*Michael McNamara. Photograph: Martin Connolly
Former Labour TD, Michael McNamara has entered the General Election race as an Independent candidate.
In 2011, Michael became the first Clare Labour TD since the infamous 1992 election of Moosajee Bhamjee. This week, he confirmed to The Clare Echo that his name will be appearing on the ballot paper as voters decide who will be representing the county in Dáil Éireann.
Farming, economic disparity, insurance, health and education were identified by McNamara as key focus areas of his campaign. “If we want to have a sustainable environment we need to have a sustainable economy and one that sustains both the environments and communities, farmers are being driven in a particular direction by huge retailer groups, the processors and if we’re serious about creating a sustainable environment then that needs to be addressed”.
A native of Scariff, Michael recalled the horticulture and vegetable production carried out in Ogonnelloe and Bellharbout that was serving the Clare, Limerick and Galway market, days which have long since passed. “Farmers can’t produce carrots for 49c a kilo, they simply can’t, if you’re going to have supermarkets doing loss leaders on produce such as carrots then they will be wrapped in a plastic bag and flown in from another country, massively increasing the carbon footprint. There is little or no horticulture left in Clare, that means food is being transported greater and greater distances, we do need to protect traditional farming practices in Ireland and accept that farmers are the custodians of the environment”.
Through his work as a barrister, the forty five year old spends a lot of time based in Dublin. Here, he has witnessed “a gulf develop between Dublin and the rest of Ireland”. He stated, “Look at the main street in Scariff, Broadford or Newmarket-on-Fergus, there isn’t a village or town in Clare even Ennis which has large amounts of dereliction on its main streets at the same time as a housing crisis. We need to breathe life back into our towns and villages”.
“We had our first daughter in September, I want her to be able to grow up in rural Ireland and not see a diminished number of animals, to see an environment I saw, not to be the first to not hear a corncrake, to not see barred owls or kingfishers. I firmly believe our way of life in rural Ireland is under threat and needs to be protected. It’s a cliché because it’s true, most have a degree of truth in them, that’s why they emerge, there aren’t easy answers but there are solutions and it will require concerted Government action. At the moment all of the parties seem concentrated on Dublin, I accept it is by far the biggest urban centre in Ireland and where most of the votes are but it’s not Ireland”.
Last May, he resigned from the Labour Party and was of the view it had an unclear focus. No attempts have been made by the national leadership to entice him back as a member. “I don’t see the relevance of the Labour Party to me, my life or the life of my family or people I’m close to, it is retreating into an irrelevance unfortunately”.
An upcoming construction of a third terminal at Dublin Airport “makes absolutely no sense” and he called for a more level playing field. “Every TD has a duty to represent their constituency whether in Government or opposition or somewhere in between. Fianna Fáil have a very proud record with regard to Shannon Airport in the past but their recent record is not something to be proud of. With supply and demand, more pressure could have been exerted by both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Tds on Shannon Airport”.
2016 saw him unsuccessfully attempt to retain his seat in Dáil Éireann, McNamara lost 4,100 votes. This he maintained was for several factors, among them other “attractive candidates” and Labour being the junior coalition partner. “People were hearing about a recovery but unfortunately weren’t seeing it, it hasn’t changed it has got worse with the recovery not just taking hold but is full steam ahead in Dublin, there is very little recovery on the street of Scariff, Newmarket-on-Fergus or Kilrush”.
Winning back a seat is the ambition and Michael admitted he is willing to support any future Government. “I don’t see Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil coming back with a huge majority or any majority, if I can agree with Government policy I would support it, I have supported a Government in the past through very difficult times when very difficult decisions not all of them were correct but the majority of them were and I stand over the difficult decisions made, I am prepared to make decisions and support a Government if called upon to do so, if not I will continue to advocate for the policies I believe in”.