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Dublin: 6 °C Tuesday 19 November, 2019
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The Man Who Would Be Ming: Meet the turf-cutter tipped to take a Dáil seat next month

Michael Fitzmaurice, one of the leaders of the campaign against the turf-cutting ban, plans to take out a loan to cover the cost of running in the by-election.

MICHEAL FITZMAURICE FINALLY threw his hat in the ring this week in the race to fill the Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan-shaped hole in Irish politics.

Senior figures in rival parties rate reckon he’ll be one of three likely front-runners —alongside the candidates from Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil — as the campaign-proper gets under way for the Roscommon-South Leitrim by-election.

Fitzmaurice, who, alongside Flanagan, has been one of the leaders of the campaign against the turf-cutting ban, was elected as councillor in Tuam in the recent local elections.

In an interview with TheJournal.ie, the turf-cutting contractor sets out his priorities for his Dáil campaign, weighs-up the merits of the ‘Ming’ endorsement, and explains why he plans to take out a credit union loan to help finance his bid to become a TD.

[MichaelFitzmaurice.com]

On his priorities…

The hopes and expectations of people in rural areas have been at best sidelined, at worst, ignored by the coalition Government since it took office three years ago, Fitzmaurice believes.

As he sets-out on his website:

Ireland cannot succeed if we continue the “give away” of our natural resources. The “give away” of our Farmland, our Bogland, our Fishery Waters, our Inland Water, our Semi-State companies, our Oil, our Gas, … but most of all, of our Children, must stop!

Fitzmaurice, who also chairs the Turf Cutters and Contractors Association, hopes to highlight rural issues in general along with local concerns like the closure of the Emergency Department at Roscommon hospital, if elected.

“I see a situation at the moment where — to be very clear about it — where when you go outside the Pale, the investment isn’t being put in and the jobs aren’t being created,” he told this website.

I believe that everyone in every part of Ireland should be treated equally.

“We need fierce strong political will… I’d have a fear that at the moment, that a lot of civil servants are calling the shots and some of these shots that are being called aren’t good for the West of Ireland or indeed a lot of parts of Ireland.

On his campaign…

At Glinsk National School, where he is on the Board of Management. [MichaelFitzmaurice.com

Fitzmaurice expects to have “a very skimpy budget” to contest the election, and plans to apply to the credit union for a loan to cover some of the costs.

He plans to re-use posters and leaflets from his Council campaign, he said.

“I’m not a political party that can put 20 or 30 thousand into a campaign — you cannot do those things.”

A few thousand is all that I’ll be spending really because I cannot afford it.

Much of his council pay goes towards projects in the community, he said — although he expects to use a portion of that salary in the by-election campaign too.

Canvassing starts in earnest next week, and Fitzmaurice is expecting to hear from fellow constituents on a wide range of issues…

“Roscommon A&E being closed is and was a serious blow to the people of Roscommon and even the people of East Galway.

My mother, when I was ten, died in that hospital and I tell you I have an affection towards that hospital — they were great people.

“You’ve so many different issues in Roscommon — they cannot drink their water in several parts. You have pylons, you have fracking, you have farmers on their knees…”

On his friend in Brussels…

Fitzmaurice isn’t sure whether Ming will be able to spend much time campaigning for him — but the two men are in regular contact, and plan to talk next by phone this weekend.

“You welcome anybody that endorses you. But he is in Brussels and he has a responsible job to do for the betterment of this country.”

And of the prospects of a new Flanagan & Fitzmaurice-founded political party being set-up?

I think it would be too early to say…

The prospective TD is expecting a tough contest in the weeks to come, and says he views the campaign as being “like an All Ireland”.

Everyone hopes that they’re going to get elected — but let the people decide in the end.

Who else is running? How is the race heating up? Check here for coverage and analysis of the by-election

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