“Longford is not dead. It is in trouble, but no worse than any other provincial town. The county has suffered as a result of Fine Gael and their Independent lackies running the council for the last 15 years.”
That was the claim of Longford municipal district (MD) candidate Seamus Butler at Fianna Fáil’s local and European election campaign launch in the Longford Arms Hotel last Wednesday.
The former Chamber of Commerce President and unsuccessful candidate in ‘09, said Longford does not need a multinational company, but a couple of medium size industries to turn things around.
Mr Butler outlined that he was also committed to ensuring that Connolly Barracks would be established as a training centre of excellence for traditional building skills.
The FF faithful were in buoyant mood and they believe their all-male team - Butler, Padraig Loughrey & Michael Connellan (Longford ); Mick Cahill, Tom Victory, Pat O’Toole (Ballymahon ) and PJ Reilly, Martin Mulleady, Luie McEntire, John Coyle (Granard ) - is the ‘best team’ to lead Longford County Council. Euro hopefuls, outgoing MEP Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher and Senator Thomas Byrne, were also present.
Longford Town Council member Michael Connellan said he faced a significant challenge running for the first time in a county council election.
He outlined that he conducted a survey which found that of 198 units in Longford town 50 were unoccupied.
“This is an issue that needs to be dealt with by addressing rates and paid parking.”
Cllr Padraig Loughrey said candidates were going to have to fight for every vote
. “There is no point in knocking on doors unless we can provide a viable alternative.”
In Ballymahon , Cllr Mick Cahill stressed that if re-elected he would continue with his track record for encouraging community development.
“It should be a priority not just to retain essential services, but to improve them.”
Newcomer Pat O’Toole said that he was committed to holding on to Cllr Barney Steele’s seat.
“Cllr Steele gave sterling service and I would hope to continue that,” he added, highlighting that an area of concern to him was health.
Cllr Tom Victory said the candidates needed to show that FF could meet the needs of the people.
“A proper public health service was of great importance.”
He also believes the people of Edgeworthstown, Legan and Ardagh needed specific representation on their behalf.
FF have four candidates in the Granard area. First-time candidate John Coyle aims to follow in the footsteps of his father, James.
“It is people that make things happen. If everyone works together well we can win 10 seats and lead Longford County Council.”
Long serving Cllr Luie McEntire remarked that there was a good mix of youth an experience on the party ticket. “Although the government is trying to paint a picture of economic recovery people feel they are worse off, none more so than farmers. Job creation is also of paramount importance.”
Cllr Martin Mulleady said the scourge of unemployment frequently reared its head during his canvass and he vowed that if re-elected he would establish an employment forum to address the issue.
Cllr PJ Reilly commented, “North Longford is one of the most scenic areas in Ireland, we need to capitalise on it. After May 23 I hope FF will have control of Longford County Council and that we can address the issues that need to be addressed.”