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*Michael Leahy

Providing the private sector with incentives to develop rural areas has been declared as the key election issue of Michael Leahy.

An architect and planner living in Corofin, Michael will be running under the banner of the recently formed right-wing Irish Freedom Party. “The primary objective of re-establishing the national independence and sovereignty of Ireland and restoring its national democracy by leaving the European Union,” is listed as what the party represents.

“A tax against freedom of speech which is coming increasingly from Government at a cultural level,” is what Leahy pinpointed as the main reason for adding his name to the ballot paper.

He told The Clare Echo, “I see an increasing intolerance within society, I think it’s very important to fight against that, I’m very concerned with the hate crime legislation being promoted in Dáil Éireann, it would have been enacted at this stage had the election not been called, I will make a submission on that on behalf of the party”.

“There is an increased centralisation of administration of power within the country, areas like Clare are increasingly being forgotten. There is an over-reliance on bureaucratic structures with regards to the housing crisis, the intent of Government seems to be to solve it purely by social housing, there is a great opportunity to incentivise the private sector with housing and the regeneration of our towns and villages, so many towns and villages are falling apart in Co Clare”.

Born in Kerry, Michael moved to Kilrush at the age of fourteen. The Nice Treaty in the early 2000s was when he first became a “Euro sceptic”. “With the Lisbon Treaty I felt there was an effort being made to centralise power and concentrate power in the bigger states. I was also opposed to the institution of the Euro currency as I felt it would not work very well, we later discovered the banking crisis was directly attributable to the Euro currency and the enormous debts imposed on Ireland date from that decision”.

In “the long-term” he is in favour of Ireland leaving the European Union but maintained Irexit is not possible at this moment. “We’re tied into the currency, it would make it almost impossible to break from it. We have to start looking at repatriation of some powers, particularly I’ve fisheries in mind”.

Should Ireland create “a better arrangement” with the EU, the 1995 Ennis Town Council candidate felt Irexit would not be necessary. “Everything is going to change dramatically once Britain leaves, it is our biggest customer and closest neighbour so it is going to be rather difficult for us remaining within the European Union when our closest geographic neighbour is outside that European Union, we’re the ones going to be most affected by Britain, more so than Britain to be frank, we have to seek alternative arrangements in that situation”.

From 1993 to 1995 he was President of Ennis Chamber and highlights the creation of their headquarters and bringing in paid employees as his biggest achievement in the role. “We had never had a headquarters before then. I also took on full employees in Ennis Chamber, we successfully lobbied for the Shannon Stopover status at the time, it was subsequently lost, we were involved in lobbying for the greater import of industry to the town with some but not huge success”.

Roughly sixty people in Clare are members of the party. The father of one said their objectives also include reducing taxation and the rate of bureaucracy in Ireland. “There are a number of policies that I will be putting forward in how we can regenerate our towns and villages, organic production in agricultural and take the weight of bureaucratic inspection off farmers, many farmers are finding it difficult to deal with the inspection regime imposed by the Department of Agriculture. With regard to health care, we feel that in a rural county like Clare it’s very important in the first instance to support the GP structure which is the first line of health care at the moment. When the A&Es were closed in Ennis and Nenagh provision wasn’t made for an upgrade in Limerick and that has made for a catastrophic trolley crisis, there is a real danger that the same could happen with the GP service, so many GPs are finding it difficult to attract young doctors into the system”.

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