Liadh Ni Riada calls for ‘new president for a new Ireland’ on Limerick visit

Fintan Walsh

Reporter:

Fintan Walsh

Presidential hopeful Liadh Ni Riada, MEP Ireland South

Presidential hopeful Liadh Ni Riada, MEP Ireland South

MEMBER of European Parliament and presidential hopeful Liadh Ni Riada has said Brexit will be a “disaster for everybody” and will have knock-on effects for businesses in Limerick.

Ms Ni Riada, who is one of six candidates on the presidential ticket, said it is important that the Republic and Northern Ireland are not left behind after Britain leaves the EU next March.

Just a week after her Sinn Fein colleagues nominated her to run for Aras an Uachtaran, Ms Ni Riada - who has been an MEP for Ireland South since 2014 - spoke to the Limerick Leader about her vision for the next seven years. 

Though she is a Corkonian, the presidential hopeful says she is familiar with Limerick’s landscape, having lived on South Circular Road while attending Laurel Hill Colaiste.

Asked why the people of Limerick should vote for her, Ms Ni Riada said she has credentials, being an MEP for four years, and that she has stood in solidarity with Shannonsiders on a number of issues, including the recent Limerick Against Pollution movement.

“I want to bring a fresh voice. I want to be a new president for a new Ireland and bring us to a new chapter in our lives because we have another seven years to plan out. Even though we have become a very modern, progressive society when we see Repeal the 8th, marriage equality, we are still in crisis when we see 10,000 being homeless and when we see soup kitchens all over the place. It’s not an Ireland that’s friendly in terms of those who are stricken with poverty, of which there are more and more,” she said. 

Though the office of Uachtaran constitutionally precludes the president from being politically involved, the Cork MEP said that she would use her role as president in influencing legislators in Leinster House.

“Certainly, I’d be using my role as president within the parameters. Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson already have paved the way in that. I would hope to lead in that vein. I would address the houses of Oireachtas, Seanad and the Dail, as is the remit of the president, to remind them, perhaps. To talk to them, to urge them that they have a duty of care when it comes to legislation. I know how legislations work, being a legislator in the European Parliament. But I do think that the president can almost be like the heartbeat and pulse of the nation. It’s about being that ordinary person representing the ordinary people, reminding the legislators who sometimes get into this bubble in Leinster House,” she explained last week. 

But the biggest issue that has landed on her desk since 2016 has been Brexit, which is showing no signs of resolution as Theresa May’s Chequers Deal has failed to woo the top dogs in Brussels. It is likely, many believe, that come March there will be no deal between Britain and the EU.

This will have serious implications for everyone, including Limerick people, Ms Ni Riada says.

“Brexit is going to be a disaster for everybody, and it looks like it’s going to be no-deal. We are going to lose an awful lot of structure of funding, obviously in the North, that is going to be gone.

“This is about making sure that Ireland isn’t left behind, that Ireland isn’t thrown down and thrown under the bus as collateral damage for Brexit.

“For Limerick, it’s going to be obviously, in terms of trade, customs, tariffs, all of that, and for companies trading with Britain in terms of exports and imports, that’s going to have a knock-on impact, no doubt,” she said. 

Two weeks ago, journalist Gemma O’Doherty addressed councillors at Limerick City and County Council, claiming that Limerick had a major crime problem. Journalists, politicians and members of the public expressed outrage at that remark. Ms Ni Riada said O’Doherty’s claim was “grossly exaggerated”. 

“Look it, I don’t think it’s even worthwhile talking about someone who didn’t actually get on the ticket. When I was going to school in Limerick, it had this reputation for a violent city. I never saw that when I was in Limerick. I have always felt very safe. I see Limerick in a really positive light. I get nothing but vibrancy from Limerick.”

In this unusual presidential race, there are just three existing politicians and three businessmen-cum-reality TV stars; the incumbent Michael D Higgins, Ms Ni Riada, Senator Joan Freeman, and Dragons Den stars Sean Gallagher, Gavin Duffy and Peter Casey.

Speaking on the three businessmen, none of whom are elected politicians, Ms Ni Riada said: “They’re probably looking at this as a big ego trip for them. I don’t think any of them have the credentials. I’d like to know what have they actually done in terms of a track record, in terms of looking after our vulnerable and our most marginal citizens. I haven’t seen any evidence in their track record.”

And while she was critical President Higgins’ no-show at an RTE debate this week, she says he served the country well. The presidential election will take place on October 26.