It’s time for politicians to be honest with people

Rose Conway Walsh

Rose Conway Walsh

“It’s time for the politicians to be honest with the people in the area, for example with the sewerage scheme in Belmullet. We have been promised this basic bit of infrastructure for years and when the money was there we didn’t get it. But now the promises will be trotted out again come the election about it, but even if there is funding for it there, because of the polluter pays principle there are businesses in Belmullet who are going to have to contribute millions towards it to get it going. It’s time our politicians were honest with the people about this.”

Rose Conway-Walsh, is gearing herself up for June’s elections and she’s ready to fight for the seat she came very close to taking in 2004. Originally from Ballycroy, but after spending a number of years in London, Conway-Walsh moved back to Ireland in 1998 to Belmullet. She was the founder member of the Sinn Féin Mayo Women’s movement and has worked in community development since she returned. “I got 924 first preference votes in 2004, which was 12.5 per cent of the vote. I was delighted to get that number of first preference votes and it showed people in the Belmullet area are looking for change and with the current situation in the economy, there will be even more looking for it.”

With only three women sitting in the current chamber in Mayo County Council, the lack of women in politics is one of the things that attracted Rose to put herself forward last time out. “There was never a woman candidate in Belmullet before and that was something that stuck out at me as needing being addressed in the area.” Conway believes that the two party politics in the area has let down the Belmullet area in the past. “The civil war politics of the two major parties hasn’t served the people down here well. Even when the Celtic Tiger was around it didn’t really touch us here, you could see that when 924 people gave me their first preference vote and the appetite for change is out there and is even more so now.”

Bringing about change

With the election boundaries being changed last year, Belmullet saw its catchment area enlarge with the inclusion of the town of Newport giving an increase in the numbers eligible to vote in the area, Conway is hopeful that she will be able to pick up the votes to get herself and Sinn Féin another seat on the council at least. “There are a number of key issues that affect this area, infrastructure is an obvious one which everybody can see for themselves, but there are others that might not be so obvious. Health issues are a serious concern in the area, we used to have a maternity service in the hospital down here, now we have no pre or post natal services at all. Also mental health services are severely lacking in what is one of the biggest constituencies geographically in the country, and the lack of speech and language services is another major concern of mine in the area.”

While getting elected is a first step to seeing changes being made, if Sinn Féin does not hold the balance of power in the next council Conway-Walsh may not be able to bring about the change she hopes. But she doesn’t see it that way. “If I didn’t believe that I could bring about these changes I wouldn’t be running. I went back to college and got a degree in public management and I’m currently studying for a master’s in public management and economics. From doing this course I can see there are a number of areas where councillors can stand up to the council executive on directives but don’t. I’m concerned about things getting waved through by an unelected executive without questioning of the rights and wrongs of it by councillors who may not understand the implications of it. We can’t just be looking at the short term view we have to look at how things will effect the people in five, 10, 15 years time. We have to provide the basic services that all humans are entitled to, just because you live in a rural area, doesn’t mean you are not entitled to proper roads and proper sewerage treatment facilities.”

 

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