WEST Cork TD Michael Collins has said he is pushing for a Minister for Rural Affairs in his talks with the major parties.
The independent is among a number of non-party TDs meeting with party representatives to see if a deal can be hammered out to ensure a new government is secured in the coming weeks.
Deputy Collins revealed to The Southern Star that, along with four other independents, he had encouraged Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny to make contact with Fianna Fail’s Micheal Martin.
‘People had said during the election to me that independents would be irresponsible in government, but we are the only ones who are being responsible right now,’ he said.
The Goleen Deputy, who abstained in the votes for taoiseasch this week, has joined with colleagues Denis Naughten, Mattie McGrath, Noel Grealish and Dr Michael Harty to push for more representation for rural Ireland.
‘I am calling us the Famous Five,’ he said, adding that he had a few ‘red line issues’ in common with the other four, in order for any government to secure their support. Among them was the insistence on a senior Minister for Rural Affairs. ‘I would like to see the word ‘Community’ in there too, to be honest,’ he said, speaking during a break in meeting with the parties.
He said he also wanted to see the changes and cuts to LEADER funding reversed, but that was proving more challenging in the talks.
‘I need movement on a few more issues too, and I am getting that,’ he added, including Irish Water – ‘but that has not really been discussed fully yet,’ he said.
Deputy Collins said he would ideally like to see a Minister for the Elderly included in a new cabinet. ‘And I don’t want to be parochial, but I do believe that the future of Bantry Hospital needs to be secured, and facilities need to be upgraded there.’
‘In my opinion this is the first time that the issues and neglect to Rural Ireland have been pursued with vigour at this level,’ he added.
He added the talks were now mentioning a subject close to his heart – which had its roots in West Cork. ‘For the first time I am hearing people talk about rural-proofing government policy, which we have been talking about in West Cork for a few years now,’ he said.
‘I will not support any political leader or party unless I see strong evidence that the issues of rural Ireland are to the forefront. The issues of West Cork and rural Ireland are my priority,’ he added.