Going Green with Garreth

Introducing Garreth McDaid Garreth McDaid is the Green Party candidate in Roscommon/South Leitrim. The 35 year-old lives in Drumshanbo with his wife Kitty and one-year-old son. He is self-employed, designing technology solutions for small companies and individuals. He has been working to build up the membership of the Green Party in the constituency in recent months and is hoping that the Green Party will double its membership to 12 in the next Dáil. He’s the only candidate to date who has got to grips with YouTube as a promotional tool, so it’s fitting that the Green Party candidate Garreth McDaid says he opted to get involved with the Party because it’s focused on the future rather than the past.             Garreth lives in Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim, with his wife Kitty and the couple’s one-year-old son. He works as a self-employed technology consultant.             In taking the political route, it could be said that Garreth is following in his father’s footsteps, as his father Jim is a former Minister for Sport, Tourism and Recreation and is contesting the forthcoming General Election as a Fianna Fáil candidate in Donegal. However, Garreth is not involved in politics because of his family background. In fact, one feels that he’s involved in spite of his family experience rather than because of it. He’s very much his own man and I got the impression that he’s glad to be away from the political cauldron that is Letterkenny at the moment.             ‘I wouldn’t have said it was my family that got me involved in politics. I had left home when my father got elected. It is more that I take an interest in what is going on around me and I am concerned with the way the country is developing.             ‘When I was young, my interest in politics would be more general. When I came to live in this area it would have always have been my intention to get involved in politics locally.’             Garreth has been a member of the Green Party for a year, having previously been a member of the Labour Party. Why the switch? Garreth cites concerns about the direction taken by the Labour Party in recent months. ‘The primary reason was that I was beginning to realise that we have to think into the future and not repeat the same mistakes and I think the Green Party is the only party at the moment that has shown an interest in thinking about the future.’             But what if the Greens end up in coalition with Labour? ‘The nature of Irish politics is that you always going to have to entertain the idea of coalition. You just have to make sure you put your point across as strongly as possible and get your policies implemented.’             The Green Party is currently operating from a low level in County Roscommon. The party unit is organised around a block consisting of Counties Roscommon, Leitrim and Sligo. ‘We have 40 active members and 20 people who are willing to help with the campaign and election in Roscommon. We have been canvassing, mainly in South Leitrim and Roscommon. The reaction is very positive. I’m quite surprised by it. In many areas, it’s pushing an open door, talking to people.’             One issue which Garreth reports that people are very concerned about is planning and the fact that the future of our towns appears to be planned by developers rather than members of the community. ‘People are concerned at the lack of planning. Development is entirely developer-led and there is little interaction with the local community. People find it easy to open up to a Green Party candidate about that.’             I put it to Garreth that members of the farming community would be concerned that the Green Party in government could create difficulties for farmers.             ‘I don’t think the farmers have anything to fear from the Green Party. What they do have to fear is keeping going the way they are going. With more CAP reform and traditional farming becoming less viable and the markets are becoming more and more competitive. We need, before 2013, to think about how agriculture will look in 50 years’ time. The Department of Agriculture is predicting that there will be less than 10,000 farmers in Ireland in 50 years’ time. That’s because of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael policy. The Green Party has a different view. The last thing we want to do is keep going the way we’re going.’             Is he enjoying the work? ‘I do enjoy it. One of the best things about being involved in politics is you get to meet people concerned about society and the way the country is being run. Sometimes when you’re interest in politics, you think you’re the only person concerned and it can be reassuring to know you’re not alone in your concerns.’             A native of Letterkenny, Garreth has been living in Leitrim for just under four years. Before moving to Leitrim, he spent a year living in the UK and six or seven years living in Dublin.             Asked what politician he admires most, he cites Trevor Sargent for his repeated attempts to expose corruption in Fingal County Council in Dublin. Asked about former politicians he admires, he cites Sean Lemass and Garret FitzGerald. ‘Seán Lemass had a lot of vision and on the other side I think Garret FitzGerald had a lot of vision. I don’t think the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have that calibre of politicians any more.’             What would be a good outcome in terms of seats for the Green Party? ‘I’d like to see us get 12 seats, that would be a good return. I think the momentum is there and the mood is there. The Green Party has six at the moment. Going into the 2002 election they had two seats.’             Catherine Ansbro was the General Election candidate in County Roscommon in 2002, but she left the party in 2004. ‘Catherine Ansbro left the party in 2004 and I’m trying to build that up again and that’s bearing fruit now. We’re getting a lot of new members. We have party members and then we have people willing to help and sometimes the people willing to help do more than party members. There seems to be an aversion to joining a political party in Ireland.’             Garreth McDaid is the only one of his siblings involved in politics and many people would have expected him to follow his father into Fianna Fáil. ‘Fewer people are voting for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael now than at any time in our history.’ Is politics as addictive as it’s reported to be? ‘It’s a bug. I wish I could go home and sit in front of the TV and not care about what I see, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.’             Given that he doesn’t have the backing of a wealthy party, how does he intend to promote himself in advance of the election? His website ( www.garrethmcdaid.com ) is one tool which he intends to make the most of. ‘I think I’m the only candidate with a YouTube video,’ reports Garreth.             ‘We don’t take donations from business or corporations. We have committed to only putting up 100 posters in each constituency and then only after the election is called and we will not be putting any up on streetscapes participating in Tidy Towns. We will be sending literature through An Post, so that should make a difference.’             Ever-curious, I decided to check out the aforementioned website and the YouTube promotion. One thing that caught my eye was Garreth’s attitude to the development which has recently taken place in Cootehall. ‘ When I first came to this area, I thought Cootehall was a perfect village. It was built around three sides of triangular green, unlike so many other villages that are built along the sides of national and regional roads. Every house on the green faced every other house on the green, which I though created a real sense of place and community.             ‘This didn’t sit too well with Roscommon County Council, however, so they decided to grant planning permission for 40 holiday homes and helicopter pad on the green. Apparently, tearing the heart out of villages like this promotes economic development. I just wish someone would explain how.’ Ten direct questions we   asked….Garreth McDaid 1. In less than fifty words, can you tell us three reasons why people should vote for you ahead of any other candidate? It’s time that the Green Party was in Government in Ireland. It’s time that we had clean, honest politics. It’s time to move on from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. 2. In less than fifty words, can you tell us how this constituency would be better off in the wake of your election to Dáil Éireann? In the Dáil, people in Roscommon and Leitrim will have a real voice. I’ll put their interests first, and vote on legislation based on their wishes. I’ll stand up for constituents regardless of who they are, where they’re from, who they know or how much money they have. 3. Which of the other declared candidates in Roscommon/South Leitrim (excluding any from your party) impresses you most? Hugh Baxter seems to understand the challenges we face in terms of environmental protection, although I’d prefer if he was more vocal about it. 4. In less than fifty words, what are the three big issues of Election 2007 in this constituency? The regional economy is dependent on the construction industry and this needs to be addressed quickly. We need changes in planning law to ensure that communities have a greater say in how their areas develop. We also need infrastructural investment in terms of public transport, water quality and broadband access. 5. Are politicians unfairly treated in the media and unfairly categorised by the public? Some are, some aren’t. The media plays an important role in holding politicians to account, but promoting the view that the political system is fundamentally corrupt and that all politicians are ‘on the make’ is not in the public interest. 6. There are presently no declared female candidates in this constituency. Do you think this is unsatisfactory and what can be done to redress this imbalance? Yes, it’s disappointing. Statistically, female candidates have a higher chance of being elected than male candidates, so the challenge has to be to get female candidates to run. I think political parties should be required to run a minimum number of female candidates based on the number of candidates they run nationally. If the number of candidates fielded by the larger parties was limited in this way, you’d see more female candidates on ballot papers. 7. How can politicians connect with the Bebo generation? I think they need to loosen up a bit and shoot from the hip a bit more. Young adults want role models and want to be able to respect their elders, but you have to be yourself to earn that respect. 8. How do you relax? I have an old Saab 900 which I like to pull apart and put back together every now and then! 9. Who is the most impressive politician in Ireland – and why? Trevor Sargent. In the early 1990s, Trevor was physically assaulted by Fianna Fail councillors in the the chamber of Fingal County Council when he tried to expose the extent of planning corruption in North Dublin. That sort of courage is rare in Irish politics. 10. If you had to be stranded on a desert island with one of the other candidates in Roscommon/South Leitrim, which one would you choose and why? I think I’d probably take my chances and swim for it!