Independent Alliance TD for Longford/Westmeath, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran.
He is arguably the one public representative who is at the forefront of most, if not all, politically minded conversations at the minute.
A large slice of that focus has converged on the criticism the Independent Alliance TD has encountered from critics, many of whom have taken issue at the number of funding announcements have been made in recent weeks.
“He’s claiming credit for everything” and “the next thing he’ll be taking praise for is the good weather” have been just some of the volleys of cynicism which have come his way since the turn of the year.
This week, the Leader spoke to three of his biggest detractors and to the man himself in a bid to ascertain whether the depth of ill-feeling is as genuine as it would first appear or if the sense of overriding bitterness towards the former Westmeath councillor is more a case of mischievous political gamesmanship.
First up was Fianna Fáil and fellow Longford Westmeath Independent TD Robert Troy.
The Ballynacargy postmaster has made no secret of his disapproval at Mr Moran’s latest infrastructural broadcast which inferred that a deal to bring the gas pipeline to Co Longford was imminent.
“At the time I just thought it was a presumptive, premature move because it is still not agreed and my understanding from having spoken to the relevant minister (Denis Naughten) the least that was said about it the better for fear of jeopardising the project,” he said.
“I just said we need to be careful that we didn’t jeopardise anything that might be coming down the line.”
Further evidence of the somewhat niggly accord between the pair simmered to the surface at a commercial rates public meeting in Granard.
The two Dáil deputies clashed over the introduction of a new bill which could effectively rewrite the way in which rates are enforced at a local level.
As he returned to the topic this week, Mr Troy took a more considered take on the workings of his constituency colleague.
“The more money that comes to the constituency the better,” he said, while at the same time playfully re-emphasising the terms of the Confidence and Supply arrangement his party had in facilitating the Fine Gael led coalition.
“He is in a pivotal position in government, he’s an incoming minister and if he doesn’t deliver then shame on him.
“But I have no problem with him and you have to remember we (Fianna Fáil) are keeping him in the position he is in.”
If Mr Troy was doing his level best not to maintain a reserved counsel, Longford County Councillor Paraic Brady was perhaps more strident in his own appraisal of Mr Moran.
“Naturally enough I am critical of the Boxer because he is announcing everything but then again that is the deal he has agreed up in government headquarters,” he said, as he dubbed the Boxer “The Jackie Healy Rae of Athlone”.
Like Mr Troy, the Drumlish based councillor played down any accusations he harboured any resentment towards Mr Moran over the deluge of funding announcements which had been made in recent weeks.
Instead, Cllr Brady said he would be the first one to shake the former taxi driver’s hand should one of his longest running bones of contention be reintroduced.
“It’s a good thing that the government of the day are putting funding into Longford. It doesn’t really matter who is announcing these things as long as the money and structures come into Longford I don’t really care.
“I would like him to announce that the LIS schemes are coming back. We are calling on the Government to bring them back for so long now and though they have told us it will be coming back in 2017 it hasn’t yet so if the LIS schemes do come back and he announces it, I will give him credit for that surely,” he said.
Fine Gael Senator Gabrielle McFadden has not been shy to voice her misgivings about the antics of her fellow constituency colleague in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, the Fine Gael Seanad chief whip took to local radio about her recent successes in losing a stone in weight.
“At least the Boxer can’t claim credit for that,” was her sharp witted reply.
Though she admitted it was very much tongue in cheek, Ms McFadden said it was important voters realised the crucial role her party had played in restoring public as well as economic confidence.
“I have no malice towards him (Boxer),” she maintained.
“But it is very difficult when you are in government and you have a small group who are also part of government and you have two of their members (Shane Ross and Sean Canney) on the ministerial corridor.
“Boxer is getting a lot of information and that makes it difficult for the likes of backbenchers and senators that are part of the same government.”
For his part, Mr Moran cut a dispassioned figure when the comments made by both Mr Troy and Cllr Brady were put to him by this newspaper over the past week.
Never one to shy away from a political squabble, the one time Fianna Fáil party member said he was not interested in getting involved in a “tit for tat” confrontation with either men.
“I was elected by the people of Longford-Westmeath,” he bluntly put it.
“My office and my clinics are full with representations that are being made to me for various projects in Longford.
“My job is to work on them, to deliver on them and that is what I will continue to do. In relation to the tit for tat that has cropped up about me making announcements in recent weeks, all I know is that Longford has been starved of money over the last number of years and I am doing my best to change that.”
In a final parting shot however, Mr Moran manfully attempted to live up to his more macho alias by delivering a knockout blow to his most vocal cynics.
“After the last election, I made a bold move of going into government and I was knocked by many people who asked why I was supporting Enda Kenny, but I went in to deliver for the people of Longford-Westmeath.
“I took that bold move and yes I may well lose my seat at the next election because we (Independent Alliance) are a small group but while I am there I will deliver for Longford-Westmeath.
“What I would also like to say is that perhaps local councillors should focus on doing their own jobs and not have a crack at someone who is delivering money for their constituency.”
Just how much of those advisory words are taken on board by those “local councillors” Mr Moran was referring to, is anyone’s guess.
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