“I MAKE no apology whatsoever for not seeing the bigger picture. I am a parish pump politician. Ken O’Flynn’s vote will go to the highest bidder,” said councillor Kenneth O’Flynn, who is standing as an independent for the first time.
After a long family history with Fianna Fáil, Mr O’Flynn left the party at the beginning of the election campaign after being denied a place on the Cork North-Central ticket.
But, should he get elected to the Dáil, Mr O’Flynn believes that he may hold more influence without the party whip.
He predicts a fractured Dáil emerging from next week’s election, with independents being called on to make up the numbers, and, if he’s there to make a deal, he’ll attempt to follow in the footsteps of independents in the likes of Kerry, Tipperary, and Waterford, whose support has always come with a high price-tag.
“My bids are the Cork to Limerick motorway, the Northern Ring Road – these are red lines. I want to see the events centre happen. I want to see us identify the site for a Mark II Cork University Hospital.
“If people are going to tick the box for me, if I can get elected to the Dáil and hold the balance of power or I am influential, I’ll be looking for the best deal I can get,” he said.
His decision to leave Fianna Fáil would have surprised very few, with rumours in recent months of a conflict between himself and the leadership over his place on the ticket.
That tension, however, goes even further back.
In 2011, his father, Noel O’Flynn, stood down from the Dáil, claiming in a later interview that he agreed to facilitate Micheál Martin’s one-candidate strategy in exchange for Mr Martin backing Kenneth O’Flynn’s Seanad campaign – support that never materialised.
The elder O’Flynn later left Fianna Fáil and flirted with a run as an independent himself.
In 2012, the younger O’Flynn temporarily lost the party whip for voting against the Cork City Council budget, and established himself as a bit of a maverick on the party bench in the years since.
Mr O’Flynn makes no apologies that his vote in City Hall could never be taken for granted by his former party.
“I’ve always put the people of my constituency above the party. That may have caused difficulty in the past.
“I’ve been outside the whip because of making what I believe are the right decisions for my constituents,” he said.
Mr O’Flynn said that he was “disappointed” and “hurt” when, without holding another selection convention, Fianna Fáil not only went with experienced councillor Tony Fitzgerald but untested first-time candidate Sandra Murphy, leaving him off the ticket.
“For the last three years of my life I’ve been brought to interview panels, meetings here and there with the leader, with the selection committee, with the party general secretary.
“I’ve been brought up and down to Dublin on I don’t know how many occasions. I don’t know how many telephone calls I’ve had. There’s analysis I’ve had done and paid for myself.
“It came as a shock and a disappointment,” he said.
However, he said that he now has to move on and focus on his own campaign, saying the only message he has for Micheál Martin is that he wishes him and his family well.
“I have no spite or animosity. I’m 40 years of age and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life being bitter about anything,” he said.
Mr O’Flynn wasn’t the only one to leave the party, however, with a number of fellow members following him to join his campaign team.
He said many people across the constituency had urged him to run having been surprised that he didn’t contest the by-election.
“People, genuinely, were asking me to stand for election.
“At the last by-election I was getting calls from people on the northside of the city saying ‘Who is this Padraig O’Sullivan and why aren’t you the candidate?
“You are the local Fianna Fáil man. Your father was a TD.
“You come with the calibre. We just assumed after Billy was elected, the O’Flynns would be back in Leinster House’,” he said.
With three TDs elected in 2016 out of contention four years on, Mr O’Flynn said that there is space new representatives after a few years of underrepresentation.
“The biggest concern that people had over the last number of years is that they weren’t being listened to by their elected members. That they didn’t have a connection with their elected Dáil members.
“If I’m being totally honest, Bernard Allen, Noel O’Flynn, Kathleen Lynch, Mairín Quill, Danny Wallace – that type of TD is what’s needed on the northside. If you go back to those days, there were people vying for work.
“There might have been a residents’ association with five people on it and there was ten wannabe TDs.
“We were in competition, we were doing work, we were giving people service,” he said.
On the doors, housing, health, pensions, and crime are emerging as the biggest issues.
Mr O’Flynn said that serious change is needed in housing policy to meet demand, urging the Government to make it easier for the private market to develop while embracing modular housing.
“I think we need to seriously listen to my good cousin and friend Michael O’Flynn. Rezoning of land and bringing down the price of land so we can go back to building houses for €200,000-€230,000.
“We need to start looking at places like Sweden and Germany, and companies that will build you a house that snaps together and is together in two weeks.
“Modular home systems with an 80-year guarantee. It costs the same as building a house, but it’s there in two weeks,” he said.
On crime, Mr O’Flynn said it all comes down to resources.
“I think the biggest problem most superintendents in this country have is writing up the timetables. That’s a disgrace,” he said.
Along with a lack of Gardaí preventing the fight against major gangs, he believes that prison crowding is putting people back on the streets, and a lack of tolerance is leading to an escalation of crimes.
“We’re being affected by people graffitiing, scratching your car, throwing bottles, having a pot outside your house broken.
“But they escalate. If you can get away with that, you can get away with giving a guy a slap, and it escalates and escalates into being what we’re accepting in society,” said Mr O’Flynn.
He said that a rise in violent crime has made people afraid to go about their business in their own communities.
“People are afraid to go out at night.
“There is something seriously wrong in society when people don’t have the confidence in their own community to go out into their community,” he said.
He said that the Gardaí needs to take a similar approach to Cork as it has to Drogheda, and prioritise the city for new recruits.