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FF grassroots divided on proposal

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Cllr Willie Kavanagh

Cllr Willie Kavanagh

Cllr Donal Kenny

Cllr Donal Kenny

Cllr Joe Sullivan

Cllr Joe Sullivan

Cllr Pip Breen

Cllr Pip Breen

Cllr. Andrew Bolger

Cllr. Andrew Bolger

Sen. Malcolm Byrne

Sen. Malcolm Byrne

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Cllr Willie Kavanagh

North Wexford's grassroots members of the Fianna Fáil party are divided in their support for the Programme for Government proposal set out by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party.

A simple majority is needed from the grassroots for this to pass within the party, but with ballot papers sent to councillors and senators last week, three councillors are set to vote against the deal while two councillors and one Fianna Fail senator are to vote in favour.

Those 'no' voters are Councillors Willie Kavanagh, Donal Kenny and Joe Sullivan, while 'yes' voters are Councillors Pip Breen and Andrew Bolger, along with Senator Malcolm Byrne.

Those voting in favour said that they had thought long and hard about their decision.

Cllr Breen said that this deal was 'the only game in town and you have to play the cards you're dealt' and that it had to be done before the end of June. Cllr Breen said that he was not prepared to ditch the powers of the special criminal court, and that this was a red-line issue for him as he is a strong advocate for law and order.

Cllr Bolger said that the pandemic had put things into perspective for him.

'Our way of living has changed drastically and people are suffering. It's not the time to be the hurler on the ditch.

'The programme is aspirational on car insurance, a health led approach to drugs, renters and is progressive on climate action, I'm okay with that as it's the future. I also feel it'll be positive for Gorey as it speaks about bringing a new state agency to rural towns, and Gorey ticks all the boxes for that. It'll help us retain our young skilled people,' he said.

Senator Byrne described the programme as comprehensive and ambitious.

'There will be those in other parties who complain from the sidelines, but in over one hundred days, they have done nothing to try to put a government together and are afraid of difficult decisions. There are specific opportunities for Wexford addressed such as getting Rosslare Europort Brexit ready, the urgent need for a University of the South East, investment in green-ways, footpaths and cycle paths.

'There are clear wins for Fianna Fáil on the pension issue and on protecting agriculture. It is also clear, that in areas such as housing, health, education, small business, the arts, defence, that this document is based on Fianna Fáil policy and has a very clear stamp on it. The country now needs a stable government to take the difficult decisions'.

The 'fairer future' campaign, which encourages grass roots members of the party to vote 'no' to the programme for government on the basis of six key issues, sees three North Wexford councillors quoted.

Cllr Kavanagh says: 'It is time now for a national government. All parties should put their differences aside and sit down and talk about the best interests of the country'.

Cllr Kenny says: 'I favour a Unity Government and we should be prepared to talk to everyone to form a government'.

While Cllr Sullivan says: 'The Fianna Fáil party is at a serious crossroads with our entire existence depending on the choices we make at this time. I do not believe that coalescing with Fine Gael is in the best interest of Ireland or the party'.

Speaking to this newspaper, Cllr Kenny said that he is certain that a change of leadership in the party is needed, while the programme for government proposes that Fianna Fail party leader Micheál Martin be Ireland's next Taoiseach.

'They are saying that farmers mightn't suffer, but the Greens haven't gotten farmer friendly overnight. The programme for government is going to squeeze the farmer, particularly small farming people who I represent as a Councillor and farmer within the farming community myself.

'My supporters want me to go "no" on this because the reality is that if you can only spread a certain amount of manure, farmers are going to have to cull their own herd. If the export of livestock is limited, the business won't be viable.

'As well, I've said all along, you have to talk to everybody, and a big percentage of people voted to support Sinn Féin. They won't be my politics, but they're entitled to be heard.

'Fianna Fail haven't been in government for a number of years, and we lost the last three elections. We took a hammering for propping up Fine Gael for so long, so going in to government would pull us back further. We need to take a long and hard look at ourselves and see where we can improve,' he said.

Cllr Kavanagh said that his opinion on the matter hadn't changed.

'I'm not in agreement with the coalition with Fine Gael. It's not that I don't trust them, it's that we have different ideas and a different outlook on life than what Fine Gael have.

'If we go with this programme for government, it'll surely be damaging for the party and it could be the finish of the party, we could be destroyed.

'We've gone into government with the Greens before and we worked with them no problem, but with this, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are giving too much to the Greens for the sake of getting a government,' he said.

Cllr Sullivan said that he doesn't believe the programme for government is good for rural Ireland.

'There isn't anything for rural Ireland in this programme and the red line policy issues are there in respect of green issues but nothing else. There are no red line issues on housing. The pension age, I would be surprised if that it doesn't go up to 67.

'It's the lack of red line policy issues that has convinced me to vote "no". It's far too vague and loose, rather than what we will achieve in government, it's all about reviews and commissions. There's a general consensus amongst the grassroots that what's set out will not be delivered within the life time of the incoming government.

'In the context of the pandemic, it's very difficult to give a guarantee that you're going to be able to implement what's set out. The programme needs more substance.

'There's an incompatibility between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael and the Greens have got the best deal out of this. The carbon tax is going to have a huge impact on rural Ireland. We are putting the cart before horse, because we're not advantaged enough to have an alternative for fossil fuels at the moment, we aren't at a stage to offer an alternative.

'As I said, we need a unity government because we may be heading towards the demise of Fianna Fail as a result of this deal'.

Gorey Guardian