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Mayo TDs speak ahead of summer recess


CAPITAL GAINS Mayo News reporter Cian McNicholas spoke to Mayo’s four TDs last Thursday ahead of the summer recess.

Cian McNicholas

LAST Thursday saw the official summer recess kick-in with the end of the political term in Leinster House. But the historic halls and corridors were as busy and as manic as ever, with the political climate so chaotic and turbulent at this current time.
The Mayo News got exclusive access into political headquarters in Leinster House to speak to Mayo’s four TDs and catch the mood ahead of their summer break.

“I think this week’s vote of confidence was resounding”

The first question went to Fine Gael’s first-time TD, Alan Dillon, who found his first two years in office ‘challenging’.
“It has certainly been a challenging two years with the onset of Covid and now we are in the midst of a cost-of-living [crisis] and the inflationary crisis. I am thoroughly enjoying my experience here; a lot of good work has been done by Government in terms of delivering for people all across Ireland and certainly we are facing some really challenging times – be it the issue around the affordability and availability of housing especially in Mayo. It is at a tipping point at the moment.” said Deputy Dillion.
“There has been many highlights so far. Our job is very dynamic, you are there for the people, it is a privilege every day you do walk into Leinster House. But certainly, having that support and ensuring that people do get a very professional service – is very rewarding.” Dillon told The Mayo News.
“Politics every day is different, we have been challenged with Covid and now we have the war in Europe, but we are responding as a Government and I think this week’s vote of confidence was resounding, and certainly, that gives good impetus for this government to continue over the next number of months and certainly to ensure that we do deliver on our programme for government commitments.”

“Yes, we would be looking at a possible second seat there (in Mayo)”

After speaking to Deputy Dillon, it was a quick dash over to the ‘Coffee Doc’ in Leinster House to meet Sinn Féin TD for Mayo,Rose Conway Walsh, who was in good spirits after a recent Irish Times/Ipsos poll resul showed Sinn Fein increase support increase to 36 percent.
“The government parties, both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, they have decreased again, they have spent the last number of days slapping themselves on the back with the wonderful job they are doing. But honestly, I think there is an absolute disconnect into how much suffering people have in their lives. People want change and they don’t want change for the sake of change, they want change that is going to bring them meaningful differences in their lives.” Conway Walsh reacted.
“We would be looking towards the next election, we are not taking absolutely anything for granted, we will stay focused, we will stay working very hard and then we will go to the people. We want an election as soon as possible; we are looking at Mayo, looking at the numbers, staying the same as they are in Mayo. Yes, we would be looking at a possible second seat there, so we will be doing the figures nearer the time. We need to have a strategy that’s flexible enough to ensure that everybody has a chance to vote for Sinn Fein, because we do really want to get into government,” said the Ballycroy native.

“I am very annoyed the government are not doing more”

The third TD we spoke to was veteran politician Michael Ring, who was full of energy considering this is his 28th year as a TD in Dáil Éireann. First thing on the agenda was the cost-of-living crisis which Ring described as ‘a very serious time’. He went on to mention what the government can do to ease the pressure on families: “The most important thing to help families would be to reduce the fuel prices, to reduce petrol and diesel.
“I think that is one of the bigger problems, particularly people in rural areas because if you are working in Castlebar and you are going to Westport or if you are working in Belmullet coming to Castlebar – it is a big cost factor on people’s income right now. And particularly people who are working. Even though the government have reduced the excise and the fuel, we have a bit of gouging going on as well, with people putting up prices and I am very annoyed the government are not doing more on that, and not doing more checking on people like that,” Ring told The Mayo News.
“When the country and the businesses were in trouble with Covid, the tax payer of this country, these are the ordinary citizens of this country - paid their taxes. The government gave all these businesses some relief and now when they get an opportunity, they are back now again increasing prices. In some cases, they have no choice, in other cases there is a bit of gouging going on where people are actually taking advantage of the situation.”

“It would be an immense honour, and I only got a short period there (as a minister)”

Our last interview of the day was with Ballina TD Dara Calleary who has had a turbulent two years, getting only ‘a short period’ in a ministerial role, as he described it himself. When asked about the looming cabinet reshuffle at the end of the year with Leo Varadkar taking the reigns as Taoiseach, does he expect to be offered a ministerial role?
“It would be an immense honour, and I only got a short period there (as a minister), I would love to get a longer period but I am not going to think of that space,” Calleary told The Mayo News.
“You don’t expect anything in this profession, I just keep my head down and my priority at the moment is working for the people of Mayo. We have serious challenges across the county; the cost of living, health, infrastructure, pyrite situation and farming facing some really, really difficult challenges. So, my focus is very much on assisting Mayo at the moment.”
Deputy Calleary was questioned also on the main issue in the country surrounding the cost-of-living emergency and what can the government do to help the situation: “We have got the budget coming up at the end of September, I think the cost-of-living crisis is multifaceted; it is fuel costs, it’s food costs and I think what we need to do is get money back into people’s pockets, back into everyone’s pockets.
“We already brought in a fuel and energy credit, and also reduce people’s tax burden. But we also have to be careful that we don’t add to the inflation, by helping people we don’t want to make the problem worse,” added the Ballina-based TD.