Ganley and Fine Gael MEP in election row

 

THE LAUNCH of Libertas founder Declan Ganley’s campaign for the European Parliament in the Ireland North-West constituency has been marked by a war of words with sitting Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins.

In a weekend speech in Galway announcing his candidacy, Mr Ganley referred to Mr Higgins as “Swimmer Jim” because of the MEP’s support for a €9.2 million plan for a swimming pool at the European Parliament.

“I have heard Jim Higgins preaching about the Government wasting money. Then I see Jim Higgins going to Brussels, when he thinks you aren’t looking, and voting for €9.2 million to be spent on a swimming pool for himself and his friends. Well Swimmer Jim will have to answer to the electorate for that,” Mr Ganley said.

Responding in kind, Mr Higgins told The Irish Timesit was “a bit rich” of his opponent to focus on “trivia”, given the questions that remained over financing of the Libertas campaign against the Lisbon Treaty last year.

“I’m very disappointed that Mr Ganley should launch his campaign in such a negative fashion,” the Fine Gael MEP said.

“If the best he can do in the course of the campaign is concentrate on trivia rather than serious political debate, I’m afraid his chances of connecting with the electorate are minimal.

“I think it is a bit rich of Mr Ganley to be talking about transparency and financial spending when he has failed utterly over a 10-month period to explain to the Standards in Public Office Commission the nature and conditions of the loan which he personally made available to the anti-Lisbon Libertas campaign and the involvement of his staff members employed by Rivada Networks,” Mr Higgins said.

In his speech at the Glenlo Abbey Hotel in Galway on Saturday night, Mr Ganley said: “In 12 weeks’ time, the people of Galway, along with people from Malin Head to the Shannon estuary, will cast their ballots to choose the people who will represent them in the European Parliament for the next five years.

“After much thought, consideration, and careful preparation, tonight I can tell you and those outside this room that I will be a candidate in that election.”

Mr Ganley said nobody who put themselves before the people had any right to expect to be elected, and he knew he had an uphill battle to win the trust of the people of Ireland North-West over the next three months.

“I am a businessman, not a politician. I know what it takes to create wealth. I know what it will take to dig Europe out of the mess that our politicians have created,” he said, according to a supplied script.

“We are led today by a group of people who have no basic understanding of economics. A group of people with no real life experience of business.

“A group of people who have never, not once, created a single job, except when they do it with taxpayers’ money to employ bureaucrats instead of doctors.”

He added: “Our campaign here in Ireland will be vigorous. We will be attacked, and we will be slandered, and we will be lied about.”

Mr Ganley said Libertas’s message was true. “ Our principles are correct. We are on the side of the people, not the establishment in Dublin. If we work hard, stay focused, and make our case, we will win.”

Libertas has declared its intention to run candidates throughout the European Union.