From Castlebar - County Mayo -

Local Papers Commentary
From the Western People - 7 April 2004
By The Jaundiced Eye
11, Apr 2004 - 15:39

McGuinness in FG comeback

Castlebar businessman, Paddy McGuinness has signed up with Fine Gael and will challenge for a seat in the county Council Castlebar electoral area. He will boost the Party’s bid to wrest control of Mayo county council from Fianna Fáil. A former Independent member of Castlebar town council, Mr McGuinness campaigned for the Mayo RTC and contested the ‘94 bye-election which was created by the resignation of Padraig Flynn on his appointment as Euro Commissioner. The bye-election saw Deputy Michael Ring elected to the Dáil. Mr McGuinness will replace Mr Ger Deere on the Fine Gael party ticket in Castlebar. Mr Deere has withdrawn for personal reasons. His (McGuinness) nomination was ratifed at a meeting of Castlebar branch activists last night (Monday) and will be ratified by the national executive in Dublin this evening (Tuesday). The Fine Gael Leader, Mr Enda Kenny said yesterday that the acquisition of Paddy McGuinness added immensely to the FG ticket. "Paddy McGuinness has a proven track record and commands great public respect. Following the withdrawal of Ger Deere he gives us a very credible town based candidate and enhances our prospects of gaining a seat in the Castlebar area," said Deputy Kenny. Speaking of his conversion to the Fine Gael colours, Mr McGuinness said he had been persuaded to return to politics out of a belief that Mayo and the West was not getting a fair deal from the present government. "Enda Kenny offers the best prospect of securing equal treatment for this region and I felt an obligation to play my small role in supporting the work he is undertaking. "I think it is time for people to take stock of what has been happening and asking what has the government done to rectify the imbalance that exists between east and west," he said.

This should put the cat among the pigeons. Paddy McGuinness is a very popular man in Castlebar. His successful campaign to bring GMIT to Castlebar demonstrates an ability to deliver against the odds. Even when the powers that be finally gave in to the campaign for the RTC there was always a sense that they hoped that it would go away once it is proved to be a failure. But Paddy was absolutely right. A third level institution was needed in Castlebar and its ongoing success with over 1000 students now has proven him right and the begrudgers wrong. A lot of people will vote for Paddy regardless of their party affiliations. Enda has pulled off a nice coup here.

Factory idle as Crossmolina awaits jobs

A plan to open a new industry employing more than 150 people in Crossmolina has been put on hold. This is despite the fact that a brand new premises for Delta Dental was provided more than a year ago. In the Dail last week the Tanaiste Mary Harney told Deputy Michael Ring the company stated they could not give any indication as to when it would be in a position to commence employment in Crossmolina. Cllr Eddie Staunton said that in November 2001, DeCare announced the expansion of its existing operation in Claremorris and the establishment of a new facility at Crossmolina with the creation of 160 jobs. "A new premises was built in the Mayo County Council industrial estate by a local builder who in turn was to lease it back to DeCare. It is now lying idle for over a year," he said. Cllr Staunton said it was very disappointing new for the people of Crossmolina and surrounding areas, especially with the imminent closure of the Bellacorick Power Station. He said he was now calling on the Fianna Fail Oireachtas members in the county to ensure that replacement industry was put in place in Crossmolina immediately. DeCare International, which was founded by Claremorris native, Michael Walsh, is a leader in the US dental benefits industry. In 1999, the company established a dental claim-processing centre in Claremorris. The centre currently employs 102 people and handles more than 22,000 dental claims submitted daily from the company’s US headquarters. Speaking to the Western People yesterday (Monday), Deputy Michael Ring said he was now calling on the IDA to find a new tenant for the Crossmolina factory. "It’s a shame that this building is vacant at the moment. I’m very disappointed to hear that DeCare will not be carrying out its expansion as it is a very good employer in Claremorris. But it’s time for the IDA to move on and find a new company for the factory in Crossmolina. It cannot be left idle forever."

It is extremely disappointing that it has not come to pass. Alternative jobs needed for small towns like Crossmolina with in or around 1000 people living there. But, unfortunately, claims processing, like assembly line jobs even may be just as vulnerable to relocation to regions of cheaper labour. I have no idea what is behind this failure but the possibility that cheaper Indian workers have taken ‘our’ jobs did cross my mind. A lot of the international insurance claims processing industry has moved to India.

Big-name casualties are expected in Castlebar

Christy Loftus profiles the six-seater Castlebar Electoral Area where competition is expected to be intense amongst a large number of high-profile candidates. What appeared to be a staid and sober contest between the major parties – with Labour’s Johnny Mee thrown in to add colour – in the Castlebar electoral area is now shaping up to be more of a dog-fight than had been anticipated. The somewhat amusing spectacle of Labour in Castlebar falling out over election strategy was hardly likely to lead to any great upset. But, now that former councillor Frank Durcan has resolutely thrown his hat into the ring, the ante has been upped considerably. And Fine Gael were meeting last (Mon) evening to finalise their line-up. The talk within the party is that they have "a dark horse" waiting to be announced and they are confident that they will add to their tally in Castlebar. So the anticipated outcome of three Fianna Fáil, two FG and one Labour is not now so predictable. Durcan’s entry, at first glance, would appear most likely to damage Fine Gael, but another to suffer could be Johnny Mee. And Fianna Fáil are unlikely to emerge unscathed.

It looks like this commentary may be out of date already as there is a rumour circulating that Frank Durcan announced his retirement from politics at last Thursday’s Castlebar town council meeting.


Castlebar voters still raising same issues five years after last election

With its beautiful outlying villages which boast of spectacular scenery, the now booming Castlebar town is getting increasingly larger by the day. Areas such as Breaffy, Parke, Balla, Turlough, Ballyheane and Islandeady only serve to prove how the Castlebar boundary areas have flourished in the past few years. The town of Castlebar has also benefited in recent times but for the candidates of the local Electoral area of the County Council they will not have it easy on the campaign trail. On visiting Breaffy, Balla and Castlebar last week it became obvious there were issues which people felt strongly about and would not be holding back on when it comes to candidates visiting their houses asking for votes. The biggest issue in the three areas was that of the health system and especially Mayo General Hospital where recent reports have suggested people are being left on trolleys on corridors for up to six days. One local in Balla said his family had to travel up and down to Dublin on a regular basis because Castlebar was lacking in facilities. This was despite the fact he very obviously felt this was nothing to do with the staff of the local hospital whom he felt had always been courteous and very helpful. Recycling was another hot topic in Balla. One person noted: "We only got recycling facilities in Balla recently and we still cannot recycle newspapers, cardboard, milk cartons, etc. Who is going to travel to Newport to recycle?. It just takes too long. The bin charges are also too high and I agree with the Minister’s new proposal to pay for waste by weight."A roadside sculpture which was obvious for all to see coming from Castlebar to Balla was vandalised some weeks ago and the residents feel disappointed nothing has been done and nobody has been held accountable. The sculpture was a unique piece in the shape of a sheep which the residents were obviously proud of. One local made the suggestion that a room in the Resource Centre, which is not in use at night, should be opened as a facility to young people and music, machines, etc be installed and this would keep young teenagers from causing damage and hanging around the streets at night. The sewerage scheme, or the lack of one, was a hot topic in Breaffy. Many people felt aggrieved that with the coming on stream of a new one in Castlebar, their near neighbours in Breaffy should also be entitled to the facility. One resident noted Breaffy could be developing at a much faster rate had they the sewerage facilities.

As noted last week a lot of the election issues are basically what may be considered environmental and infrastructure issues – sewerage schemes, schools, the health system, recycling. Remember the famous list of schools  that was published before the general election? The list of schools approved for extensions and renovations, etc? The list of schools that was basically a put-up job with no substance? Perhaps one of the more cynical vote-getting exercises that the Irish electorate ever fell for? Well watch out for lots more like that in the run-up to June. Already the racism card is being played by ingeniously tying a race issue in with the local and European elections. We're not racist - but...  But it does divert attention from the infrastructure and environmental defecit. Ditto for the decentralisation card that has been played. The majority of civil servants interested in moving to non-Dublin locations are already located outside Dublin according to the first major poll of civil servants. So don't hold your breath. (The schools couldn't handle the extra numbers anyway - nor the sewerage schemes.)

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