Former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh to seek FG nomination for EU elections
Former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh says choosing to run for Fine Gael in the forthcoming EU Parliament elections was an easy choice because the party aligns with her "core values".
And the prominent LGBTI rights activist is right on message with the party as she prepares for her selection convention in a couple of weeks' time.
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Speaking as a Fine Gael election candidate for the first time, Ms Walsh defends the party's handling of the homeless crisis and suggests nurses are well paid.
The recently passed out Defence Forces reserve member also reveals she is open to further EU integration of our armed forces.
On homelessness, she says "the homeless crisis is universal and not just Ireland".
She adds: "I think the homeless crisis was not just created in the last three or four years and not just under the Fine Gael Government but created a number of years prior."
She insists the nurses agreed to a "substantial" 2.5pc pay increase under the public sector pay deal but says she would like to see everyone involved around the table negotiating a solution to end the industrial action.
Ms Walsh said there were some "amazing things" in a paper by outgoing Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes on the integration of the Irish Defence Forces into EU military operations.
The native of Shrule, Co Mayo decided to immerse herself in political life last year after attending an event for women who want to run in elections.
"I guess I get a little bit annoyed when people say 'I want to do this and I want to do that' and then don't action their thoughts," she told the Sunday Independent.
After attending the Women in Politics event, she thought to herself "hang on there's a space here and then party wise it was easy for me to align with Fine Gael".
She has no party political background but says she did vote for Enda Kenny in general elections when Shrule was in the Mayo constituency. It's now in Galway West.
She was born in Boston but brought up the West of Ireland where she still lives. In the US her parents voted Democrat but when they moved to Ireland they voted by candidate rather than party.
However, they were active in the community and made sure to involve themselves in the local church.
Ms Walsh, who campaigned to Repeal the Eighth, is a devout Catholic and considers her parish priest a close friend.
"There are certain things we disagree on but there are an awful lot of things we agree on and being part of the community is one of those things," she says.
She does not believe her liberal stance on social issue will be an issue when she canvasses the large rural constituency where she hopes to take a seat.
"Not everybody feels the way I do but I have to respect everybody and understand people are coming from different experiences and it is a case of how we move forward to create a progressive Ireland and bring everybody together," she says.
Ms Walsh's campaign will focus on the plight of small farmers working in rural Ireland and she also hopes to highlight mental health issues.
She described her running mate and sitting MEP Mairead McGuinness as a "political powerhouse".