THE visit of Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny to Tullamore passed in a blur as many tried to shake his hand on his quick walk through.
A large media presence meant each handshake was documented with Mr Kenny even going into the Post Office in the Bridge Centre to shake hands with those queuing.
Mr Kenny was in Tullamore to support his four candidates in the constituency including Rhode Cllr Liam Quinn, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Laois’s Deputy Charlie Flanagan and Cllr John Moran.
Willie Flanagan from Kilbeggan wished Mr Kenny luck and told him that things needed to change.
Meanwhile local man Ted Flynn talked with Mr Kenny about his Mayo connections. Tullamore woman Rita Daly welcomed Mr Kenny back to Tullamore while Cllr Tommy McKeigue asked Mr Kenny to sign a 90th birthday card for Fine Gael member Kathleen Daly, which he happily did.
There was some confrontation when local man Charlie Fox told him not to lie to the people as he “was going to get in anyway.”
“You can’t change the rates, don’t lie to the people” he shouted at Mr Kenny before he got into his car to leave.
Mr Kenny paid tribute to outgoing TD Olwyn Enright. “Olwyn considered her family and all of that. She is in Donegal now and her husband is a deputy who will be re-elected again. I’d like to thank her and Tom and all the family for all their service over the years,” he said.
He said had every confidence in the choice of Fine Gael candidates in Laois Offaly.
“We have a new team of four, we have Charlie Flanagan who is a senior runner here, Liam Quinn, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy and John Moran. It’s a brand new image in many ways for Laois/Offaly Fine Gael.”
He put forward Fine Gael’s plan for economic recovery in the constituency. “Our proposition really is based on getting Ireland working and that’s a five point plan, the principal among of which is jobs and job creation. We are very much aware of the extent of the public service workers here in Laois Offaly and we respect the public service. We want to give them a situation where they can be seen to contribute to the well-being of the local economy and the affairs of the nation and for that reason we want to be able to deliver the public services more efficiently than they themselves are trying to offer. Anything we do will protect the frontline services of teachers, Gardai, nurses, occupational therapists etc. We know we have two hospitals and two prisons here in this constituency. I come from the public service sector background myself and I respect that and we want to see that everyone is given the opportunity to rise to their potential,” he said.
He told the Offaly Express that he was very happy with the reception he had received in Tullamore..
“You could see the energy in that shopping centre from all over the place. People were very anxious to talk to us and meet us. We have a good team here and our message is very clear. We are getting Ireland working we are providing opportunities for jobs, sorting out the health structure, explaining how we plan to deal with the huge fiscal and banking problems that the country faces. No incoming government in this history of this country will ever face the scale of the challenge that the next government will. We’re prepared to step up to the mark to tell the truth, explain all this to the people, open the books and explain how we propose to deal with that.It’s not going to be easy there are no magic wands, there are no easy solutions but I think the government will lend a new impetus to hard work, integrity, use our connections in Europe to ease the burden that we have,” he said.
When asked about the possibility of the party getting an overall majority he replied “you can never presume what the people will do.”
He said that he saw a brilliant future for Ireland. “There are some difficult days ahead but when you look at the way we are moving with our young people, our exports, our agri produce, our opportunities to get our indigenous economy going again as I believe Fine Gael’s plan will, that’s going to restore a great deal of confidence,” he said.
He re-iterated Fine Gael promises not to touch income tax or rates as well as easing “tax burdens on employers we want to do away with the red tape, make it easier for people to employ new people and hold on to employees and that’s what it is about.”
In terms of agriculture he said Fine Gael have very strong connections with counterparts in Europe. “I’ve met young farmers from all over the country who are lining up in terms of investment and borrowing money when the quotas go in a couple of years time. There is also a big review going on in terms of the context of whether there is any future sugar beet in Ireland or not. As you know that industry was removed in circumstances that were not clear and we want to look at that. When the quotas are eliminated there are huge opportunities. The world population is rising Ireland has a magnificent reputation for quality food and being a centre for excellent produce and we will build on that.”