A Very Different Election !
McGuinness in a fight to hold his seat.
Mr. McGuinness is increasingly seen by many as a capable and courageous man who stood up to the Party leadership and the civil services mandarins before public confidence in the political system collapsed.
- John Drennnan, Sunday Independent, March 21st 2010
As he faces into the most difficult election of his career, which, many commentators believe, will leave him fighting for the last seat, we spoke to John McGuinness about the choices he made over the last four years, the current state of the country, his political philosophy and his hopes for the future.
Please click on the question to see Johns answer
Why should the people of Carlow/Kilkenny vote for you?
politician this constituency has had in a very long time. I have
stood up and made a difference. And, if that was not enough, it was not
for the want of trying
Locally, I run what must be the best staffed and most efficient constituency office in the country. Many people do not understand it will have to close if I am not re-elected, removing from the constituency an important social support centre.
Funded partly out of my own pocket, the office currently provides support, advice and assistance to individuals, families and communities throughout Carlow/Kilkenny. Personally, I am available 24/7, my mobile number is public property and there are many people in this constituency who will attest to the fact that I go hard miles for every genuine case brought to my attention, and their lives are better because of the work I and my office do.
Nationally, I fought with the leadership of my party over change and direction, often doing a better job than the opposition. On behalf of my constituents, I confronted government departments and semi-state bodies when I believed it was necessary. Throughout my years as a politician, I have given strong, passionate and determined leadership.
I believe that this election will see the end of gombeen, slap-on-the-back, we’ll-look-after-you politics. People don’t want to be ‘looked after’. They want leadership and politicians committed to public service, not self service, who stand up and speak out. I hope that is what they vote for in the election, because politics in this country has to change.
There is a list of candidates in this election which voters can look at and decide who they would like to have, working for the country or on their side when they are in a corner, fighting against the odds. I believe my work as a public representative will stand up to the closest scrutiny. People know they can rely on me when the chips are down.
I am a community leader. I am with the people and for the people. And I will account to the people for what I do.
I don’t make promises or talk about what I will do in the future. I point confidently to what I have achieved and hope that counts with the citizens when they go to vote.
I think people would agree that you have worked, but they are angry and this may work against you.
People have a right to be angry, and frustrated and distressed. I
share that anger and I understand the distress. It has been a hugely
disappointing four years. Every pillar of our society seems to have let us down, but we will rebuild and make better.
I can only hope my record of work and commitment over a long period of
time is valued, because the work I do and the way I do it will be needed
more in the future than it was in the past. I will continue to honour the trust people have placed in me. I have the experience, backbone, ability and commitment to play a positive role in the next Dáil, in government or opposition.
I will only achieve that if the people I have worked for vote for me on election day. They know the depth of my commitment and the need for what I do locally, and my record, when compared to that of any of the other candidates, speaks for itself.
Your reputation for standing up is well known, but people are confused about the fact that you voted with the government on legalisation you disagreed with. Can you explain this?
Abstaining or voting against a bill in the Dáil makes you a hero in your constituency for a day and puts you outside your party for the life of that Dáil, unable to influence legislation and fight for your beliefs and constituents where it counts.
The people of Carlow/Kilkenny didn’t send me to the Dail to be a hero for a day. They sent me to be a worker and make the best decisions and agreements I could in their interest.
The politicians who make this point against me know full well what the real situation is. They are subject to the same rules themselves and, in government, will do the same thing.
What do you think the country should do now?
We need to look past the pain, learn from the mistakes and build a new republic where politicians deliver creativity, responsibility and change and put good governance at the heart of the way this country is run.
Above all, we should begin to hope, because hope is positive; it is confidence in the future and a belief that we can make it. What we hope for we will achieve.
We have what it takes. We are a proud, educated, brave people and we can rebuild and make better. With more help, our small and medium enterprises can expand. Agriculture and tourism have potential and possibilities that has never been fully understood and they must now be developed. We remain a very attractive country to inward investors and we need to continue to sell that abroad. We have a lot going for us and we should now begin to concentrate on the positives rather than worry about the past.
We need to hope, regain our confidence and back the future.
Do you understand that even people who respect the work you do, and what you stand for, are troubled because you are a Fianna Fáil T.D.?
Also, I suspect that in their hearts they would be troubled if I became a turncoat and walked away from a party I had been in all my life, just because it had lost its way. I stayed and fought for its soul and now, under Micheál Martin, I believe in time, it will restore its reputation and renew its connection with the Irish people.
Look, jerseys are damaged or made great by the people wearing them, be it black and amber, red, yellow and green or the colours of political parties. The Irish people are the selectors: through the ballot box they pick the politicians they want to represent them.
Frankly, too many of those selected four years ago, in government and opposition, did not participate with the necessary pride, passion and commitment, leaving it to a few, on both sides of the Dáil, to do their best to turn the tide. I was one of those.
I wasn’t going to throw a jersey created by men like De Valera and Lemass on the ground, walk off and sit on the sidelines, an independent, doing nothing. The people of Carlow/Kilkenny trusted me and selected me and, out of respect for them, I did my best: I challenged Brian Cowen publicly: I stood with the I.F.A., against my minister and my department, in defence of Irish agriculture; I lost my ministry because I stood up and spoke out for transparency, accountability and reform and challenged ministers and state agencies defending the rights of the people I represent.
I am sorry about what happened, but I am proud of my record. I hope people who worry about the jersey will look at the work John McGuinness does, the battles he has fought and the commitment he gives. It is people not jerseys or promises that make a difference.
What is your political philosophy?
Finally, how are you approaching this election and what do you think are your chances of being elected?
I think my chances are 50/50 and I will end up fighting for the last seat. My success will depend on voters in my own backyard: the people of Kilkenny City and North Kilkenny who have always supported me and, after that, the many across Carlow/Kilkenny who have experienced the worth of what I do. I hope that they and their families and friends will back me now.
I hope those who want to vote for me will do so, despite the jersey I wear, and those who always voted for me will do so in numbers. This is a very different election.