Violent crime, housing and coalitions: Here's your daily election fix from Cork

Violent crime, housing and coalitions: Here's your daily election fix from Cork

Thursday started with the aftermath of Wednesday night’s debate hanging in the air. Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar went head to head, with Pat Kenny the man in the middle.

Many people outside of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil - or Tweedledum and Tweedledee as Solidarity’s Mick Barry called them - didn’t seem happy with the exclusion of Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald from the debate, especially given how well the party has done in recent opinion polls.

There didn’t seem to be an outright winner, however, with Leo Varadkar seemingly edging it slightly, aside from his awkward response to whether he had ever taken drugs. A seven-way leaders debate should be able to shed more light on the landscape when it takes place.

The Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald was herself in Cork today, where she met people in the county, moving to the south side of the city and then on to the north side.

As always housing and homelessness dominated, while the pension issue was again on the tip of most tongues. Defence force pay was another of the concerns people in the Greenmount area had, as a scrum of reporters, cameras and recording equipment followed Ms McDonald around.

Ms McDonald herself told The Echo she felt the leaders of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil “fudged” the issue when they were asked about it on the leaders debate, and said that Sinn Féin would reduce the age of entitlement to 65 “no ifs, no buts, no reviews.” 

She said these words to Ger Mulcahy, proprietor of Friars Walk Tavern, who has a poster of Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire up in the bar's toilet, which Ms McDonald said was a novel way of canvassing.

She met four-month-old Fallon, and ten-day-old Tadhg on the campaign trail and, after her day in Cork, is now considering dying her hair pink.

However, she didn’t miss the opportunity to hit out at Fine Gael and Fianna Fáíl, telling the Echo: “There’s no difference between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. There’s no difference between Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar, they’re cut from the same cloth.

They “want everything their own way. They don’t want to let anybody else in. The truth is that they have had their chance for decades to lead from the front and to deliver for families and workers and they’ve failed.” 

Micheál Martin spent the day in Dublin, where he campaigned in South Central alongside new mum of twins Senator Catherine Ardagh, and again ruled out a “grand coalition” with Fine Gael.

He also signed up to a Feminist Manifesto that sees politicians commit to ending Direct Provision and a rent freeze.

However, he’s changed his stance on the rent freeze issue a number of times, until eventually citing legal advice the party had received suggesting the freeze would be unconstitutional, despite voting for the Sinn Fein-proposed emergency measure in the Dail last year.

The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has not signed up to the manifesto.

He has, however, accused Fianna Fáil of taking credit in areas of government "that suits them" but said he remains open to working with the party after the General Election.

Mr Varadkar said his preference would be to lead the next government with smaller parties including Labour, the Greens and independents, which would suit Micheál Martin, who unequivocally ruled out a “grand coalition” with Fine Gael after the election.

HOUSING

On the canvass in Greenmount, housing and home retrofitting was top of the agenda, with a number of residents complaining of dampness, mould, and unsuitable accommodation for their needs.

Goretti Heffernan, who has lived in the area all her life was last year diagnosed with osteoporosis, and was warned that a fall could be detrimental. She’s been looking for something to be done with her house, but nothing has materialised. “It’s unfair, it’s wrong, it’s disgusting and it’s downright disrespectful,” she said.

The Sinn Féin leader said: “We’re out campaigning in an election because we want Eoghan Murphy who is the Housing Minister, not to be the Housing Minister anymore. We have somebody on our team who can actually do the job, and do it with the urgency and pace that people require.” 

Gerard O’Connor told Ms McDonald that his house was extremely damp. The house, which was built in the 1940s “costs a fortune” to heat. “I have gas heating and I’ve a stove, and I’d still be cold - especially upstairs,” he said.

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said he’d met with the City Council’s Director of Housing to highlight the need to retrofit homes in the area.

COALITION

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin has confirmed his party has ruled out a "grand coalition" with major rivals Fine Gael.

When asked if he would consider a confidence and supply, the Cork South Central TD said that his party was not interested in such an arrangement.

"That's our position.

Fianna Fail General Election 2020. Pictured is Fianna Fail party leader Micheal Martin speaking to ahouseholder while canvassing wih Senator Catherine Ardagh In Dublin 8 today. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie
Fianna Fail General Election 2020. Pictured is Fianna Fail party leader Micheal Martin speaking to ahouseholder while canvassing wih Senator Catherine Ardagh In Dublin 8 today. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

"People want change, that's the message we're receiving, they want Fine Gael out of office and we've made it very clear we want to go into government with other centre parties, clearly Labour and the Greens are the ones we'd be interested going into government with, but that's to be determined by the people.

"Fine Gael need to come out of government, they've been there too long, they haven't delivered on key issues such as housing.

"The people want a new government, that means a completely new government," Micheál Martin said.

BIODIVERSITY

The Green Party has said that people in communities on the northside of the city support biodiversity and planting trees in their community.

Vegetation was removed in September by Cork City Council from the green area at Sarsfield's Terrace, near Bells' Field, with a view to replanting the area in Spring.

Green Party Councillor and general election candidate in Cork North Central Oliver Moran has surveyed the terrace of 44 houses to ask residents how they would like the area replanted.

When asked what was most important for the new planted area, "biodiversity friendly" scored 30 among residents, compared to 24 for "neat and tidy" and 22 for "that residents can keep their own plants".

The top three things that residents asked to be planted in the area were trees, shrubbery, and flowers. Grass and open space scored lowest.

CRIME

Councillor and North Central candidate Thomas Gould of Sinn Féin said that if the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil think the court can be used to solve violent crime, they aren’t using it.

“Why don’t they use them?

“All those laws are in place at the moment.

“We know there’s gangs all over Cork city. There’s one group that’s been dealing drugs for 40 years.

“Why didn’t they use the laws on them?

“The Gardaí don’t have the resources,” he said.

He said that it all comes down to Garda resources, with not enough manpower on the ground to effectively monitor and address gangs, and that Sinn Féin would support any “sensible” proposals to support them.


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