It was a buoyant Mae Sexton that greeted the Leader at her home in the Demesne, Longford earlier this week. Facing into the final days of the 2011 General Election campaign, Mae had just learned that the polls predicted she would secure a seat in the Longford / Westmeath constituency.
“Longford really really needs to have two seats because we’re at a huge disadvantage. We have a huge dependency ratio. From industry point of view, we’ve lost industry and we haven’t even managed to maintain what we had,” said the former TD who secured her previous Dail Eireann seat in 2002 under the Progressive Democrats banner. This time round the Longford native has joined forces with Labour.
“I hope it will be a Fine Gael / Labour Government. I feel that people want a strong government. They don’t want a mishmash of supports for a party with a huge number of seats like Fine Gael has been predicted to achieve,” she said.
One of key issues for Labour is the EU/IMF deal and sitting at her kitchen table, Mae reiterates the importance of addressing the weaknesses in the current financial package.
“When Tommy and I got married first (35 years ago) we had 58p in the pound tax and 18% interest rates. That in today’s world might sound terrible but it was our own domestic debt and we knew that we would be able to work our way out of it.
“What’s happening now with the banks is making people feel fear and apprehension. There is almost a despair that there is no getting out of it. That has to be removed. There has to be a renegotiation and I don’t see it as unilateral. It will be a multilateral one and it will happen pretty quickly,” she said.
Looking closely at Longford, Sexton believes that her “forceful personality” will help deliver much needed results to the community.
“I have always proven that I work very hard at fighting to ensure that we retain what we have. For example the long running saga with Longford Courthouse. Through several governments I kept the pressure on and with others, we managed to save the courthouse,” she said.
Sexton was keen to address James Bannon’s recent comments on radio in relation to politicians employing family members.
“All the family (extended and otherwise) are working on a voluntary basis. Not a soul has got a penny.”
When it comes to the future for Longford, Mae would like to see an overhaul.
“To see the lower end of the town with a massive big newly developed facility and nobody in it, next to a barracks that is closed is terrible. We have other major buildings and closed shops in the town,” she said, believing that these features do not inspire confidence in the consumer. We need to develop confidence. People are not going to spend money as long as they are afraid of the future.”
For Mae this fear is enhanced by emigration, a growing feature in Longford and one that is crippling the community.
“A new government has to be a strong one that gives people confidence that this haemorrhage of our future generation stops and that there is going to be a future for them in this country.”