I spent yesterday canvassing in Kilmaine and Ballinrobe which is South Mayo, the new part of the Galway West Constituency.
I also participated in a debate at lunch time on Mid West Radio.
The sense of abandonment felt by the people of the area both in relation to the boundary changes and in relation to the failure of successive governments to invest in Ballinrobe and its hinterland was palpable.
High emigration, high unemployment figures and small businesses absolutely struggling to stay afloat amidst the constant mantra from government TDs that the economy is thriving.
It definitely is a tale of two Counties.
Press Release 12th February 2016: Cllr Catherine Connolly Independent Candidate Galway West/South Mayo.
Cllr Catherine Connolly, Independent Candidate in the General Election said the message coming back from her canvass in South Mayo including Kilmaine, Shrule and Ballinrobe was that the residents of these areas did not know the politicians in Galway and the politicians did not know them. Moreover as proud Mayo People their loyalty and association was with Mayo and not Galway.
Indeed she said , it seemed clear from the canvass and from the opinions expressed during the vox pop during the Mid West Radio debate, that the boundary changes had left people feeling abandoned and set adrift.
Cllr Catherine Connolly said she fully understood these feelings and the fears expressed and felt they were very real fears.
However she said as a Councillor who had been elected on four different occasions in two different ward in Galway she had a range of experience on committees which cover both Galway and Mayo and both rural and city areas. More particularly she said she has been a member of the Regional Health Forum since 2006, a forum which includes Galway and Mayo and in this capacity she has repeatedly highlighted health issues with a view to improving the public health service in both Counties . She said she has also constantly campaigned with success for the retention of public nursing home beds and the roll out of primary care centres. Further she has repeatedly highlighted and exposed the extraordinary number on both outpatient and inpatients waiting lists as well as the unacceptable cancellation of cancer clinic appointments and forced some change in this regard.
In addition, as a member of the Corrib Navigation Trustees since 1999 a committee which also crosses County Boundaries and has a trustee from Mayo, she said she is acutely aware of the importance of the lake for both tourism and recreation. Moreover the Trustees have always and every prioritised the ongoing maintenance to the highest standards of the public piers on the Corrib including Lisloughrey and are currently in the process of looking at further car parking facilities.
Cllr Connolly said it is vitally important that the people of South Mayo are reassured that they will have a strong independent voice representing them n Dáil Éireann if she is elected.
Moreover she said she said she would use that privilege to push for an urgent strategic development plan for the area with emphasis on local jobs. She said she simply could not accept the government mantra that the economy is thriving given the emigration rates and high unemployment in the area.