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Fine Gael banking on candidates in business world to deliver extra seats

'Politics will make this economy work and if we put good people in, we will do that in a shorter period'

HE'S not elected yet, but Tom Barry reckons he has a decade in him as a Fine Gael TD before he burns out and passes on the mantle.

"I'm not in politics to make a living," he says, "but I feel I have something to offer. There's probably 10 years in me and then I'll be past it and it'll be time for somebody else."

The surname would suggest that he's a member of a celebrated Cork family associated with Fine Gael -- but in fact, Mr Barry is not a member of any political dynasty.

The merchant princes of Cork city, the Barrys and the Coveneys, used to be the flag-bearers for the business community in Fine Gael on Leeside.

However, at the coming General Election, the party will be running first-time candidates right across the county with strong, entrepreneurial, business backgrounds.

  • Mr Barry, the managing director of a grain mill and storage facility, is a candidate in Cork East.
  • Aine Collins, who runs a financial-services company, is in Cork North-West.
  • Pat Burton, the founder of auctioneering firm Burton Crowley & O'Flynn, is running in Cork North-Central.
  • Dara Murphy, who runs a catering-supplies company, is also a candidate in Cork North-Central.

Of course, there's no guarantee that being a businessperson will impress the party ranks. Fine Gael's hierarchy is thinking about adding Tim Cowhig -- a leading figure in the energy sector -- to the ticket after he failed to secure the nomination in Cork South-West.

Jim O'Keeffe TD, who is retiring, identified Mr Cowhig as his successor -- but the party grassroots didn't share his enthusiasm.

And there are question marks over Mr Cowhig's political inexperience and ability to generate a high-enough profile to take a seat in a short period of time.


The party is banking on the voters going for the business candidates in order to deliver extra seats. Mr Barry reckons the experience of setting up his business, which employs 10 people and provides a link between farmers and manufacturers, gives him valuable experience.

"I know what it takes to go and get new business. I know how to create jobs. We watch the small things in business.

"I put my council office to work, just as I would a business. I hear talk of political reform. They need to start looking at politics in a business fashion. But it worries me when I hear about a list system. I'd never make it on any list system. I am not saying to fill the Dail with business people. But you need a balance," he says.

The 42-year-old father of three young children admits that his direct style isn't going to appeal to everybody.

"Business people are not your most politically soothing. We tend to do it matter of fact. I say it as it is.

"I'm not one of those politicians who rush to every funeral and kisses babies, because I don't have the time.

"The problem is that the political system works against anybody like me who is self-employed.

"I have yet to hear a politician say, 'I don't know the answer', but you can't be an expert on everything."

The memory of emigrating for a period in the 1980s and then being turned down by Enterprise Ireland 20 years ago for a viable business makes him sympathetic towards those who are currently unemployed and wanting to start up their own business.

"Now, more than ever, our institutions and job-creation agencies are important because there is no money out there and the banks are not lending," he says.

"Politics will make this economy work and if we put good people in, we will do that in a shorter period."

In a climate where jobs and the economy are the top priority, Cork voters certainly can't complain that there's nobody with a business background running in the election.

Irish Independent