Busy few weeks as always. Here I was thinking that things were kind of winding down and work flow easing when I realised that almost a full year has now passed since the European and local elections. I can tell you that a year has never flown by so fast and I find the challenges of being a new MEP still as great and as thrilling as ever. I am always mindful that I have a duty of care and responsibility not only to all those who voted for me and not only for all of the people in the Ireland South constituency but I am also acutely aware of my responsibilities as a republican activist to all of Ireland.
With this in mind, I travelled to Belfast last week to canvass with our election candidates there. I must say having been in Fermanagh the previous week with Michelle Gildernew, I feel I am gaining a deeper understanding of some of our cultural challenges . One of the issues which stood out for me was the marked difference in campaigning. In the 26 counties,certainly in the Ireland South constituency we canvassed everywhere and everyone without giving much thought to whether they were rich or poor,working class, middle class but more to the point, we never had to give a thought to whether they were unionists or loyalists, that dynamic never entered into it, we had the freedom to canvass on issues concerning all of us without that friction and tension, without having to think about sectarianism. The bomb scares that some of our comrades had to endure was another added pressure and so it is with great relief that we have finally reached polling day and an outcome one way or another.
And so, here we are heading into our by-election in Carlow/Kilkenny and once again I will be giving it my all to canvass for Kathleen Funchion. On reflection of the 6 County canvass, this should be a breeze. Our objective – to send a clear message to this Government that the people of Kilkenny and Carlow along with the rest of Ireland have had enough, enough of bad policies,bad decisions, lack of understanding,empathy and most of all we have had enough of the arrogance which this Fine Gael and Labour government have foisted on the people. Kathleen will make a wonderful TD and the pleasure and satisfaction of replacing Phil Hogan with Kathleen Funchion should be enough to spur anyone into action to get out there and canvass. We are still dealing with the fallout of big Phils carnage. The frustrating thing is having to look for meetings with the commission here in Brussels which is now under his remit to discuss the latest mess which is Leader. The new regions where Leader funding is allocated is having a devastating effect on how the program operates. We have seen a 40% cut to overall funding and the reality of that will be felt all over rural Ireland with meals on wheels and rural transport just some of the many vital services which were dependent on Leader funding. Another death blow to our rural areas. However,not a pessimist by nature, I am looking at ways which we can re generate rural Ireland. Co-operatives and social enterprise coupled with entrepreneurship and a collaborative approach by communities in my view has great potential and with that in mind, much of the legislative work I have at hand is ensuring that amendments are put in place to encourage this approach. More about this in my next blog.
I have to also mention that I have a super team working with me. Martina,Matt Lynn and I are only as good as those who work with us ensuring that we are on top of our briefs and delivering for people at home. They also arrange all flights, meetings and look after our mental health when at times we become exhausted and yes occasionally overwhelmed and the odd time underwhelmed! They are the unsung heroes that work away quietly in the background, selfless and giving of their time, decent republicans who are like us striving for a better Ireland with Republican ideology at its centre , where we look after each other, have compassion, empathy and hopefully one day where we can canvass North and South on equal footing.