scheme. The big issue is jobs. We have reduced the unemployment rate by more than 25 per cent over the last five years. I am aiming to have everyone who wants to work in Wexford to have a job.
'I have spoken with multi national companies. I want to make Wexford a hub for medical devices companies like Lake Region. We also have Clearstream in Enniscorthy, while ICT and finance are two other areas we will focus.'
Wexford Mayor Ger Carthy said he is confident given his father's and his contribution to local politics over 51 years, that he can be in the mix for the final fifth seat.
Having began his campaign on January 2, and erected a few posters quickly thereafter, he said he has received a warm welcome on the doorsteps, where people have been telling him that they want change.
Among the issues he has been hearing are cuts to special needs, jobs, Irish Water and Local Property Tax bills and the lack of secondary school spaces in schools in Wexford town.
The independent councillor said people are disappointed with the government and want someone new.
'If you are fortunate enough to be elected into the Dáil you have a mandate for the people whether that involves representing people about potholes, medical cards or planning permission. It's like if you hire someone to do a job, you expect them to work hard for you. I'm fortunate in that I have two years on the council and I was elected mayor last year. My father Leo had 49 years as a councillor so we are now in our 52nd year serving the people of Wexford.'
When asked if he is confident of being elected, he said: 'Hopefully, with a bit of luck. I am out early and I mean to do a serious campaign. We are a trusted name in Wexford politics. I learned my politics at the kitchen table and I was out canvassing with my Dad when I was ten. Politics is a passion and it's a drug.'
Cllr Carthy has been canvassing as far north as the Ballagh and he has spoken with many construction workers and employees who are struggling to make ends meet.
'There is a small bit of a lift in the economy but the ordinary person in the street is not seeing it. There are jobs if you're willing to travel to Dublin, but that affects family life.'
He said politicians are no longer all tarred with the same brush.
Cllr Carthy, who has some financial backers, said he is out with his team all weekend and every evening in his bid for success.
the comeback trail
Having narrowly lost out on a seat in 2011, Senator Michael D'Arcy Jnr is confident of being elected this time around.
He said the main issue he is hearing on the doorsteps is that people are concerned that the recovery which the Fine Gael and Labour government has undertaken, will be squandered.
'It has been difficult and it has been hard. People have been very clear to me that they want stability and they feel that we are the party to do this.'
He said he has received very little criticism while out canvassing.
'I have worked hard. I've put in a good shift and represented the constituency very well. I have two terms under my belt and really for the county and North Wexford's advantage they will vote for me and I am satisfied that will happen.'
He is hopeful of winning the second Fine Gael seat in the county after Paul Kehoe.
He said the north of the county needs to create more jobs outside of the traditional food, construction and agriculture sectors, with the help of local government, adding that this needs to happen sooner rather than later.
Newcomer Fianna Fáil candidate Aoife Byrne is happy with her campaign to date.
'There is very definitely an appreciation of new faces and new voices. I am willing to work hard for Wexford and there is a sense out there that that hasn't happened over the last five years.'
Ms Byrne said everything has been hugely positive for her as she and her team campaigns across the county.
She said people in County Wexford believe they haven't been 'looked after' by the present government.
'I met a girl the other day and her rent has increased while her rent allowance has remained the same.
'She can only pay so much on top of the rent allowance so she may be asked to leave her house. She has two children and another child on the way.'
The Irish Water charges and crime are other issues which numerous people have raised.
'People are afraid to be in their own homes. Until we get more Gardaí in Wexford it's very important that communities fight back through community text alert schemes and neighbourhood watch initiatives. We have to look after ourselves, our families and our neighbours.'