Sinn FÃ©in general election candidate Paul Hogan has spoken of his optimism in securing a seat for the party in Longford-Westmeath, the first in over half a century.
The Westmeath County Councillor was speaking after he was joined by Sinn FÃ©in MEP Matt Carthy in Ballymahon last Friday for an anti-austerity meeting.
The public meeting, branded â€˜Standing up for Rural Irelandâ€™, was held inside the confines of the south Longford townâ€™s Dean Egan Library.
â€œIt was about rural isolation and deprivation that people have been experiencing over the last number of years and alongside that providing the solutions to those problems,â€ said Cllr Hogan.
â€œWe are now seeing the threat that has come with the closure of post offices, garda stations, proposed amalgamations of schools and now library and fire services. All of those things people have major concerns about, the future of rural Ireland and the knock-on effect that is having on rural indigenous businesses.â€
Aside from those concerns, Cllr Hogan admitted he was looking forward to the next general election with renewed vigour.
He said the partyâ€™s continued policy to pursue a one candidate strategy was one he firmly believed in.
More pressing, however, remains his desire to turn last yearâ€™s third place by-election finish into a DÃ¡il seat for the party.
â€œI did say before I was very humbled to have been given the support of the partyâ€™s membership in Longford and Westmeath and I am very happy the membership have put their faith in me,â€ said the 32-year-old.
Clearly eager to tap into Sinn FÃ©inâ€™s continued strong showing in recent opinion polls, Cllr Hogan insisted time was running out for the present Fine Gael-Labour coalition.
â€œI believe it is an indication of how well our (Sinn FÃ©in) team is doing in Leinster House by providing an alternative,â€ he said.
â€œPeople are really hurting at the minute and are looking for a change. I believe we have the people and the policies to provide that change.â€