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A tale of two parties

News

Ring confident of Fine Gael’s return, while Fianna Fáil’s Calleary questions health performance

Edwin McGreal

In government since 2011, Minister Michael Ring says he is ‘confident’ Fine Gael will still be at the helm after this year’s election.
However, his constituency rival, Fianna Fáil Deputy Leader Dara Calleary, has questioned the Government’s track record.
Ring, the current Minister for Rural and Community Development, anticipates a February election.
“When people come to vote, they will look at the economy, at jobs, at their future and the future of their children. This government is a safe pair of hands, and we’ve proven it with Brexit, with the North and with the economy,” he told The Mayo News.
“Everything is not perfect and never will be, but our economy is steadily growing. A growing economy will mean more funding for services. The last budget could have been a giveaway election budget, but it wasn’t; we put the country first. I’m very confident Fine Gael will be returned to government.
“Fine Gael and the present government have done a very good job. Unemployment is down. There are more people working in Ireland than ever before – over 2 million people.
“From a national point of view we have provided a stable government. People said we wouldn’t last, but we’ve lasted four years. The economy is back on track. We had a budget surplus this year,” he added.

Health concerns
However, Deputy Calleary argues Fine Gael have not delivered for rural Ireland (see News, page 8) and argues there are a number of issues that the Government is in trouble on, such as health, housing, jobs, climate change and crime.
“The health service is a big one right now. Last night I spoke with people who were at Mayo University Hospital, and it is a difficult place for patients and staff. Like a lot of other cases, the Government knew this problem was coming, they knew January would be busy, but they did not take action, such as adding staff and opening more beds.
“We need to make sure GPs are adequately resourced in rural communities to keep people out of emergency departments where possible. We need to revisit the district hospitals in Belmullet, Ballina and Swinford, which worked very well as stand down facilities from Castlebar in the past and which can help to ease the crisis in Castlebar. We are not at all using the resources of community nursing homes and private nursing homes to help with shortage of beds,” he said.
“Housing is a big problem. We have our lowest rate of home ownership in 40 years. For too many people the dream of owning their own home is bypassing them,” he added.
Deputy Calleary said that from a local point of view, there is ‘huge potential for the Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) at Knock Airport and that the Government is not giving it adequate priority.
“The SDZ at Knock Airport has huge potential, but Mayo County Council has been given no resources to develop or market it. If you look at the other SDZ at Dublin Port and all the resources given to that, you can see the gulf. Mayo County Council needs to be adequately resourced to deliver the SDZ at Knock.
“The fact that Knock has received the lowest level of capital and operational grants per passenger of all the existing regional airports in recent years tells you a lot,” he said.
“The delivery of the N5 is to be welcomed, but the N26 to Ballina and the R312 Belmullet to Castlebar Road need approval and fast,” he added. “You need connectivity all over Mayo, not just in some parts.”