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Former Rose of Tralee sets sights on Europe


OUT AND ABOUTMaria Walsh (right) at the recent jobs announcement by Meissner in Castlebar with Karisa Koenig, Director of Marketing at Meissner. Pic: Alison Laredo.

Áine Ryan

Former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh is set to seek a Fine Gael nomination to contest the upcoming European elections in the vast Midlands North West Constituency. The convention will be held in Mullingar on Friday, February 22, with the sitting party MEP in the four-seat constituency, Mairéad McGuinness, also planning to run again.
Ms Walsh was born in Boston and raised in Shrule. In a statement at the weekend, she said that her time as the 2014 Rose of Tralee had brought her around the country and had given her ‘a platform to make a positive impact in people’s lives’ and that she now wants to build on that.  
“I have been to every county in Midlands North West, meeting community groups and farming organisations, promoting good mental health for our young people as an ambassador for Jigsaw, discussing patriotism and history with school kids and parents as an ambassador for the Thomas Francis Meagher Foundation, playing Gaelic football, and on manoeuvres with the Irish reserves.
“Everywhere I go, I meet people of all ages with the same hopes and concerns. The same constant questions crop up. ‘Will there be enough opportunities for me to raise my family in rural Ireland and for my children to stay here after that? How will the next CAP reform affect my family farm? How will Brexit affect my business?’.”
She said she wants to go to the European Parliament and become ‘a strong and effective voice for all with these concerns’, while representing ‘the interests of a wide constituency that is going through many changes’.

‘Incredibly lucky’
“As a girl who grew up in the west of Ireland, I see the abundance of opportunities that we in the Midlands North West have to offer. From our beautiful rural villages like Shrule and Leitirmore to communities like Westport and Letterkenny, we are incredibly lucky to have diverse and talented resources. This is a pivotal time for all concerned here and I want to effect change,” Ms Walsh said.
Continuing, she said: “As we can see from the events of recent years and months, it is absolutely vital that Ireland’s voice is heard at a European level. We have seen through the efforts of our Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney and all else on the Fine Gael and Government team what our diplomatic efforts have achieved. Our concerns are at the centre of European interests in the ongoing Brexit debate – not bad for a small island in the north Atlantic.

“I believe, if elected which I am determined to do, I can make a valuable contribution in that ongoing debate and represent our local and rural concerns at an international level. I am always first and foremost a proud west-of-Ireland woman with an unyielding commitment to achieving good progress on behalf of our communities.”
Thirty-one-year-old Walsh is believed to be the youngest candidate in the elections. The sitting MEPs in this constituency are Matt Carthy (Sinn Féin), Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan (Independent), Marian Harkin (Independent) and the above-mentioned Mairéad McGuinness.
There had been speculation that party colleague, Senator John O’Mahony would also put his name forward, but he ruled himself out in recent weeks. The Green Party has selected Achill Island native and environmentalist Saoirse McHugh to contest the election in this constituency also.

Did you know?
The Midlands North West comprises 47.8 percent of the State’s territory.  It includes the counties of Cavan, Donegal, Galway, Kildare, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo and Westmeath and the city of Galway.