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'It's a really serious job': Thomas Byrne on why he'd like to be an MEP and poll number 'concerns'

The Fianna Fáil senator is bullish about his chances of being elected to the European Parliament next month.

Thomas Byrne and his son Tomas (File photo)
Thomas Byrne and his son Tomas (File photo)
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

FIANNA FAÍL SENATOR and European election candidate Thomas Bryne has admitted there are concerns in the party about its poll ratings, but said he is confident he can win a seat in Midlands North West next month.

Byrne is one of two Fianna Fáil candidates, the other being Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher, running in the vast, 15-county constituency but he insisted that it will not be divided in two and he will be campaigning from coast-to-coast.

“I certainly won’t be divvying up the constituency,” he said. “I will be looking to campaign in all 15 counties. My wife’s from Sligo, so we’ve huge connections across the west of Ireland. I live on the Meath-Louth border so I certainly will be campaigning and putting my campaign across.”

Byrne believes Fianna Fáil is the only party which has a chance of taking two seats in the constituency pointing out that only Fine Gael’s Mairead McGuinness is particularly strong in the Leinster part of it.

“I think Fianna Fáil is at nothing if we cannot win in urban areas,” he said. “If we can’t, for example, have Mary Fitzpatrick elected in Dublin.”

He said that the campaign is a national one where 1.6 million votes in his constituency alone are up for grabs. Byrne, who is Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on finance in the Seanad, said one of the big issues for him is bank debt.

He admitted that as an MEP he can not play a direct role in Ireland’s big for retroactive recapitalisation of its banking system, but said: “There has been absolutely nothing done since Enda Kenny announced this in July 2012.

“The role of the parliament is to put as much pressure on that as possible, and that applies here as well. It’s an absolutely huge issue. We’re going over there to get most if not all of our money back.”

He also said unemployment and regional development are big issues citing the latter as being particularly crucial in Midlands North West where tourism revenues are lower than in other parts of the country.

“There is a perception out there that the country is motoring maybe a little bit, but that’s not the story around the country and people are really feeling the pinch,” he added.

Thomas Byrne on…

Why he decided to run: 

“I am running because I’d like to be an MEP. I’ve had a longstanding interest in European affairs, long before I became a politician. I worked in the European department of a major law firm for a number of years before I went into politics…”… It’s a really serious job and I gave it a lot of thought after it was first suggested to me. That thought included at home with my wife, and my family, which is obviously a huge consideration.”

Whether he’ll serve the full five-year term:

“Absolutely. If I am elected to the European Parliament, I will serve the full five years.”

On Fianna Fáil’s ‘becalmed’ state in the polls: 

“I think there is no doubt there are concerns about that. There’s no doubt members around the country have been saying that to me. But I think it’s incumbent on all of us in the party to maybe work harder, to come up with more policy ideas as well, that’s the key factor.”I think Micheál [Martin] has been doing an excellent job in terms of fronting the party out there and maybe more people need be out there on a range of issues.”

On what is and what isn’t a good result for Fianna Fáil in the European elections: 

“I would like to see us win four if not five seats and I think there is a possibility of that. I think three is static from the last time, but if we win three it means more than likely there’s a seat in Dublin. I think that would be considered a success for the party. Two would not be a good result. Absolutely not.”

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Who is the head of the European Council?

“Herman van Rompuy.”

What was the last country to join the euro?

“Latvia.”

How many members are in the European Union at the moment, including Ireland?

“28″

When did Ireland join the EU?

“1973″

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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