Having been on the campaign trail for nearly three months, Independent candidate Finbarr Harrington has been hearing the same few key issues on the doorsteps and he’s hoping to get the chance to address them.
Harrington, who has three kids with his wife Fiona, has long been an advocate for change in the way we approach employment in rural Ireland.
‘Lack of employment has caused young people to move away. Our three biggest employers are farming, fishing and tourism and we have to support them.
‘Reductions in business rates and incentivising companies through tax breaks from national or local government will go a far way toward regenerating West Cork so that we can bring some of our young people back.’
Health, as it always is, has been a hot-button topic in the run-up to the local elections and Harrington is well-placed to comment.
‘There is huge concern around basic health services in West Cork,’ he says.
‘Recently, I was on Bere Island and discovered they no longer have 24/7 nurse cover. Elderly people living on the island are anxious about not being able to get a nurse if they need one and young couples are considering moving to the mainland in case their children need medical help.’
He has consistently called for increased use of Bantry hospital: ‘because it’s a fantastic hospital with fantastic staff.’
As a farmer, Harrington is acutely aware of the necessity to address climate change.
‘As a nation, we have become more aware that we have to look after the environment. We have become better at recycling and have fantastic recycling centres in West Cork.’
He added that a big environmental issue in Bantry was the granting of the licence for the mechanical harvesting of kelp.
‘We know this will have a detrimental effect and we all know how important Bantry Bay is from a tourism, fishing and environmental point of view. I will stand behind the campaign as I feel it’s the right thing to do.’
Like many of us in rural Ireland, the quality of the roads can have a detrimental effect on day-to-day life and it’s something Harrington is keen to see addressed.
‘The roads didn’t get this bad yesterday. They have degenerated over years,’ he said when speaking to The Southern Star.
‘We pay massive road and property tax and it’s not good enough to say we don’t have the money. The money is invested in roads in other parts of the county. The motorways in Dublin are pristine and although we are not looking for perfect here, we would like to drive on roads that don’t have potholes as big as craters in them.’
The government’s announcement last week about the National Broadband Plan was met with dismay in some quarters, sentiments echoed by Harrington.
‘The biggest disappointment regarding broadband is that the National Broadband Plan is turning into as big a fiasco as the National Children’s Hospital. It is having a negative impact on people who would otherwise be able to live and work from home.
‘If I get elected I would love to address this issue as thee plan in place is no good unless the plan is implemented. Broadband is important as it keeps people connected and will help keep people in their communities.’
Asked what he’d like to say to voters ahead of the election he said: ’What I would ask this time round on May 24 is to just give me this one chance. Just give me the loan of your vote and then it's up to me after that. I will deliver for the people for West Cork’.