Michael McNamara

*Michael McNamara. 

CLARE TD, Michael McNamara (IND) has said fellow TD Cathal Crowe’s (FF) comments that Independents have the “easiest gig in town” in the current Dáil is wide of the mark and revealed he is not opposed to going into Government with any party if successful at the next General Election.

During The Clare Echo’s four-part sitdown with the county’s TDs, Deputy Crowe remarked that Independents had “no clout” in the current Dáil, a stance that Deputy McNamara unsurprisingly did not agree with. “I know Cathal and I’ve a good working relationship with him as I do all my colleagues, I don’t think he meant it as arrogant as it sounded. The role of the TD is to legislate, to hold the Government to account and to convey their concerns to Government and seek to have them addressed, if you look at those three roles I would dispute what he has said.

“In terms of legislating I’ve been very active in various bills not every bill because you can’t be as active in every bill, most recently in a communications amendment bill the Government accepted a number of amendments, Ossian Smyth was the Minister bringing it through, I tackled him at committee stage and he accepted many of the amendments I put in at the report and final stage and then brought in many amendments which had the effect I sought to have in my proposed amendments. That’s one example but there are a number of pieces of legislation which I’ve been vociferous on, it has borne fruit and changed the shape of the legislation,” he added.

McNamara said, “I have kept the Government to account on policy issues, one of the big issues was COVID, I was Chair of that COVID committee and made sure everybody had an equal voice, I also held the Government to account and those to whom they delegated Governmental authority and decision making to”.

When it comes to raising issues, the Scariff native said he has been vocal on healthcare and has pressed the Government when it comes to wastewater infrastructure. “There are towns and villages in Clare with no wastewater infrastructure, I was at public meetings where Cathal said only one public scheme in Clare would be put forward, I had extensive communications with Darragh O’Brien on that, my understanding from the outset was that it was two, I was contradicted at various public meetings but ultimately two were put forward, namely Broadford and Cooraclare. In terms of housing, I’ve raised the lack of social housing, there is affordable housing being built in Clare but there’s no social housing being built in Clare”.

Deputy McNamara argued he has been more effective in carrying out the role of a TD than his counterparts in the county. “Obviously Government TDs are in a better place to get crumbs off the table from Ministers and make announcements, sometimes announcements that they would have lobbied to bring about but frequently announcements were made on something that they had absolutely nothing to do with but yet they are out with the announcement in the hope that some of it will rub off on them, I’m not in a position to do that but so far as the job of a TD which is to legislate, to hold the Government to account on their policies and to raise the issues of their constituents I think I have done that as effectively as any TD in Clare, I would argue more effectively but I don’t think being in a party or not has any role whatsoever, it depends on relationships, I would regard what I have with several Government Ministers as a credible relationship, some more than others but that’s human nature”.

Independents Crowe said have “the easiest gig in town” in this Dáil. Having been a Government back-bencher when he was a member of the Labour Party from 2011 to 2016 and since February 2020 has been part of the opposition, the question is put to McNamara which of the two is the easier post. “It is always easier to be an opposition backbencher than a Government backbencher, I’ve experience of both. He is talking about being an Independent which is completely different to being in opposition, Fianna Fáil when they were in opposition from 2011-2016 were vociferous at criticising all of the measures brought in as a direct consequence of the financial state of the country which was arguably brought about by their tenure in Government, but that is opposition.

“I don’t see how being an Independent TD is any easier or harder, in fact as regards you don’t have the same level of administrative support for research so you have to do your own research whereas the parties are very handsomely funded and have a lot of researchers to produce research and content for speeches so I wouldn’t accept that but I do accept in certain respects that it is easier to be in opposition than in Government but it is equally as difficult because it is much more frustrating. When I say in Government, I mean in Government, the constitution is clear the maximum amount of people in Government is fifteen, that brings with it a lot of power and with that huge responsibility but you are in a position to get things done if you are capable of it. In my time in Leinster House, I’ve seen people who are clearly adept at running a Department and getting it to deliver and many who are not adept and who are clearly run by their Department”.

In the history of Irish politics, Independents have had quite the influence when it comes to forming Governments, Tony Gregory (IND) and Jackie Healy-Rae (IND) being notable examples. This fact was acknowledged by Deputy Crowe while it was posed to Deputy McNamara of what they achieved and whether he would be interested in being part of a Government if elected at the next General Election.

McNamara stated, “I wouldn’t rule out going into Government with anybody, Marian Harkin, Michael Fitzmaurice and I spoke at length with both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in the aftermath of the last election, we had a very detailed policy paper which we wanted to bring about policy that the regions were properly funded in proportion to their population, certain regions felt quite abandoned, all of the county felt abandoned from 2011 to 2016 because the measures that were necessitated and many of the measures were difficult but necessary, it was a choice of the least bad options.

“Dublin recovered quite quickly, Cork not as quickly as Dublin but the rest of the country felt abandoned and still do, we were arguing that all regions of the country are adequately resourced. We had a very detailed policy paper that we discussed with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, I also had discussions with Sinn Féin at the time. It all boils down to what Programme for Government and the policies contained within a Programme for Government, I would obviously have concerns about how Sinn Féin would make ends meet but if they can come up with a Programme for Government that can make ends meet and makes sense then I wouldn’t rule them out, I think it is profoundly undemocratic to rule somebody out”.

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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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