Ger Walsh column 31/05/17 : the chronicle.ie

Ger Walsh column 31/05/17

| May 31, 2017

Paul Kehoe     3  cmyk

Varadkar sees key role for Rosslare post Brexit

Backing a winner is always important in politics but in the case of the Fine Gael leadership, with such an overwhelming level of support emerging for Leo Varadkar, it was not just important to be seen to support him but to do it quickly.

In that context both Wexford TDs will be happy with themselves. Michael D‘Arcy was out of the traps to declare for the Social Protection Minister faster than a top greyhound at the Enniscorthy track while it has emerged that Paul Kehoe was in more recent times part of a group that helped persuade some Kenny camp TDs to join Leo.

Previously Paul had been part of those very close to Enda Kenny and is known to be an extra ordinary good networker within the parliamentary party where he is very popular.

While Paul is seen to have done some good work on behalf of the Leo campaign he was always going to be a Kenny loyalist so his colleague Michael D’Arcy had a head start on him when it came to actually being in the Varadkar camp.

For quite a long time, it seems, the Gorey TD has been telling colleagues that Leo was the man and his position on the backaches enabled him to make a number of public statements over the past year that more reflected Leo’s thinking that what the government was actually doing.

The first signs that Leo had strong support in Wexford emerged when he travelled to be part of the panel at a Brexit meeting in Enniscorthy earlier this month. While the meeting was called to discuss a very important issue and Leo’s attendance helped boost the attendance, everyone knew it was taking place against the backdrop of a leadership election which was just weeks away so what people were getting was not just the views of the Social Protection Minister but a likely future Taoiseach.

And he used the visit to good effect posing with Fine Gael councillors who have a vote in the election and delivering a twenty minute or so address which was largely unscripted.

While he had a lot to say about the general issues surrounding Brexit and he was pretty clear on the challenges and difficulties which could emerge he also had something interesting to say in a Wexford context when he spoke of the need for infrastructural investment to maintain links between this country and the rest of the EU in the event of a so called hard Brexit.

In this regard Varadkar stressed the importance of Rosslare EuroPort and the need for investment in the port itself and the transport links to it.

Now that he is only a few weeks away from taking his place in the Taoiseach’s Office there will be a big onus on the Wexford Fine Gael TDs and councillors to bring this message to him every time they get the chance.

Meanwhile, all eyes will be on his appointments to Cabinet and the Junior Ministries. There are some who speculate that Paul will retain his Defence portfolio while many more suggest that Michael will at last leave the backbenches with a role in the Department of Agriculture mentioned quite a bit.

Varadkar’s problem is that he has a lot more supporters than he has places to offer. However, it would come as a surprise to many if D’Arcy does not join his team at some level.

 

How a couple of ‘young lads’ can change the Garda numbers

 

There has been a lot of discussion about the accuracy of Garda statistics recently with a question mark over virtually all the published numbers. However, local Garda Chief, John Roche, was happy to tell the local Joint Policing Committee members recently that the breath test fiasco did not hit the Wexford Division.

While there was an over estimation of almost a million breath tests nationally an audit of Wexford demonstrated that the numbers in this area were almost spot on.

However, another statistic produced on the day showed that possibly all Garda numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. Generally there has been good news on crime front over the past year or so.

However, there was a bit of a blip on burglary in the early part of this year.

The reason, it appears, that the burglary numbers suffered a bit of a reverse were that a few ‘young lads’ as they were described, went on a bit of a crime spree in the Clonard area of Wexford town while a couple of other youths did a similar thing in the Gorey area.

That was enough to effect the entire set of figures for the county it seems.

 

Wexford drivers carry on drinking and driving

The question of drunk driving has been I the headlines again with the Healy Raes from Kerry acting as a sort of Trojan Horses for the Vintners with their trenchant opposition to proposals to tighten up on the current laws and increase some of the penalties for those caught driving at the lower end of the scale.

Danny Healy Rae made a bit of an ass of himself when he suggested that people’s driving could be impaired as much by a good meal as a few drinks. This sort of trivialisation of the matter should have no place in the debate and I cannot imagine the hurt it causes to those who have lost loved ones as a result of the actions of drunk drivers.

Nevertheless it is probably fair to ask whether or not increasing the penalties for lower level offences is the right way to go. The problem here is that when anyone raises any issue in respect of drunk driving they can be accused of condoning it.

However, the reality is that many drink drivers are not getting the message with the existing laws a fact underlined by the local Garda Chief who  revealed recently that five people had been caught for the offence over the weekend with a sixth person detected at 11am on the Monday morning on the outskirts of Wexford town.

It seems to me unlikely that any strengthening of the penalties at the lower end of the scale will have any impact on these people who pose the greatest danger on the roads.

Surely the first step should be to increase resources and have a nationwide blitz to enforce the existing laws. If this was done relentlessly over a six month period I’d be prepared to bet that initially a lot of people would lose their driving licenses.

At the end of this period the whole thing could be reviewed to see if stronger laws were required for lower level offences.

Meanwhile, maybe the advice should be the next time you have a big meal make sure not to drive=======at least for twelve hours. That’s for two courses, if you indulge in three of four courses you can forget the car for at least a day

 

Timely reminder of problems caused by gambling

There has been a huge emphasise on the issue of mental health all across the county in recent months as public representations, officials bodies and voluntary organisations try desperately to highten awareness of the problem with the hope that people will come forward to get help.

The various campaigns have been spurred on by the large number of suicides which have affected so many local families in recent years.

There is, of course, no clear answer as to why the problem is so acute in this area with some campaigners citing the lack of adequate facilities to provide care for people in difficulties coupled with financial problems, drugs and drink as reasons why so many people find themselves in a very dark place.

However, another reason which is not so often highlighted is gambling and Sinn Fein councillor Anthony Kelly brought a very timely motion to the May meeting of the Co. Council calling on Minister Denis Naughton to introduce legislation to address the easy accessibility to online gambling.

There is evidence that gambling is linked to a lot of mental health problems and is certainly as potentially damaging as alcohol. However, the major betting firms are allowed to glamorise their offerings through programme sponsorship on television and radio  and regular promotions at sporting events.

Cllr. Kelly is right. It is time to bring the betting industry in to line and call a halt  to the repeated ‘in your face’ promotions which suggest that backing a winner and making money is as easy as finding a Leo Varadkar supporter in Leinster House.

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