THE MAN BEHIND ‘Ballyhea Says No’, an anti-bailout group based in Cork, is to run in the Ireland South constituency in May’s European elections.
Diarmuid O’Flynn made the announcement yesterday at a march to mark the third anniversary of the ‘Ballyhea Says No’ campaign which is against payments to bondholders and has held weekly anti-EU/IMF bailout protests since 2011.
O’Flynn admits he faces stiff competition in the election, but insists he’s “in it to win it”. He is the first independent to put his name forward in the expanded constituency.
“In Ballyhea we’ve been campaigning for three years. It is not a symbolic campaign. We’re determined to write this wrong. I’m not [running for election] as a symbolic gesture.”
He will be pitted against Fine Gael’s sitting MEP Sean Kelly and his party colleague, Senator Deirdre Clune; TD Simon Harris; sitting Labour MEP Phil Prendergast; sitting Fianna Fail MEP Brian Crowley; Sinn Fein’s Liadh Ní Riada and Grace O’Sullivan of the Green Party.
O’Flynn called on all MEPs to forget “Civil War politics” and work together to secure a debt write down for Ireland, saying that those from different parties “waste time battling against each other and while they’re doing that the people suffer.”
“A lot of Irish MEPs were simply asleep when [the bailout] debt was put on us … Germany and France used their power and size to bully and browbeat Ireland.”
O’Flynn says he is “very, very pro-Europe” but believes the euro currency has been “disastrous” and that there is a “major case” to abolish it.
“Sometimes to make progress you have to go back.” Referencing his 25 years working in the construction industry, he said: “When you reach crisis, you have to demolish and start again.”
O’Flynn added that Ireland’s relationship with Europe shouldn’t be a “one way street”.
“People have spoken ad nauseam about how Ireland has benefitted from being in the EU, but how much has Europe gained from our fishing grounds?”
O’Flynn, who is also the Irish Examiner’s chief hurling correspondent, said he will continue writing for the paper until after the hurling league final, before taking annual leave in the weeks running up to the election.
He admits that his campaign, which will be promoted through social media rather than election posters, does not have a lot of funding behind it.
O’Flynn says he knows he is inexperienced and “wished I got involved in politics a long time ago.”
“If anyone wants to contact me with advice, I’m wide open. The genie’s out of the bottle. I’ve no idea what’s ahead of me. It will be a lot of work, but work has never frightened me.”