Doherty lays out party’s vision for Co Wexford
WHILE most observers believe that a general election could be some way off yet, Sinn Féin are hoping to pick up some early momentum with yet another high profile visitor to Co Wexford. Following a recent visit from party leader Mary Lou McDonald, the party’s deputy leader in the Dáil arrived in Enniscorthy recently of last week to sample the famous south-eastern sunshine and to hear the views of the people on the ground.
Among the areas on the itinerary for Pearse Doherty were St Patrick’s Special School and the 1798 Centre, places which the Donegal TD has strong views on.
‘Basically, I’m here in Wexford to engage with the community and to listen to their concerns,’ he said. ‘We will be starting to put together our alternative budget and we’d like to see areas which are perhaps being neglected by the current government and also to take a look at some success stories and see what we can learn.’
Neglect is perhaps an appropriate word. Sandwiched in between Dublin and Waterford, there is a perception that Co Wexford has been forgotten, with IDA visits down on those enjoyed by some of our neighbours and a lack of major investment in educational infrastructure a particular gripe among many.
‘Well you can see the challenges even walking around the streets of Enniscorthy here,’ Deputy Doherty said. ‘There are a number of commercial units closed and it needs a fresh breath of life and an investment in strategic infrastructure. Rosslare Europort doesn’t appear in the Government Plan to 2040 and I think that gives you a good insight into the government’s position in relation to this county.’
Cllr Johnny Mythen brought Deputy Doherty on a whistle-stop tour of Enniscorthy, stopping in at St Patrick’s Special School along the way. Although progress has been made in recent months in terms of getting work under way on a new school building, Deputy Doherty lamented the conditions endured by staff and students there.
‘The fact that they are waiting 15 years for a new building is unbelievable,’ he said. ‘They are shameful conditions that the pupils and staff have had to endure. If it weren’t for the passion and dedication of the staff there, it would be very difficult for them to carry on.’
Sipping on a coffee in the summer sunshine at the 1798 Centre, Deputy Doherty was also well clued in on the centre’s pending closure later this year.
‘To tell you the truth I find it very sad,’ he said. ‘To walk in on a beautiful day like today and see our flag fluttering in a National Centre, it’s a beautiful place. To sell the centre off to private enterprise without a clear indication of where the exhibition will be housed, with all due respect, I think is a wrong decision by the council. This is a vital part of our history and to be an after-thought is simply not good enough. I commend Cllr Mythen and his colleagues for voicing their opposition to this.’
Deputy Doherty also commended his party colleague on campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote in the recent referendum. While Wexford returned a ‘Yes’ vote by a comfortable margin, Doherty’s home constituency of Donegal was the only county to return a ‘no’.
‘It was obviously disappointing yeah,’ he said. ‘I’m disappointed for the women of Donegal who came forward and shared their stories. But I think we can take heart that in Donegal, over 110 of 250 polling stations returned a ‘yes’ vote. Given the fact that in ‘83 Donegal was one of the most vocal counties for the insertion of the amendment in the first place, I think we have come a long way.’
Finally, Deputy Doherty was heartened to learn of a Palestinian flag appearing periodically over Vinegar Hill in recent weeks. An outspoken supporter of the Palestinian cause and one of those calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, he called for continued pressure to be applied on the government.
‘The slaughter of unarmed Palestinians has been captured on our screens in recent weeks,’ he said. ‘I think we need a response from the Irish government. The Palestinian Flag has flown over our County House in Donegal for some time and I think it’s important that people do express support. The solution is dialogue and peace, not violence and I think that, in a way, if the Irish government stays silent, it is culpable in these atrocities.’
Cllr Mythen and Deputy Doherty then hosted a meeting with members of the public in The Bailey on Thursday night where viewpoints were exchanged and no doubt it gave them an indication of what kind of task faces the Enniscorthy candidate as he aims to succeed where he narrowly missed out last time by winning a seat in the Dáil.
Sinn Féin deputy leady Pearse Doherty TD with Cllr Johnny Mythen at the National 1798 Centre in Enniscorthy.