Opinion: Fitzmaurice is developing his own brand of rural politics
Downing on politics
Michael Fitzmaurice says 50pc of his constituency workload is about farmer issues. He gets calls from far beyond the bounds of his Roscommon-Galway constituency.
"I deal with people all over the west of Ireland, from Mayo up to Donegal. I've been busier since getting the national spotlight last May with the Programme for Government talks," he says.
The Independent rural TD insists he was serious about going into government back then. But at the end he could not because of a dispute about planning and access to bogs.
"Opposition is easier but you have an obligation to try to get into government and find solutions. At the end I would have betrayed every principle I ever stood for and you cannot do that," he sums up.
The farmer-cum-agricultural contractor is proud that the current Dáil has a strong rural flavour. "In the first 10 months of a parliament, you're not going to flick a switch and turnaround 30 years of neglect and decline. But we're keeping a focus on things," he says.
He took an unusual route into politics as a founder member and chairman of the Turf Cutters and Contractors Association. Elected to Galway County Council in May 2014 with 1,200 votes over the quota, he arrived at the Dáil the following October in a by-election caused by the move of Luke 'Ming' Flanagan to the European Parliament.
He maintains some contact with 'Ming', speaking to him about once a month on EU issues. But one gets a sense that he has been developing his own brand of politics.
Soon after being elected a TD, he joined the Independent Alliance along with Shane Ross, Finian McGrath and others. But when he opted against joining government on May 6 last, he reverted to being an independent. He also maintains his link to farming, owning 65 acres, and renting a similar amount of all-round "average land" on which he raises sheep and sucklers.