Opinion: 'Ministerial line-up is another blow to rural, urban and economic affairs in the west'

Even with a selection of junior ministers that represents more of the country, the senior ministerial pick is still a blow to rural, urban and economic affairs in the west – this IMAGE writer explains why


I didn't expect it from a Cork man.

I possess no political affiliations, but when Michéal Martin was elected Taoiseach, I thought "ok, he might understand." And when I say understand, I mean see outside the capital city and look at the country as a whole.

When the senior ministerial positions were announced on Saturday, the people screamed: "what about the west?" And they did so for a good reason.

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Ireland split down the middle in the aftermath. The right and the left side now tell two different stories. The right is sprinkled with ministers. Dublin has six, Wicklow has two and Meath, Monaghan and Offaly have one each.

The left side has a cluster of three in Cork and one in Kerry. However, from Limerick to Donegal, the land is a political desert – barren and desolate. Not one senior minister is to represent an area with a substantial rural population.

Junior ministers

Three super junior ministers were also selected, two of whom represent areas of the west. Mayo TD Dara Calleary is the Government Chief Whip, while Galway TD Hildegarde Naughton takes a seat as Minister for International Travel & Logistics. The full line up of junior ministers was unveiled on Wednesday and has offered an equal scattering with Sligo, Leitrim, and Limerick now represented.

Nevertheless, when it comes to issues that matter, none of these junior ministers will have a vote.

This is where the issue lies and why the reaction was one of bewilderment and distress. Two of Ireland's urban centres, Galway and Limerick, were ignored in terms of political distribution. So the argument that only rural Ireland is affected by this does not fully represent reality.

It can't be ignored that this is another blow to rural, urban, and economic affairs in the west.

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Representation

As we come out of lockdown and the country prepares to get the economy back on track, it has never been more critical for every section of Ireland to have adequate representation.

Take Galway city, for instance. Edward Square was a shopping oasis just off Shop Street but the pandemic has depleted its resources. Four stores have now closed, leaving a devastating picture of empty shop fronts.

Add this to the strain felt on other industries in the west, from hospitality to agriculture. Then multiply that by the already existing issues of transport, health services, and lack of job opportunities and you will get an answer that reflects a profound problem.

The feeling of neglect among rural communities has always been there. Now there is an increased sense of unease about the coalition government completed by a Green Party that in the past has appeared insensitive to the realities of rural life. Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan said on RTÉ's The Week in Politics that he does not believe the government ignored the west of the country in terms of ministerial appointments and that the junior selection would "fix" things.

Yet, for change to occur and for political moves to manifest, power must be at your disposal. How much real power will these junior representatives have?

West awake

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Yes, Dublin is the capital and the centre of the economy, but life trudges on outside of the M50 and beyond. And this is a section of the population that continuously fights for fair reasoning, but the uptake on needs is slow. Those in the west were in their right to be enraged. It added to and highlighted the exasperation felt by so many for years.

A government should represent the country as a collective entity, no more so than on its top table. It has failed to do so here.

I didn't expect it from the Cork man, but he should expect a continued influx of rage from the west.

Because it's awake and it won't be going to rest any time soon.

Image: @merrionstreet Twitter


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