ANOTHER knock on the door and another smiling face answers. If the warm welcomes and first name greetings are anything to go by, Fianna Fail Councillor Michael Collins is a popular figure in these parts. But then again, that is no surprise, as the people of Knockane Road, Newcastle West, are not only potential voters, they are Cllr Collins’ neighbours.
Despite the amiable attitude displayed by those greeting Cllr Collins and his cohort of canvassers, there was plenty of ‘serious talk’ to be had.
Issues such as rural crime, hospital overcrowding, access to disability services and property taxes were all open to discussion.
He made it clear he wasn’t one to shy away from a debate, and eagerly answered any questions that he was asked.
“I would think he would do very well in the Newcastle West area, not even just in Newcastle West. He’s well known and well popular,” said his neighbour, Eileen, who greeted the candidate as a friend and assured him that he had her vote.
“He is very active in the local area. If there is a problem raised in the local Facebook group, he is all over it,” she added.
Others were more serious with the Fianna Fail man, pressing him on issues they felt needed to be addressed.
“One of the biggest issues for me is the respite centre in Mungret. It is built and it is lying idle,” said Michael McQuinn, who spoke to Cllr Collins on the door.
“It cost a lot of money to build, and it’s just lying there. I have a grandson who requires it. For the parents, it is a 24-hour job,” he added.
Cllr Collins reassured his neighbour that this was an area that he himself was personally invested in.
“Disability is something that is close to me. It is one of the areas that if elected, I want to make an issue of it. It is an issue that if elected, I would campaign for. Because they are a forgotten people. If elected it is an area that I will fight tooth and nail for people with disabilities,” said Cllr Collins.
“I want the property tax gone,” said another neighbour, laughing and joking with the councillor, despite the serious nature of his demand.
“Well the property tax is quite a small tax. Compared to what they are paying in England,” replied Cllr Collins.
“Don’t mind England, they're not even in the European Union,” was the witty reply from the door.
With Knockane Road sitting on the fringes of Newcastle West, rural crime was an issue that seemed to be on everybody’s lips.
Rural crime is a big issue. There is a lack of gardai. In Newcastle West town, we are waiting for the last five years for a new garda station. There is a minister in the town and he has let the town down,” said Cllr Collins.
The overcrowding issue in UHL was also an ever prevalent issue and was brought up by numerous people who answered the door to Cllr Collins.
The trolley crisis is huge here. There are other issues, but it’s the trolley crisis coming up again, again and again, because it affects everyone,” he said.
The rise of the Green Party seemed to be another subject of contention with those on the doors. With farming being a big source of employment in the area, the potential voters were cautious of a Fianna Fail/ Green Party coalition, and what that would mean for their way of life.
“Rural people are very concerned with the Green Party, and the policies they have, which will close down rural Ireland. We will have to see how the numbers stack up after the 8th of February, but I wouldn't want to be doing business with the Greens or Sinn Fein,” said Cllr Collins.
However, he was also quick to point out what he himself was doing in support of the environment.
“I am running a poster-free campaign. That is a big issue for me. I am doing that for the betterment of the environment.”