Sinn Féin’s European Parliament candidate Matt Carthy stepped up his campaign for election to Brussels last week when he paid a visit to Mayo to meet and greet the people. Carthy was born in England to a Monaghan mother and Roscommon father, before he moved to Strokestown where he spent most of his childhood, briefly moved back to England for less than a year until the family moved back permanently to Carrickmacross in Monaghan.
The 36-year-old introduced himself saying; “I’ve been involved in politics since I was a teenager, been a member of Carrickmacross Town Council since 1999, and Monaghan County Council since 2004. I’ve four young children and a wife that gives me more space than she should.”
When asked why he had put himself forward for election next year he told this writer, “I believe very strongly that one person can make a difference, and when you have a group of people who believe strongly in the same thing you can make a profound difference and make a positive change in a society and country, and it’s what I hope I’ve been able to do on a local level, and I hope I can make that step up and make an impact at national and European level.”
When asked what his plan was for getting himself known outside of his heartland Carthy said, “ There’s 15 counties to cover, and in the campaign since I’ve been engaged in it I’ve been struck by two things, the first how difficult it is for a new candidate who wouldn’t be well known outside of Monaghan and Roscommon to make and impact and even try to get known through the media. The first step we made was to get involved in the Sinn Féin organisation across all the counties, because they are they people we’ll be relying on to bring the message to the doors, and the second is to meet the people who are making a difference in their communities, be it community activists or farming organisations, business leaders, support groups for local enterprises, whatever the case may be.”
The major issue that he has found so far is that rural communities are looking for hope, not handouts, he believes. “What has struck me is that when I started off I was trying to be aware of the issues that affected the people in all the counties, but what has happened is that the issues are so similar, everywhere you go. It’s the exact same issues, the impact of unemployment, of emigration, of businesses closing, especially in rural communities. There is a view in my mind very strongly that rural Ireland is under attack in many ways. I’m not pretending that if I’m elected in May the world is going to change overnight for everybody. The only thing that I’m promising is that there is going to be a voice in the European parliament that will be advocating very strongly, that European austerity policy is causing devastation in many areas, it’s actually causing problems to that, while they have been more acute and obvious since the downturn, the reality is there has been a failure for real regional planning and investment for decades.”
He went on to lament what he sees as rural Ireland and its youth being turned into a feeder for Dublin. “The European constituencies in many ways are a testament to that, we are in a constituency of 15 counties, the next constituency has one county. Nothing will point out in starker terms that there has been absolute failure to invest and build communities. In many ways the western counties and border regions have basically been seen as a resource to filter into Dublin, and even when we’ve had investment into road infrastructure for example, the roads have all led to Dublin, rather than inter-regional development. There’s a real can do attitude and people who want to achieve and have success, people aren’t looking for charity, they are looking for a bit of support for the work they are doing to make it a bit easier, and to have a bit more of an impact. There’s a sense that something needs to be done to promote peripheral towns and regions and there’s a feeling that politicians just don’t get it.”
Carthy continued: “I intend to ensure to have a two way information process that we will continue to let people know what’s happening and how it’s going to effect the people on the ground. One of the problems we’ll hear is about these decisions that are coming from Europe that will effect us and are being implemented, such as the Nitrates Directive and the turf cutting issues, all these things. What sometimes people don’t realise is that at some point there was an Irish Government Minister sitting around the council of Europe who agreed to these things. And because it can take five to 10 years for these proposals to come into effect, what we intend to do is to ensure that at that movement, people know what decisions are being made, what issues are coming up on the agenda, and ensuring that the Irish Government are being marked and the people be made aware of it.”