Campaigning is well underway across the vast territory that is the Midlands North West Constituency in the European Elections. We look at the 17 candidates vying for four seats in Europe on May 24...
Cyril Brennan (PBP)
Families and workers must be put first
People Before Profit’s Cyril Brennan is the national co-ordinator of ‘The Still Waiting Health Campaign’, which held a protest nationally to demand the implementation of Slaintecare and for increased capacity within our health service.
Cyril is a native of Ballyshannon in County Donegal where he works in the local community hospital and is a proud husband and a father of two young girls.
He believes our communities have been forgotten by “the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael duopoly”, which he claims has failed Irish politics.
He seeks to bring a genuine change that puts families and workers ahead of corporate interests.
“For too long politicians in our community have said anything to get elected and done nothing to fulfil promises made to our families. We have paid for this inaction with the emigration of thousands of our young people, a chronic lack of infrastructure in the area, and a loss of our basic health, Garda and school services.”
Matt Carthy (SF)
Your strongest voice against a hard Border
A native of Carrickmacross, Matt is married to Lynn and they have five children.
He is Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands Northwest Constituency since 2014, having previously been a member of Monaghan CoCo.
As MEP he claims to have an “unmatched” record of fighting for Ireland, challenging “bankers, bureaucrats and corporate tax evaders”. He says he has also taken the ECB to task “for its treatment of Ireland” and has “led the fight” against EU plans to promote vulture funds and to develop an EU army.
Matt has also championed rural communities, family farms and campaigned for a fairer distribution of CAP payments. He has also argued for a Brexit relief fund for struggling farmers and businesses.
“Families across this region are under pressure from the rising cost of living, the housing crisis and the failure to invest in rural communities. Brexit will only make this situation worse. We cannot allow the people of counties like Cavan to be collateral damage in Britain’s Brexit mess.
“I will work for action to address the rising cost of living and to stop carbon tax hikes, which will disproportionately hit those outside of Dublin; while continuing to fight to protect Irish interest during the Brexit negotiations. With Sinn Féin MEPs, you know what you get. We will be your strongest voice against a hard border. We will work to ensure ordinary families get a better deal.”
Peter Casey (IND)
Cavan needs a strong independent voice
A native of Derry who lives in Greencastle, Co Donegal, Peter Casey is founder and former executive chairman of Claddagh Resources, a global recruitment firm.
He and his wife, Helen, who is from Crumlin in Dublin, have five children. He most recently contested the Presidential elections in Ireland in 2018, finishing second with 21% of the overall vote.
“Cavan needs a strong independent voice to ensure the county is no longer left out when it comes to infrastructure, investment and connectivity. The Midlands-North West constituency has borne the brunt of EU austerity with massive job losses, high levels of emigration and farmers on the breadline.
“Cavan and the border counties need significant investment, particularly in road infrastructure, to sustain and enable business growth. The failure of the Government to commit to rural Ireland continues to see the border region struggle to compete,” he says.
As a businessman who has invested heavily in rural industry on both sides of the border, he says: “I am committed to providing a strong and independent voice for rural Ireland and its towns and villages. I will ensure Cavan’s people are heard and heeded, with their interests upheld, at the heart of Europe. I am campaigning for tax incentives for start-ups; the incentivisation of new-build rural homes; subsidised or free education for tertiary institutions; 5G roll-out to all counties; a new scheme to address rural housing vacancies; and steps to curb regulations around regenerating protected buildings.”
Luke 'Ming' Flanagan (IND)
‘More guns and more bombs do not make us safer’
He previously served as a member of Roscommon County Council between 2004 and 2011.
“Brexit is obviously the number one issue on people’s minds when it comes to the EU. However, when it comes to the issue that MEPs have an actual real legislative role on, the number one issue is the MFF from 2021-2027. What’s that you say? Well you need to know. It is the EU’s Multi Financial Framework or in plain English, ‘The Budget’.”
The current proposed plan, he outlines, is to move money from feeding people through the Common Agricultural Policy to a “war machine” called the European Defence Agency. “The MFF proposal would mean an increased budget of 2,200% for investment in instruments of death. People may have heard that because of Brexit that the moneys to Rural Development are to be cut. This is a bare faced lie. The truth is that, under these new proposals, three new streams of income are to be introduced. The budget would actually increase.”
Up to €380 million per year is to be paid into the fund by Ireland. “If this was to end up coming back to rural Ireland, I could support it.”
He adds: “On this island we have learnt the hard way that more guns and more bombs do not make us safer. During this parliament, unlike my constituency colleagues in Fine Gael, I have opposed such moves and would do so again if re-elected.”
Fidelma Healy Eames (IND)
Rural decline must be reversed
Galway-based, Dr Fidelma Healy Eames is a former Irish politician and former member of Seanad Éireann. She was first elected to the Senate in 2007 by the Labour Panel.
As a member of the Reform Alliance group, she sat as an independent senator, having lost the Fine Gael parliamentary party whip in July 2013.
In March 2016, she announced her retirement from politics.
Healy Eames was first elected to Galway CoCo, for the Oranmore electoral area, and served there from 2004-2007.
She was an unsuccessful candidate at the 2002, 2007, 2011, and 2016 general elections for the Galway West constituency.
In announcing her candidacy, Dr Healy Eames alleged that the constituency of the Midlands North West has been left behind by the Fine Gael-led, Fianna Fáil supported Government.
“It has actually been downgraded by the EU from a ‘developed’ region to a ‘region in transition’. This is no surprise to those of us living in rural Ireland - our towns and villages are in decline, our rural schools are threatened, garda stations and post offices closed, banks have become faceless.
“Our greatest resource, our talented educated young people, have no choice but to leave their families and follow opportunity, which is largely Dublin-centred, and by government-design. This record is a damning indictment of Fine Gael, the party that used to claim to care about rural Ireland and to which I belonged until 2013.”
Patrick Greene (DDI)
Politicians must be answerable
A first-time Dáil candidate and the leader of Direct Democracy Ireland, Mr Greene polled only 124 first preference votes when contesting the 2014 local elections in the Ardee electoral area.
He was elected leader of the party at an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of the party in the Townhouse Court Hotel in Naas back in 2015.
Patrick is a self-employed wood worker and has been an active campaigner against the property tax and water charges.
Along with the rest of his party, he advocates for a new political system, which would make elected politicians directly answerable to their constituents.
Dominic Hannigan (Labour)
The decisions we make now will impact on our children
One of the first openly gay TDs to be elected, Dominic took his seat in Dáil Éireann in 2011. He has also served as a senator and county councillor.
Dominic is a former chair of the Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, and the Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs. Originally from Drogheda, he now lives in Galway, and runs a small business in Co Mayo. Dominic has spent the past two months cycling along the Border – to meet communities and hear first-hand their concerns about Brexit and other issues.
“Climate change and environmental protection are the most important issues currently facing Ireland – and the world. The decisions we make now (or the decisions we fail to make) will impact on our children and young people, and the world we leave to them.”
“I am working directly with young people throughout the constituency to respond to their leadership on climate action, as evidenced by the recent school strikes. If elected to the European Parliament, I will work for a sustainable Europe that prioritises environmental protection and climate action.”
Health, broadband and housing on the agenda
Dr Dilip Mahapatra is a physician based in Dundalk since 1995, attached to the HSE community unit for the elderly, and St John of God administered special needs unit.
He is married with two children.
He missed out on selection by Fianna Fáil to contest the European election in this constituency, and has now stepped forward as an independent candidate.
“My main concern is that over 700,000 people are on waiting list for healthcare, over 500,000 without broadband. There are over 17,000 people including children who are homeless and close to 110,000 households in need of social housing.”
He adds that his experience in the healthcare system has given him first hand experience of its structural and resource shortcomings. “I have identified a few choke points, which needs to be released including utilisation of closed hospital space for a smooth running of a modern integrated health system.
“We need to adopt the Finland model to solve our housing crisis for the homeless, those in need of social housing and for providing affordable students accommodation.”
Saoirse McHugh (Greene Party)
Everything has to change
The Achill native says growing up on the Mayo island means she has witnessed the “disadvantages” of rural life without seeing the benefits of “so called” economic growth.
“Young people emigrating, houses left empty, farms and businesses abandoned. As an advocate of sustainable farming, I’ve seen first hand the challenges for small farmers competing in our industrial agricultural system.”
Climate change and biodiversity loss, she adds, are the “most important challenges” humanity has ever faced. “We depend on both these things to provide us with our most basic human need, food. We have 12 years to reverse the damage being done or humans will face extinction.
“We can own and profit from our renewable energy supplies and fix our agriculture so that it works for the many, not the few. Every election is an opportunity to change our direction away from a highly-concentrated, profit-driven system to a society, which prioritises equity and sustainability. This will require changes in policy, regulations, consumer habits, and attitudes.
“If we keep doing what we’ve been doing, keep voting for the same old faces, then the Midlands-North-West will be the first to fall victim to a climate catastrophe. We have to speak, act, and vote with courage. I will be the voice for that courage in Europe.”
Mairead McGuinness (FG)
Experience needed at this critical time
She believes the greatest challenge facing the Midlands-North-West is Brexit, and the imperative of avoiding a return to a hard border between North and South.
“We have faced many challenges in the EU, but Brexit is potentially the most destabilising. For the first time, a country has voted to leave. We know the process is extremely difficult. Many businesses are already suffering: investments delayed, costs incurred in making contingency plans and currency fluctuations.”
The people of Cavan, she acknowledges, are “well aware” of the Brexit effect. “And it’s not just economic. I grew up in a Border county, Louth, and remember when the Border was hard and divisive. No one wants to return to those days. We want to keep the current situation where people can live their lives - shop, do business, go to school or the doctor, meet family and friends - crossing that invisible border without issue.
“That’s why we’ve worked to reach a Brexit agreement that protects Cavan and the Border region. At this critical time, we need experienced politicians to strongly represent the interests of the people of Cavan.
“As First Vice-President of the Parliament, I have brought your concerns to the table and followed negotiations closely.
“With your support I will continue those efforts and my work.”
James Miller (IND)
Rejuvenating rural Ireland
James Miller, 66, proud father, grandfather, retired senior officer of the Defence Forces. Late into
politics, he is unhappy with what the EU is in 2019, even if it is what is was designed to be. A Native of Vicarstown Co Laois, past pupil of CBS Athy, Graduate of UCG, 1974, in Maths, legal Science and Irish Language. Miller served with UNIFIL in 1978, and retired in 1996, to take up farming. He has a small pedigree cattle herd,has 25 years experince as a suckler farmer, is familiar with, and is not a fan of ICBF. Founder of the Public Banking Forum of Ireland, a founder member of Hemp Co-operative Ireland, Spirit of Éireann and is a member of the board of Business Retail Union Ireland.
Miller is a strong believer in rejuvenating rural Ireland, and is totally opposed to UN AGENDA 21, about which 99% of the public know nothing whatever.He believes Ireland is primarily for the Irish people.
He is campaigning to develop Industrial Hemp, a national permaculture programme, a comprehensive community banking model, and a serious review of FDI, along with fairer taxes for all, which demands an appropriate tax on IFSC trades; Miller wants an explanation of the €132bn ''leprachaun services'' in IFSC which pay zero tax, and contribute nothing to Ireland's Gross National Income. Absent radical rethinking and appropriate change of direction, Rural ireland is set to become a tourist zone.
Olive O'Connor (IND)
Nothing About Us, Without Us
Olive is a mother to four daughters who all have complex chronic health conditions and her husband suffered a stroke at age 42.
She wants safe, equitable and accessible healthcare, for all. She would love to see the principles of the EU Fundamental Charter embedded in our health ecosystem. These are Respect, Dignity and Equality.
With a proven track record in public patient involvement Olive has aided in the design, development and implementation of health related frameworks, projects, processes and products. She has happily shared her knowledge to help organisations “Innovate, Validate and Integrate” their products, projects and processes – safely, economically, effectively and efficiently. Her references, multiple awards, published research and media publications are a testimony to same.
Michael O'Dowd (Renua)
Reform of Freedom of Movement 'top' priority
Michael O’Dowd is married to Audrey and has three children.
Twice mayor of Drogheda, Michael is also an advocate on behalf of people with a disability and set up the Human Rights organisation ‘Disability Voices for Life’.
An accountant by profession, Michael worked with agri-food companies along the border when he was with Enterprise Ireland. He has seen first hand the difficulties Brexit will bring to employers and employees alike.
As well as putting disability rights at the heart of Europe, the protection of people in their homes, towns and villages is the issue that has come up most on the canvas.
“We need to target EU resources to tackle urban and rural crime and its impact on innocent victims particularly the elderly in our community.
“We have to ensure that the EU principle of Freedom of Movement is not used by serious criminals to enter this country. It’s not right that a skilled person from the USA requires a job that pays at least €30K to enter Ireland; while a criminal from Europe only needs a Ryanair ticket. Reform of Freedom of Movement along the lines of the concessions the UK received will be top of my agenda.”
Anne Rabbitte (FF)
Brexit poses opportunity for more FDI
From Portumna, Co Galway, Anne Rabbitte has been a TD for Galway East since the 2016 General Election.
She was appointed Fianna Fáil spokesperson for Children & Youth Affairs. She also served on Galway County Council.
During her 25 years working at management level in the banking sector in Galway, she had the privilege of assisting small businesses and young families in making the right financial decision for them.
“This experience will guide my judgement and decision making if fortunate to be elected on May 24. The financial sector is seeing changes which will drastically affect the sector throughout Europe. Major financial services are looking across Europe for a new home as London, post Brexit, becomes an unattractive option.”
She added: “We are capable and ready to welcome this industry to the Midlands-North West, but we need a voice in Europe to fight our best interests.”
Brendan Smith (FF)
Rural investment, broadband and roads
Deputy Brendan Smith is the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party chairman and has previously served as spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Border Region.
He has also served in several ministerial positions.
From Bawnboy, now living in Cavan Town, the experienced politician said: “My first priority as MEP is seeking the infrastructural investment needed to tackle the challenge of Brexit. This includes making the EU’s digital single market a local reality including the essential provision of broadband infrastructure and much needed improved road network.”
Other key issues he hopes to tackle include adequate funding and reform of CAP and addressing the serious Climate Change challenges.
“I’ve no interest in spin or self-promotion. Electing me as your MEP ensures that the real issues facing our communities, urban and rural, are pursued vigorously in Brussels. In voting for Brendan Smith, you get experience with a deep understanding of the needs of this vast, diverse region. I ask for your number one vote on May 24.”
Maria Walsh (FG)
Single greatest issue is threat from Brexit
Maria was crowned Rose of Tralee in 2014 as the Philadelphia Rose.
She used her platform to campaign extensively on issues, in particularly for LGBTQ+ rights.
Born in Boston but now living in Shrule, Co Mayo, she decided to contest for a seat in the European Parliament after attending an event for women who want to run in elections last year.
“It is evident that the greatest single issue facing Cavan and surrounding counties is Brexit. On a daily basis, up to 30,000 journeys are made each side of the border; for many reasons including work, school, business and agricultural activity.
“As potential MEP for this constituency, I will strive for both an Irish and European response and solution.
“We have a highly integrated agri-food sector and I strongly believe that it is essential that we minimise the potential disruption to trade flows.
“The importance of retaining access to the UK market is equally important for both the Irish farming and food sector and the farming industry across the EU.”
Diarmuid Mulcahy (IND)
Diarmuid is also an independant candidate running in the european elections.