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Noel Coonan – Candidate Interview

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The Tipperary Times recently spoke to Noel Coonan. The outgoing North Tipperary TD is seeking re-election to the Dáil as part of the new Tipperary Constituency.

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Paddy Ryan – Noel, you’re very well known in the Northof the county, but with the new constituency some people in South Tipperary may not know you as well. Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Noel Coonan: Thanks Paddy, I’m from Gortnagoona outside Roscrea. I’m a Fine Gael TD and I have been on a number of boards in the last Dáil. I was Vice Chairperson of the Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht. In the previous 30th Dáil, Noel was Fine Gael’s Deputy Spokesperson on Agriculture with Special Responsibility for Common Agricultural Policy Reform. I am also the President of the Michael Collins 22 Society

Beyond the world of politics, I follow football & hurling and sport in general, spending time with my family, reading, travelling

PR – What experience do you have which would be beneficial to you representing the people of Tipperary?

NC – Having represented Tipperary for over 13 years as a Senator and TD, and previously as a County Councillor, I have an indepth knowledge of the requirements of the Tipperary community which will be beneficial if I am re-elected to the 32nd Dáil.

During those 13 years I was fully committed to representing the people on local and national issues. I took every opportunity to improve the quality of life for the people of Tipperary, contributing in particular to job creation, agriculture, health, education, sporting infrastructure, tackling rural crime and the recruitment of more Gardai.

PR – Tipperary is now a 5 Seater Constituency covering an area from Clonmel to Roscrea and beyond. How do you feel you can adequately represent people from such diverse areas of such a large county

NC – I would consider it an honour to serve the people of the entire county of Tipperary and would relish the opportunity. Over my years as a Public Representative, I have gained a deep understanding of the issues affecting the daily lives of our people. I will work with my fellow TDs and County Councillors to ensure that full representation is provided for all our communities.

PR – What are the red line issues for you in this election campaign? These are issues which you will not support in government or opposition

Any decrease in training at Templemore Garda College, reduction in services at community nursing units, any reduction in the delivery of health services or social welfare

PR – As many as 13 candidates will be running in the General Election in County Tipperary. Why should people give you their number one vote ahead of other candidates, some of whom may have similar experience

NC – Sometimes it’s hard to believe where we were five years ago. People losing their jobs.  People leaving the country. People having fears and doubts about the future.

Recessionary measures impacted deeply on Tipperary families and their livelihoods – but now, their hard work and patience is starting to pay off. The recovery is happening.

I want this recovery to continue and I want Tipperary people who made such sacrifices to benefit from the recovery most and ensure it reaches every townsland and every kitchen table in Tipperary.

Unlike those who serve at the top table, I look after my people on the ground. I have always been on their side and will serve and deliver for them over the next five years in important areas such as employment, health, education, policing, rural development and housing.

I want Tipperary to be the best county in Ireland in which to live and do business.

PR – Noel, you are an experienced Fine Gael TD. Some candidates will not have come through the same local political and national system. What committees have you been part of?

NC – I am Vice Chairperson of the Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht. This Committee has an important broad remit, covering aspects such as climate change, planning matters and promoting Irish heritage and culture.

I was a member of the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Energy & Natural Resources

In the 30th Dáil, I was Fine Gael’s Deputy Spokesperson on Agriculture with Special Responsibility for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Reform.

I am President of the Collins 22 Society and involved in extending the influence of Michael Collins by promoting his life and his ethos.

PR – Fine Gael have been critised for providing a recovery for those at the top in society rather than those who are less well off. Do you believe this is true and how do you believe that this can be addressed.

NC – I disagree strongly. Unemployment is the main source of inequality and unfairness and jobs are the only sustainable route out of poverty. Our policies have helped businesses create 135,000 jobs since 2012 and cut the unemployment rate from a peak of 15% to 8.6%. At the same time we have restored the minimum wage and have just increased it. We now have a Long-Term Economic Plan to keep the recovery going. This plan will ensure everyone who wants a job can get one, that work will always pay, and will provide the necessary resources to invest in better public services.

PR – There is a rural urban divide where many jobs are being invested in urban centres such as Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway. What do you believe is key to investment in local jobs in Tipperary? What is your experience in job creation in Tipperary and what will you do if elected to generate more jobs in the county? How many jobs have you secured for Tipperary?

NC – Unemployment has dropped by 25% in Tipperary since Fine Gael entered Government in March 2011.

Since the Action Plan for Jobs was launched in 2012, 136,000 more people are back at work and unemployment has dropped to 8.6%.  Almost 60% of the new jobs are outside Dublin, every region is now experiencing jobs growth and falling unemployment. It is not just a Dublin based recovery and Tipperary is also feeling the benefit. All of the regions recorded increases in full-time employment in 2015 and it was not exclusive to urban areas. Our Regional Action Plans for Jobs are designed to increase employment in every region by 10-15% between now and 2020.

As part of the Fine Gael party, I contribute towards party policies that provide a positive environment for job creation in Tipperary. We provide incentives and help for Tipperary businesses for example the Tipperary Local Enterprise Office which is a valuable resource.

I believe inward investment is vital to job creation as we have seen with 300 new jobs in Nenagh with American company First Data and 300 jobs in Cashel thanks to US drugs manufacturer Amneal. There has been many more job announcements including 200 jobs at Eishtec Clonmel, 100 jobs at Ribworld in Fethard, 60 at Farm Relief Services in Roscrea, 152 jobs at ABP Cahir, An Post sorting office Roscrea, Dairy technology firm Oculer also created employment.

Enterprise Ireland figures for 2015 show that the Government’s job creation plan is working in Tipperary, where 5,264 people are employed in the 122 companies supported by the Department of Jobs, through Enterprise Ireland. These companies created 382 additional new jobs in Tipperary in 2015.

Fine Gael’s future Jobs Plan would bring total employment in the State to 2.18 million – higher than at any point in the country’s history.  The plan also commits to having the employment rate in every region of the State, including Tipperary, within 1% of the national average of 6%.

Fine Gael’s Long Term Economic Plan has 3 Steps that offers our people the stability and certainty needed to keep the recovery going:

1. More and Better Jobs – 200,000 extra jobs by 2020 with 70,000 emigrants returning to take up jobs and the introduction of a €4bn Jobs Fund.

2. Making Work Pay – abolishing the USC over 5 years and reforming the welfare system to make work always pay more than welfare.

3. Investing in Public Services – with more people at work and paying taxes we will be able to recruit 10,000 extra nurses, teachers and Gardai.

PR – With an impending referendum on 8th Amendment, would you be campaigning for its repeal or to maintain the status quo?

NC – The way I favour the 8th amendment being dealt with is through the proposal to establish a new Citizens’ Assembly. Any proposals emerging from the Citizens’ Assembly would then be considered and examined in detail. I welcome the fact that a free-vote is being granted to Fine Gael members in the next Dáil.

PR – With Agriculture facing significant challenges in the coming years, what policies will you introduce to help support the sector

NC – Fine Gael recognise the agri-food sector as the most important indigenous sector in the Irish economy, with the ability to transcend poor economic forecasts and to perform extraordinarily well through difficult times.

Fine Gael’s strategic management of the sector has resulted in a period of substantial success, with exports now exceeding €10.8bn, over 45% of an increase on 2009.

Fine Gael successfully negotiated a reformed common agriculture programme, guaranteeing more than €12.5 billion to assist the sector in achieving its ambitions, supporting communities and ensuring that the recovery is felt across the country.

Fine Gael believes that the success of Irish agriculture is rooted in local communities and by strengthening the global reach of quality Irish produce through Food Wise 2025 we can ensure that Irish farmers benefit from emerging opportunities in the decade ahead.  By 2025, we will deliver:

• An increase in value of exports by 85% to €19bn
• An increase in value added by 70% to €13bn
• An increase in value of primary production by 65% to almost €10bn
• The creation of a further 23,000 jobs in the agri-food sector

Politics

McGrath calls on political parties to form grand coalition

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“The time has come to consider forming a National Government,” Mattie McGrath

Independent TD Mattie McGrath has said that strong consideration must be given to the idea of forming a National Government in order to avoid destabilising level of political impasse. Deputy McGrath went on to say that such arrangement could utilise the d’Hondt method as a fair means of allocating positions and seats within such a government :

“Given that we are in such unchartered territory and given the absolute necessity of ensuring we have some kind of political stability for our people, then I believe all options should be considered with respect to government formation.

The single most important objective here is that we create conditions where the needs of the people can be met.

It is time to set aside narrow political interests and to put the needs of the people first.

If that involves all parties and groupings in the Dáil compromising in order to agree a common government platform, the maybe that is something we ought to consider.

This election has sent the political class a clear message from the people; they want delivery, they want results.

We all should be courageous and imaginative enough to consider any option which will bring that about including that of a National Government,” concluded Deputy McGrath.

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Community

Lowry Welcomes Funding for Tipperary Animal Welfare Organisations

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I welcome the announcement from the Department of Agriculture today that six Tipperary Animal Welfare Organisations will benefit from €86,000 between them.

Applications for 2020 funding will be open soon. All applicants must be registered with the Charities Regulator.

Cappanagarrane Horse Rescue, Mullinahone – €6,000

Great Hounds in Needs, 7 Cois Coille, Kilcash, Clonmel – €2,000

Mo Chara Animal Rescue, Ballygemmane, Thurles – €14,000

PAWS Animal Rescue, Mullinahone – €45,000

Roscrea SPCA, Roscrea – €18,000

The Haven Rescue, Tipperary, C/o 26 The Haven, Roscrea – €1,000

Funding for Animal Welfare Organisations is vital for them to continue to carry out their work.

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Politics

The people will no longer tolerate political excuses for lack of delivery – Mattie McGrath

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Independent TD Mattie McGrath has warmly thanked the people of Tipperary for renewing their confidence and trust in him after he was re-elected following Saturday’s General Election. Deputy McGrath, who received 13, 064 votes in the 2016 General Election increased his vote this time around to 15, 127. Speaking after his re-election he went on to say that the outcome of the national vote was a clear and unequivocal rejection by the public of the arrogance and unwillingness of the Fine Gael and Fianna Fail to effectively respond to the core issues affecting the majority of ordinary people’s lives:

“At the outset I want to salute and warmly thank the great people of Tipperary for renewing their trust in me.

I am truly humbled by their confidence and will do everything in my power to honour the mandate they have given me by representing their interests in Dáil Eireann.

I also want to thank the amazing work of my entire campaign staff; my Campaign Manager and daughter, Triona O’Flynn, my wife Margaret and all my family and friends who have sustained me and supported me and without whom I simply could not do what I do.

They have worked tirelessly, night and day, to canvas the enormous geographical area of Tipperary and to meet the people on my behalf when I could not be there personally.

As we go forward from here, I think it is absolutely clear that politics in Ireland simply has to change.

It must re-engage with the day to day priorities of people’s lives especially around health and housing.

The government, whoever it will be, must listen and act in the people’s interest. It cannot be politics as usual once they have their feet under the Ministerial tables.

We must rid our politics of the kind of elite detachment that came to characterise the outgoing government.

We must escalate change and bring about genuine improvements in the quality of life of our people. The people are sovereign. The last government ignored that basic political reality by pushing ahead with failed policies, massive over-spends and a culture where accountability was almost completely absent.

The people have now enforced accountability upon them in the most democratic way possible.

I look forward to playing an active part in the talks that lie ahead and to advancing the interests of the people of Tipperary,” concluded Deputy McGrath.

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