*Michael McNamara is hoisted in the air at the grounds of Nemo Rangers GAA club. 

NEWLY ELECTED MEP, Michael McNamara (IND) has not ruled out putting his name on the ballot paper for a future General Election and admitted he was ‘overwhelmed’ to receive such a strong vote in Co Clare.

Scariff native McNamara took the third out of five seats in Ireland South to become the first Clare MEP since Paddy Lane (FG) was elected in 1989, prior to this Sylvester Barrett (FF) was elected in 1984.

In a lengthy count, McNamara was elected alongside Kathleen Funchion (SF) and Cynthia Ní Mhurchú (FF) as sitting MEP, Mick Wallace (IND) lost out on the twentieth and final count. Grace O’Sullivan (GP) lost her seat earlier in the contest.

Michael finished with 92,871 in third spot with Ní Mhurchí on 92,502 and Funchion on 90,070. All three were short of the quota of 114,761 which had been exceeded by poll-topper Sean Kelly (FG) on the first count and later by Billy Kelleher (FF) who was flanked by Senator Timmy Dooley (FF) and hoisted in the air when his re-election was announced.

Cratloe farmer Eddie Punch (II) and Corofin architect and planner, Michael Leahy (IFP) joined Scariff’s McNamara as the Clare candidates in the field. McNamara received 56,339 first preferences, Punch had 20,751 and Leahy returned with 12,259 number one votes.

As per the tallies in Clare, Deputy McNamara received a very strong backing from his native county with 16,236 votes, Punch obtained 3,029 and 975 for Leahy. “It was overwhelming and I’m very honoured by the vote I got in Co Clare. I take it as a compliment, I hope half the county didn’t want to see the back of me,” Michael quipped to The Clare Echo of the strong backing he received from the Banner County.

He added, “It is a high-point, getting re-elected as a TD in 2020 was another high point, when you lose a seat, the chances are low of getting it back so that was a high”. He is hopeful he can still give a voice to the people of Clare, “I will be able to represent the views of Clare people in parliament, there are important laws that affect the people and I hope to be able to reflect the people’s views

Canvassing the ten county constituency was “very tough,” he outlined. “In terms of getting around and trying to engage with people and create awareness of one’s campaign across a big area and getting posters up in each county is difficult”.

McNamara was unsure what exactly his success could be attributed to. “Maybe begin an Independent who generally tended to poll well was a factor but I’ve been vocal in the Dáil on issues that mattered to people at the time, I know COVID is a while back but COVID and the COVID response affected so many people. More recently a lot of people were taken aback by the Referenda proposals and how badly thought through they were”. Having the support of prominent Independent politicians during the canvass was another asset, he acknowledged.

An initial aim for the farmer and barrister in Brussels is to get on “committees which have an impact”. Agriculture, data protection and the laws governing data, energy, fisheries, trade and human rights are among the issues Michael is hopeful to keep to the fore during his time as an MEP.

He has to commence negotiations on which particular grouping he will form part of in Brussels. “I was only elected on Thursday night so I’ve been concentrating on getting all the posters down as we’re required to do and to try spend a little bit of time with my family because I didn’t see a lot of them for the last six weeks”.

Although he will be based in Belgium, Michael is hopeful to maintain an office in Ennis and that it will be staffed. Currently his office in Lower Market St car park is occupied by his parliamentary assistant Edel Carroll and secretarial assistant Mary Cusack, however an MEP generally has their staff in Brussels with McNamara in the process of finalising such arrangements. “That will be discussed but I won’t have those discussions in the media,” he stated when asked what will happen his constituency office and staff.

Fresh from his election to European Parliament, McNamara did not rule out a return to Leinster House and contesting another General Election. “It will depend on the timing, I wouldn’t say I’d never appear on a ballot paper for the Dáil but I’d like to give Europe a chance, it is very important and it will be particularly important because of the issues I’ve highlighted to give it a proper go and see what I can do there on behalf of the people who elected”.

At present he felt the Dáil “is becoming more centralised and when it comes to legislation it is rubber stamping. It is the Cabinet who are legislating and the Government backbenchers fall into line, that is not an attack on the backbenchers but it is how it is”. He added, “a planning bill was guillotined at midnight because Govt didn’t want to debate with opposition, that is unusual. I accept legislation has to be passed urgently but I don’t accept the use of the guillotine”.

Use of the guillotine “was a lot more common” in this term than when he first served from 2011 to 2016. “The country is becoming a lot more centralised and we are seeing more powers taken from local authorities and given to unelected representatives”.

Local issues will still be monitored closely by the MEP, he confirmed. McNamara has been praised for his advocacy by Save Ennis Town, he has been the most vocal Oireachtas member when it comes to the Ennis 2040 Strategy. “I grew up in Scariff, we went into Ennis, Limerick or Nengah as much as one another, Scariff is a distance from all three, in that time I’ve seen Ennis improve considerably because of good decisions of local government, I’ve seen Limerick deteriorate considerably because of bad decisions, copying an idea developed for Limerick just for the sake of it and to have a project like this seems to be bizarre”.

Ennis “like every market town” has unused buildings overhead in Parnell Street and Abbey Street that could be better utilised, he felt.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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