Monday 22 July 2019

Hint at a ministerial offering

Paul Deering

The surprise promotion of Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry bodes well for his possible slection as a minister if the party forms part of the next Government following the next general election which is likely to be held early in 2020.

MacSharry's promotion as spokesperson to the key area of Transport and Tourism certainly hints at a future cabinet role for the Sligo/Leitrim Deputy.

With so little time left to the next election, the promotion couldn't have come at a better time for MacSharry who hasn't been shy in recent months of his criticism of the current Confidence and Supply arrangment with Fine Gael that keeps Leo Varadkar's Government in power.

Fianna Fail Leader Micheál Martin said he was delighted to appoint MacSharry to the frontbench.

"He brings a wealth of experience to the team, and will no doubt press the need for better transport infrastructure in the regions - something which Fine Gael has failed to address," he said.

Prior to the election of 2011, MacSharry had been appointed spokesperson for Tourism and Arts but he failed to be elected returning to the Senate in April of that year.

His election in 2016 and now to the forefront of the party once more under Martin, MacSharry can view his politcal future with confidence once more.

There was a time when there were suggestions he didn't see eye to eye with the party leader but the fences seem to have been mended and Sligo/Leitrim can only benefit if a senior ministerial post finds its way here once more, ironically not see since his father, Ray was Finance Minister in the 1980s.

Marc told The Sligo Champion this week that the elevation had "come out of the blue". As he talked he was perusing a 2,000 word briefing document as he busily tries to come up to speed with his portfolio. It may well be shortlived when the summer break is taken into account but Marc is not going to let the opportunity pass to make an impression.

"I'm not a stranger to the general issues or priorities particularly in the area of public transport, especially in the regions and all of which feeds into areas like housing. Greater investment is needed in public transport," he says.

Electric cars will be part of this but he cautions this was, in reality an option for city dwellers at present and did not make much sense for rural travellers with the technology just not advanced enough yet in terms of distance or charging points.

He'll be pressing for progress of road projects in the NOrth West such as the N16 and N17 while also keepng an eye on the natinal picture. He'd like to see commuter train services from Carrick-on-Shannon into Sligo but says there are competing priorities when it comes to the Western Rail Corridor.

"The aspiration remains that the line is re=-opened but it may take a generation or more to see it come to fruition," he says, pointing to a by pass of Tubbercurry as a competing priority.

On the whole, he'd like to see commuters feeding into cities, leaving the cars at home.

When it comes to greenways and rail lines, Marc says he didn't see the situation as either/or, it was both.

Regarding the Confidence and Supply arrangement and Fianna Fáil, MacSharry says it has "frustrated us all."

"None of us like it but we have gone in for another year and we have to abide by that," he says.

In terms of sport attracting tourism, MacSharry says he would like to see the country attracting more international and world events such as when the World Rally Championships came to Sligo in 2007.

He said he was going to make enquiries to see if there was the possibility of making a bid for the rally again from Sligo.

The sense of importance of his new role certainly excites him but he says at the same time he feels a bit daunted.

"There's a bit of upskilling to be done in the next week or so in reading the brief," he says.

He addes that the party will be ready if there's a election called, be it this September or early in the new year.

Marc has concerns for the country's finances if there's a no deal Brexit. It could be a deficit situation in 2020 as a result.

"So, there's worrying times ahead but I see my new role as a great opportunity and I'll certainly give it my best shot," he said.

And, he has a word of advice for the voters of Sligo/Leitrim at the next election. "Think carefully when voting that we don't end up with the same fragmentation in the Dáil again.

"No one is particularly enjoying it (Confidence and Supply). It's serving the system rather than the people," he says.

Sligo Champion