One of the key messages of Gearóid Fitzgibbon’s campaign is to put an end to our habit of selecting our politicians on the basis of personal often imaginary favours done for the public. Gearóid is proposing to close down the local constituency offices – work done here would be better carried out in the Citizen Information Service.
After the recent Tipperary MidWest Radio election debate (Tuesday February 16th), Gearóid spoke with Tom Fitzgerald, volunteer chairperson of the Canon Hayes Resource Centre in Tipperary Town, and a legend of community development. While not publicly backing any party, Tom told Gearóid that for years he has endorsed the closing of the constituency offices. “Muintir na Tíre were the original group to propose the set-up of the Citizen Information Service. This is where people should get information, free of any favours or political string-pulling.”
Tom Fitzgerald has been doing community development work before it was even called that. In the 1950’s he began working with Canon Hayes, founder of Muintir na Tíre. “Fr. Hayes referred to community development as ‘practical Christianity’. He began his work in 1923, after the civil war; he kept peace and good relations between people in communities. The two firmly believed that change comes from the bottom up. They opened town halls and community offices in communities which brought them to life.
“He was a bit of a revolutionary to the rest of the Church, they should have given him freedom…and time”, recalled Tom Fitzgerald during his chat with Gearóid.
In 1957, Canon Hayes died, and Tom Fitzgerald continues his work to this day. Tom Fitzgerald also looks up to Pope Francis and his work; he sees that he is doing the same kind of ‘practical Christianity’ that Canon Hayes used to talk about and do.
‘Community development’, ‘practical Christianity’ or whatever name you call it is all about the people, what they have a right to and taking action at a local level so the people can achieve this right.
Gearóid Fitzgibbon is passionate about people’s right to free information without the middleman. To show his commitment to this, he will donate 35% of the €87,258 T.D.’s salary to the Citizen’s Information Centre if elected. According to Gearóid, “People have a right to the information they need. To make it a right and not a privilege, we need to replace these constituency offices with improved Citizen’s Information and Advocacy Centres – and put an end to these taxfunded vote-getting machines.”