First year students Kealan Kilgallon and Patrick Hession, with Jimmy Finn, Principal at St Colman’s College, Claremorris explaining how they use their i-Pads to Presidential candidate Gay Mitchell when he visited the college during his tour of Mayo last week. ?Pic: Frank Dolan.
Mitchell focuses on restoring international confidence
European experience, equality and economic know-how are the ‘three E’s that presidential candidate Gay Mitchell said he will bring to the presidency if he is elected in November.
The Dubliner was candid and confident when I spoke with him in Westport last week while on a whistle-stop tour of County Mayo, which included Claremorris, Ballinrobe and Westport.
Mitchell believes he has ‘the energy’ and the ‘networking skills’ to restore international confidence in Ireland over a seven-year term. He stops short of claiming he will create employment – instead he paints himself as somebody who will facilitate growth. “If somebody goes to the Park believing that they’re going to be the Minister for Enterprise and they can create jobs they don’t understand the job fully.”
He went on to say that ‘the prestige’ associated with the office could be leveraged to the country’s advantage when networking. “A president swears to uphold the constitution. To uphold the constitution and the law you can’t interfere with the role of the government. But the president can work with the government of the day at home and abroad. I accompanied Mary Robinson abroad more times than any other minister in the rainbow government.”
This approach can repair Ireland’s international reputation, Mitchell said. “What I would like to do is work with the Government to restore confidence in this country. People are looking at us and they realise we’re not the same as Portugal and Greece. It’s important they understand we’re not, because this country in my view is on the cusp of recovery.”
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte recently warned that December’s Budget will be ‘extremely painful’ as the government attempts to squeeze a further €3.6 billion in savings on top of last year’s cuts.
Mitchell said he is not worried about any Fine Gael public backlash against the austerity measures as the budget looms. He also said he does not believe this will hinder his presidential ambitions. “The reality of the situation is this. You have to prune a bush to make it grow. We cannot spend €13 billion more a year than we take in. That’s adding €13 billion a year to our debt, and we’re paying interest on that every year.”
All are welcome
In a radio interview with Pat Kenny on RTÉ last month, the Fine Gael candidate was asked about his Christian Democratic credentials and his relationship with American Christian minister Dr Alveda King, the controversial niece of Martin Luther King. In August 2010, Dr King spoke at a forum organised by the Working Group on Human Dignity. Mr Mitchell is chairman of the group. Dr King has previously compared gay marriage to genocide and said that God hates homosexuality. When questioned, Mr Mitchell stated that he did not share her views.
Speaking on equality he said, “Being inclusive is a bit like being pregnant. You’re either inclusive or you’re not inclusive. And as far as I’m concerned if I am to become President, Catholics will be welcomed in the Áras, Protestants as well as people from all denominations will be welcome. Jewish, Muslim, people who have no religious beliefs or humanists, gay or straight. People will be welcomed irrespective of what colour they are. I don’t care what their father did. I will be a really inclusive president.”
Mr Mitchell said the reception he received in Mayo was very warm and added, “I was with the Taoiseach today and I’m with Michael Ring here and John O’Mahony. I’ll be with Michelle Mulherrin when I come back to do a bit of canvassing. I’m absolutely certain that the strength of the organisation here will get people out to vote.”
Mitchell continued and explained that he also has some Mayo connections, and has been a regular visitor to Mayo for many years. “My uncle was a Garda Sergeant in Mayo for many years. My late uncle worked in Blacksod and some of my family still live here. My brother and sister are married into Galway families, so I’ve a lot of contacts in the west.”
As he departed, he took aim at any suggestion that he was a ‘typical Dubliner’, saying he was looking forward to the ploughing championships the following day. “I worked for the IFA for three years, very few people know that,” he smiled.