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Collins pushing for Rural Affairs ministry in talks with parties

March 31st, 2016 4:39 PM

By Siobhan Cronin

Collins: in talks with parties to try and form a new government

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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 in Dublin today 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 today that, along with four other independents, he had encouraged Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny to make contact with Fianna Fail’s Micheal Martin.
It was announced this afternoon that the two major parties will enter talks after next Wednesday, after Mr Kenny called Deputy Martin with a proposal to meet.
‘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 told The Southern Star today.
‘I told Deputy Kenny that we can’t keep shouldering the wheel and that somebody needed to pick up the phone.’ Kerry Deputy Michael Healy Rae was in agreement with them on this, he said.
The Goleen Deputy 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.’
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.
He agreed there was no appetite for an election from either the public or the politicians, and that any party that forced talks in that direction would be ‘badly punished’ at the polls. ‘We have a long way to go yet. In some ways, it’s only just beginning,’ he said.

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