Taoiseach facing rumbles of discontent on the home front
Many voters in Castlebar feel Enda Kenny hasn’t done enough for the area
Avril Grufferty, Ballinrobe (left) and Martha Egan, Finney, meet Cllr Brendan Henaghan, on his local election canvass in Castlebar. Photograph: Michael Donnelly
The horizontal rain is lashing shoppers off the streets. The liquidation notice in the shuttered frontage of Hynes’ shoe shop – part of Castlebar’s DNA for 60 years – is still sending shockwaves through the town.
Inside another empty shop, a retailer is close to breaking point: “I shouldn’t have time to be talking to you,” he says sharply. His eyes well up: “Look around you – I’m hanging on by my fingernails, financially and psychologically. But I have a family. Failure is not an option.”
Turnover is down by 60 per cent. Property bought as a pension has tanked.
“Three years ago, everybody in Mayo put all their hopes and aspirations in Enda Kenny, ” he says. “They sold their souls here to win votes for him. In the rest of the country Fianna Fáilers were being asked to ‘lend us your votes to save Ireland’; here it was ‘lend us your votes to save Mayo’. And they did. That was our big chance finally to get a look-in. But now we’ve been forgotten and abandoned. The message coming back is that he’s a national politician for all of the people.”
Yes, he voted Fine Gael three years ago too. “The Irish people don’t do street riots; they lie in wait . . . this Government is going to be mauled.”
Another, more relaxed retailer agrees. “People are very, very disappointed. The town is dying – and being let die. We have too many overheads and not enough footfall.”
Does she get angry when canvassed by Fine Gaelers? “No,” she says with a wry laugh. “I’m way past that.” But like almost all the Enda-critics, she pleads for anonymity.
Unlike Rita Quinn and her son Pat. They run a shop that defies description: fishing tackle, guns, jewellery, skincare.
“I mightn’t bother my head voting this time,” says Rita, a former pharmacist.
“I see a lot of disillusionment with Enda Kenny. He has done absolutely nothing for Castlebar,” says Pat. “He goes around shaking hands in Europe but he’s still a TD for Castlebar.”
This is Mayo’s recurring theme. Wasn’t Enda supposed to bring home the bacon? If you are elected to represent the constituency and then become Taoiseach to govern the country, where does your first duty lie? Here in Mayo, it’s not just the voters who believe your first duty is to them.
In a questionnaire sent to random public representatives, Áine Ryan of the Mayo News asked if they were taoiseach, what they would do differently in the county.