Campaign to promote community based politics across State

1st Independent Mayo say they are ‘not quite Ireland’s answer to Syriza’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Spokesmen for 1st Independent Mayo, based in the Taoiseach’s political base, has said the campaign aims to promote community-based politics across the State. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Spokesmen for 1st Independent Mayo, based in the Taoiseach’s political base, has said the campaign aims to promote community-based politics across the State. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Campaigners for a new type of community-based political representation in Mayo say their template could apply to any constituency across the State.

The 1st Independent Mayo movement also says it is “not parochial” but “not quite Ireland’s answer to the Greek party Syriza either” in seeking candidates to stand in the next general election.

The campaign, formed by a coalition of community groups involved in issues such as opposition to wind energy, pylons, and water charges, stresses it has “no preconceived agenda” or “shopping list”.

Its focus is on “national issues” which affect local communities, both urban and rural, according to its spokesmen, accountant Eddie Farrell and teacher Michael Daly.

The campaign has advertised for prospective candidates and aims to hold a series of “community hall meetings” to provide a platform for presenting “thoughts and ideas on the future shape and agenda of the next government” to the constituency’s electorate.

“A bit like the US primaries” is how Mr Farrell describes the concept, and said that voters will decide the issues to be discussed.

Mr Farrell, who says he has no previous political affiliation, says the idea grew out of a meeting among community groups from across the State before Christmas, which was addressed by Independent Roscommon-South Leitrim TD Michael Fitzmaurice.

Mr Daly, who ran as an independent in the last general election, said neither he nor Mr Farrell were seeking to run themselves.

“Nothing against Taoiseach Enda Kenny, but I don’t think people need another teacher in the Dáil,” Mr Daly said.

Mr Daly has been involved in the anti-abortion movement, but said that his involvement was a personal issue and bore no relation to this campaign.

“We don’t want candidates who are prisoners of ideology or party, and we believe the current political system is stifling people of real experience and calibre from standing for politics,” he said.

“We are not so much modelled on Syriza in Greece, but on political alternatives developing across Europe, ” Mr Daly said, adding that Syriza had been successful in attracting people with expertise into politics.

Pressure on Fine Gael

Fine Gael won four out of five seats in Mayo in the last general election, but is under pressure due to a perception that Mr Kenny has failed to deliver for his constituency - which will be a four-seater in the next election.

The party had no comment to make on the new campaign, but Fine Gael sources in the constituency predicted that its candidates would do well as a result of a “crowded field”.

“There will be so many runners and riders in the next election that it will be like the Grand National”, one party source said.

In a related development, the Government has belatedly announced the composition of an expert advisory group to assist in rural development policy and implementation of the Government’s Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (Cedra) report.

Original Cedra chairman Pat Spillane will also chair this group, which includes Supermac’s managing director Pat McDonagh, Dairymaster managing director Dr Edmund Harty, Musgrave’s chief executive Chris Martin and journalist Helen Carroll.

Mr Farrell said that the announcement of the group was “no coincidence”, but that the 1st Independent Mayo campaign had a remit that transcended rural areas.

Cedra was established in 2012 to examine the potential for economic development in rural Ireland up to 2025. Its report was published before last year’s local elections.

Minister of State for Rural Economic Development Ann Phelan has already appointed an interdepartmental group to support “the coordinated delivery” of the Cedra report’s 34 recommendations.