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'They're as stupid as I am, the people with suits' - local election candidate tells it 'as it is'

Independent candidate Kevin Byrne is hoping that an honest approach to campaigning will help him secure a seat on Wicklow County Council.

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 Kevin Byrne election leaflet. Source: Irish Election Literature

HONESTY IS A refreshing trait, particularly in politics.

That’s the mantra of Kevin Byrne, a local election candidate running in Baltinglass, Co Wicklow.

The builder gained attention recently for his unique approach to election leaflets.

His home-made flyers described him as “Not the same old, same old” and “No party nor persons puppet” [sic].

On the leaflet, Byrne states: “I will try!” and misspells the word ‘independent’.

“I was getting a bit of slagging over the leaflet,” he admitted.

However, he maintains that very few people brought up the misspelling, saying he raised the issue himself to get it out in the open.

He said that people responded by telling him: “I won’t hold that against you, if that’s the worst mistake you make that’s not too bad.”

To be on the safe side, Byrne said he is getting his posters professionally done to avoid any other spelling mistakes.

‘Listening to rubbish’

Byrne told TheJournal.ie he had been considering running for public office for years and finally made the leap after growing frustrated with the lack of opportunities in the construction industry.

The 48-year-old said he doesn’t know if he will have work “from one week to the other”.

There’s not a lot of jobs around … Could you imagine being told you’ve five years of wages ahead of you?

Byrne said he has no political background “whatsoever”, other than “making the mistake of voting Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in the past”.

You and I have been listening to rubbish for the last 30 years, I call it as it is. If I get elected I’m not going to worry about being re-elected.

He said the slowdown in construction, an industry in which he has worked for 20 years, is one of the main issues he wants to address if elected.

“There’s nothing going on [in construction work] and good people are being exploited.”

He said construction workers have been “robbed by the mistakes of others”.

Despite running for a seat in Wicklow County Council, he said he is also concerned about the “sky-high” cost of rent in Dublin as many people from his home county now live in the capital.

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Kevin Byrne election leaflet. Source: Irish Election Literature

Byrne admits he is unsure of how he would be able to bring about changes if elected as he is not familiar with how the council operates, but is ready to learn.

He added that there’s “no point shouting on the street corner” if you’re not going to act on what you believe in.

Byrne noted that 32 councillors are to be elected to Wicklow County Council, saying: “If I had my way, I’d get rid of 20 and [use the money saved to] build 100 houses over the next year.”

‘No bother getting a seat’

Bryne is confident of his election chances.

“I’d have no bother getting a seat,” he said, adding that the public want to ”get rid of” those currently in power.

“People are shouting ‘fair play’ to me as I walk away … If I was a betting man I’d say I’d be elected.”

I can’t get over how tolerant people are, I can’t believe it – 99.9 per cent of 100 are supportive … They tell me ‘I wasn’t going to vote and now I will’ … When I ask ‘How are ye so tolerant to likes of me?’, people say they have to give someone a chance.

Byrne admits his campaign is low on funds: ”Ah sure I’ve none, but I’m doing the best I can, I’ve €900 to spend.”

He said he hopes other independents will make major gains in both the local and European elections this month, but said he doesn’t care what party people are from so long as they “call the thing as it is”.

‘Forget banks’

Following on from the financial crisis, he thinks credit unions and post offices should be amalgamated so people can “forget banks”.

“They’re as stupid as I am, the people with suits,” he said of bankers.

Byrne described water charges and the local property tax as “crazy” fees that are “going into the black hole for banks”.

“Where are we meant to keep getting all the money?,” he asked.

Byrne also believes that employment agencies are treating people unfairly. He said that he received a text from an agency a few weeks ago telling him that he needed to start work on a job the following day.

When he told them that he wasn’t given enough notice and needed the weekend to prepare he claimed the agency worker “said they’d get someone else and hung up the phone”.

“[Employment agencies] are making dirt of people,” Byrne said, adding: “I hate to see see good people walking the streets [due to unemployment]“.

He noted that he is currently working from 7 am to 7 pm daily so can do less campaigning than his opponents, but said he intends to take time off work the week before the election to do some last-minute canvassing.

Read: There are people running as independent candidates who can’t spell ‘independent’

Keep up to date: Local Elections 2014

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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