Baby Health in Winter
Baby Margaret McNamara has politics running through her blood.
The three-month-old is the great-granddaughter of the late former President Patrick Hillery, the Fianna Fáil TD for Clare for 22 years.
Her father is Michael McNamara, the Independent candidate in Clare and former Labour Party TD.
McNamara and his wife, Sarah Hillery, have had a busy few months with the new arrival, their first child.
And now there’s a General Election to be hastily run.
He’s on a slow canvass in west Clare at the moment.
There’s a heavy mist over Doolin. The famous Atlantic view is invisible.
You can hear the waves crashing against the pier but you can’t see much more.
The large rocks scattered across the car park, thrown there by the sea during the stormy winter, show the ferocity of the ocean.
There’s not too many visitors around the village that’s always thriving during the tourist season.
McNamara is walking the byroads hoping to replace Dr Michael Harty, who is not running this time, as the Independent TD.
Harty has given a class of an endorsement, kind of, maybe, depending on your interpretation, to the likes of McNamara. The rural health service campaigner says he wouldn’t like to see his seat filled by Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil.
McNamara is a 45-year-old farmer and barrister from Tuamgraney in north-east Clare, on the shores of Lough Derg.
His main campaigning point is the imbalance in economic recovery between Dublin and the rest of the country.
“We need to be flying passengers into Shannon. The policy nationally seems to be flying them into Dublin, then bus the people up and down, like ‘Jurassic Park’, to see the natives. It’s a complete concentration of economic activity in Dublin,” he tells a woman at a crossroads.
McNamara isn’t the only candidate with Fianna Fáil family links who the big parties are watching intently.
The Green Party’s Róisín Garvey is a daughter of former Fianna Fáil councillor Flan Garvey, who was on the council for a quarter of a century.
The 46-year-old has spoken of sitting in the Clare County Council chamber as a child waiting for a lift home from her father, so the proceedings were nothing new to her when she became a councillor last year.
The current mayor of Clare is also making waves. Canvassing in the Tobarteascáin area of Ennis, Fianna Fáil’s Cathal Crowe doesn’t hold back from mentioning his timely claim to fame on the doorsteps.
“I’m the mayor of the county. You might have heard how I took a stand on the RIC commemoration,” he tells a voter.
A history buff, his knowledgeable refusal to attend the ‘Black and Tans’ event started the cavalcade. His constitutional Republican instincts don’t extend to letting Sinn Féin into power though.
“At a national level, I wouldn’t be in favour of a coalition with them. I welcome an awful lot of what they did around the Good Friday Agreement. But they don’t function like the other political parties. There is an external group of people always influencing what happens. I don’t think they have fully shaken off their past.”
Crowe has worked with Sinn Féin on the council and that party’s former councillor Sorcha McAnespy, a member of the Fianna Fáil national executive, is canvassing for him this week. He only knows McAnespy from Facebook.
At 37, the primary school teacher is the youngest candidate in the field and his social media usage and “21st century friendships” are paying dividends with younger voters.
Crowe feels he is in the “backfield of candidates” competing for the last seat and with a fighting chance.
The frontrunners for the seats are regarded as Fine Gael minister Pat Breen and Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley.
After that, there are two seats left.
Fine Gael TD Joe Carey and Crowe are contesting hard, along with McNamara and Garvey. Two Fine Gael and two Fianna Fáil is possible.
But it’s highly unlikely in a General Election where half the voters in the country are opting for someone other than the Civil War parties – even if Fianna Fáil blood does run deep in Clare.
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