Tuesday, January 21, 2020

THE Green Party’s Marc Ó Cathasaigh launched his campaign on Monday evening with MEP Grace O’Sullivan present in support and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. Set in the timeless surrounds of the Parlour Vintage Tearooms, all three members of the Green Party sat with the Waterford News & Star to discuss Marc’s candidacy.

The Butlerstown native is the son of Jim and Frances Casey, originally from Hennessy’s Road and Mount Sion Avenue – a fact he is keen for me to know. It is also a point which Grace O’Sullivan MEP makes as she feels that Marc has risen to his current popularity based not on his family name but on his merits, given that he has adopted the Irish version of his name.

The campaign trail has proved positive for the Tramore national school teacher, who said “from my point of view, the condensed time frame has actually been better, because I have been able to take unpaid leave from work and focus on the campaign.”

“Good politics should be about enabling people to make a good choice,” says the Green candidate.

Tramore native Grace O’Sullivan gives strong support to Marc and he credits her success in orchestrating “a huge rebuilding process nationally, leveraged from her success.” Marc originally joined Grace’s campaign in 2016 and notes the reduced numbers in the Green Party at that time and the lack of experience in terms of how to effectively run a campaign. As a candidate, Marc tells me he has honed his skills on the campaign trail.

When asked about the possibility of a Green Party candidate being seen as a single-issue candidate for climate change, Ó Cathasaigh said, “I am a very strong social-democratic and I am the spokesperson for social protection. That’s driven solely from the background I come from with my roots in the city and with St. Paul’s as my secondary school. I’m not someone who is born with a silver spoon in his mouth. I strongly believe that if we are going to make a green transition that we need to make it in a just and fair way. It cannot be a transition which disproportionately affects the lowest in our society. The changes that we need to make need to be made in such a way that we bring everybody with us.”

Addressing the stereotype of being a green member of a Green Party, Ó Cathasaigh acknowledged that he does receive phone calls about trees, bees and the environment in general. However, he is eager to stress that the Green Party’s policies range across a whole suite, including Irish Language policy, mental health policy, educational policies. “We find it difficult to talk about those policies and the merit of those policies because people want to speak to us about particular things but we have a really dedicated policy formation group and I think we can stand against the policies of any party.”

The issue of carbon tax is very relevant currently and what is being met on the doors of the canvas trail is, Marc says, a Fine Gael model of carbon tax.

“It is a socially regressive model, there is no proper ring-fencing and it’s not our model. One thing that is true and cannot be denied is that carbon has a cost and what we need to work out is how we pay for it. Grace has coined the phrase ‘Carbon Cash-Back’ for our model and we want all the carbon tax to be ring-fenced. We cannot build this into day-to-day expenditure because it becomes a revenue stream for the government. This will mean they don’t want to reduce it.”

Marc dismisses the idea of electric cars being “a silver bullet”, instead calling for reduced bus fares, with more regular timetables and more reliable systems, using the no. 360 from Tramore to Waterford as an example. “2% of people use the 360, while the rest drive or carpool to work from Tramore.”

When asked what makes him stand out in this election, Marc said, “I don’t think anyone else is talking about climate change in a real and meaningful way. Every bit of our thinking is suffused with the Green ideology.” He credits Eamon Ryan for the quote, “our economy is a subset of our ecology, not the other way around.”

Waterford is united, Ó Cathasaigh says, in that every single candidate running for election has prioritized 24/7 cardiac health care and nobody holds a different view as to what should be done. All three members agree that Waterford has to be the capital of the South East, with Eamon Ryan commenting that he was influenced by the forward-thinking and enduring efforts of Ó Cathasaigh and O’Sullivan.

When asked if he has any last thoughts to offer, Marc said, “I’m here and not at home watching the match because I have three kids. That telescopes your future by forty years. My kids will be my age and trying to make a life for themselves in 2050 and we are already seeing the impact of climate change now. Where are my children going to raise their children?”

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