In the shadow of University Hospital Limerick, where 55 people lay on a trolley in the emergency department last Wednesday, there’s only one thing on the minds of the residents of Gouldavoher for Fine Gael Senator Maria Byrne.
“Hello how are-”
“Yes the beds in the hospital-”
“That’s what we’re worried about,” says an elderly couple in unison.
This is Maria’s second canvass of the day, and she has two special guests in tow - former housing minister Michael Noonan and MEP Seán Kelly.
“I’m overwhelmed by the amount of people who have come out to support me, it’s been so positive from both political and non political people so it’s been great,” says Maria.
“The short campaign makes it difficult to get to everyone but you just have to meet as many people as you possibly can. Since I was selected I was out every week going door to door, so I’m well used to it.
“I’m 21 years in this now, and before that my father was involved in politics so I was out with him and with Michael here,” she adds, “I’ve gotten great support from friends and family, and of course from Michael so it’s been fantastic.”
In relation to the trolley crisis, Maria says: “It has been one of the most recurring topics, certainly”.
She tells the elderly couple, “It was downgraded back in 2009, the other beds-”
“That’s 2009, it’s 2020 now,” quips the woman.
“I know,” Maria continues, “our population has grown, at the time the money wasn’t there.”
“But what’s happened since 2009? That happened then. What we want and need to know is what happens now?”
“I know that, and currently the 60 beds are under construction and there’s a further 96 gone to planning.
“The staff for the 60 beds, which will be opened this year, are being taken on next month.
“The second MRI has gone in, which discharges around 30 extra people per day and the small injuries unit in St John’s is now open too during weekends and for longer hours,” replies Maria.
These stats have been learnt off by heart, and they’re just as familiar to these locals.
“It’s still not adequate, it’s just not enough. I know it’s an improvement,” says the man.
“When I came in 2011, there was no money there for it. Now we’re finally moving in the right direction,” says Maria, and with a firm handshake and a request for a number one, we’re off to the next neighbour.
“I’ve one question for you - what are you going to do about St Johns? Is it going to be kept open?”
“St Johns? Yes of course it’ll be kept open-”
“It hasn’t got the same resources as UHL but it’s something I’m committed to keeping open,” says Maria.
Maria recently stated that Fianna Fail “betrayed” taxpayers when they crashed the economy and are doing it again by effectively hiking taxes.
“It’s for this reason that we are ensuring that nobody has to pay the top rate of tax until they earn €50,000 a year and that anyone earning less that €20,000 will not be levied with USC.
Maria continued by saying: “it is just wrong that a worker on €39,000, €42,000 or the average wage of €47,596 has to pay the higher rate of tax.
“Fianna Fáil, instead, believes that workers on the average wage should have their taxes hiked.
“Under Fine Gael the tax band (or standard rate cut off point) is increasing to €50,000 so there will be no tax increase for middle-income earners,” she said.
We make our way to another home, the light rain starting to pick up and umbrellas begin to appear from the canvass team.
“Some of the doorbells aren’t working,” says Maria as she rattles the letterbox.
A bedroom window opens overhead, and an elderly woman sticks her head out and peers down.
“Is that you Maria Byrne?” she asks in a soft, gentle voice.
”It is, it’s me,” Maria beams up, the rain dotting the lenses of her glasses.
“How are you?” the woman asks, the first time Maria’s been asked on the canvass.
”I’m very well.”
”You’re getting my vote,” says the woman, pointing down with a smile.
“..and you’re the only one that’s getting it!”
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