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.”
“One simple solution can immediately put money circulating into rural economies: Stop the waste of energy.” This was the key message of our campaign launch on Thursday evening of Tipperary Green Party.
Speaking at my campaign lauch on the theme of “Creating Rural Jobs and Investment”, Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan spoke about his own roots in the Glen of Aherlow, and how he felt green economics can have a real impact on rural communities: “I commend Gearóid for stepping forward. The impact of community development work is limited unless our country gets strong political direction. He is as good a candidate as they get – he is doing in his real life what we are all talking about.”
A number of other of guests spoke, including Con Harrington. According to Con, “You get enthused by being involved. Gearóid has brought huge enthusiasm into our community – if the rest of Tipperary know what he has done, I’m sure they would back him. The more support he gets, the more attention will be paid to his message”
I also spoke on how locally owned energy can be turned into local invesment, “The exclusive focus on Foreign Direct Investment is ignoring the massive opportunity in cutting our country’s yearly €5.7billion spend on imported energy. In Tipperary that’s €300 million per year leaving the county. Our own local authority could easily tap into European Investment Bank funding to do this across the county, to be paid back over 15-20 years. We need our government to mandate our local authorities to do this. Tipperary should be leading here. For every 1 million spent on retrofit, 25 jobs are created.”
In wrapping up we thanked everyone who had attended and helped out – and the event sponsors – The Apple Farm, Longways Cider, and the Green Sheep.
My final comment was “My motivation for standing in the election is to highlight the need to use energy as a driver of rural communities. We need to develop community energy initiatives. We should have a network of 200 or 300 energy co-operatives in Ireland, like what has developed in Germany. When Horace Plunkett went out with one or two staff in the1890s, within five or six years you had 400 or 500 agricultural co-operatives set up with almost 200,000 members. Our agriculture sector is missing this opportunity. Our own state or ICOS are not backing it. For most of Tipperary’s towns and villages, there is no recovery to keep going, and Richard Bruton will never come and cut a ribbon announcing the latest arm of Google or Linked In. We need local solutions.”
Ahead of our 2016 election campaign launch on February 11th, I am asking voters in Tipperary to reflect on the type of leadership that they want in the new and unified county.
The re-unification of the county offers an exciting opportunity for Tipperary to make a fresh start. Tipperary should take up once again the position of leadership in Irish political and cultural life – to match its performance on the sports field.
Irish voters tend to select their representatives to their national parliament on the basis of personal favours. The neglects any considerations of where the country is going, and is what has made our politics such a failure over the last 15 years.
Regretably, Tipperary has come to embody this trend over the last few years, against the county’s own better tradition of leadership in Ireland. You only have to think of Tipperary’s central role in the national movement – when Ernie O’Malley, Sean Treacy and Dinny Lacy were on the run during the War of Independence, it was the homes of Tipperary that kept them going – the people in those safe houses, were the backbone of the Irish independence movement. At great personal risk, they put themselves on the line for the long term future of their country.
Tipperary has also been central to other organisations for example the GAA, the pioneering community self-help group Muintir na Tíre, among others.
I am asking Tipperary to take up its attitude of leadership again, to look at where they want the state to go rather than what they can extract from the state.
I am delighted that Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan will formally launch our campaign at the Excel Centre in Tipperary at 7.30pm on Thursday 11th February. All are welcome. Eamon’s own own forebears hail from the Glen of Aherlow.
“I am delighted that Tipperary is putting forward such a strong local candidate. There is a space for a strong rural Green voice which can positively influence issues of planning and the rural economy. I think the electorate will be interested in Gearoid’s views on local energy and other matters”