A sports injury specialist and former League of Ireland soccer player who is a local election candidate in Galway City Central promises “naked honesty” and pledges to work with anyone committed to the betterment of the city, if elected.
James O’Toole, who is from Henry Street and runs his sports injury practice there, initially turned down an offer to contest the election but decided to put his name on the ballot paper the day before nominations closed and run as an Independent.
“Anyone who knows me, knows I do my best to get things done and if rebuffed will find out why and compromise to reach a solution,” says Mr O’Toole who is married to Susan and has two children, Jade, an 18-year-old Leaving Certificate student and two-and-a-half year old twins, Ryley and James.
“I believe there is a solution to every problem, sometimes it might not be the best solution but nontheless it is a solution. I am interested in face-to-face talks, not social media, posters, or false promises. My platforms as a candidate are simple: community, grassroots, and culture with people at its core.”
The UCG graduate, who played for Galway Rovers and worked as a sports injury specialist at Harvard University before leaving the prestigious college to return to Ireland to set up a sports medicine programme at UCD, believes Galway City Council needs new blood to revitalise it.
Leave affiliations at the door
“Galway includes us all, not just three electoral wards [in the city] fighting one another for limited funds for the needs of all its constituents. Political affiliations must be left at the door and councillors must work together to progress Galway to be the city it deserves to be.”
He is calling for the establishment of an independent chairperson on the council who would have the power to fine, and ultimately remove “truculent” members in the interests of “progressing the agenda for Galway”. Parish-pump politics must become a thing of the past, he insists.
“I feel new faces like John Connolly and Eddie Hoare are the future and I am convinced that, like myself, they have Galway as an entity at heart and have the youth and intellect to effect change to the old failed system and can progress onto the national stage. I feel Galway is now inclusive of Barna, Moycullen, Oranmore, etc and as such the next council must include these areas as part of the solution process. Though we all wear different jerseys, there is only one Galway!”
Mr O’Toole says a greater Garda presence on city streets from 10pm to 4am, stiffer prison sentences for drug offenders, a light rail system, and the development of UHG on its current site are pressing issues.
“By moving a number of services, such as laboratories and administration, as well as some staff, to Merlin Park there would be room to expand UHG’s A&E service and build two six storey car parks on the UHG site. Helipads could be located on top and then Shantalla could be given back its green space. The staff are golden in UHG but the facilities are archaic.”
He is calling for the sanctioning of a feasability study on a light rail service for Galway. “It would take 30 months to complete this service at a cost of €280 million. Galway City Council said it was the way forward 10 years ago. By 2040, Galway will have grown by 50 per cent so it is important to plan now for future growth.
“In relation to housing, derelict buldings should be sequestered for affordable housing, there must be strict adherence to rent caps, and children and the elderly must always be prioritised,” says Mr O’Toole who has organised an annual fundraising soccer match on St Stephen’s Day in aid of COPE Galway for the past 26 years.
There is a need for community based education programmes to meet young people’s needs, especially, he says. “University isn’t the everything of life. People need other options which could be run in local halls and community centres to give people skills and confidence.”
He says his message to the electorate is simple: “I have no party funding but anyone who wants to make a donation to my campaign of naked honesty should donate to COPE, Pieta House, or Rosabel’s Rooms. All I have are two good feet, a willingness to help all, as I was helped myself throughout life, a capacity to listen, and to compromise for the good of all, not just the few. I will do what it says on the tin - deliver.”