Hospital and Boyle planning dominated discussion

All nine candidates at last Monday’s debate were reminded that while all would retain their seats on that night, only three will be selected to represent the county at next Thursday’s ballot.             Guests were welcomed to the debate by Editor of the Roscommon People, Paul Healy, who thanked both the candidates and members of the public for their attendance. He said that while the national debates would take place on RTÉ TV, the debate in the Abbey Hotel was more relevant for the people of Roscommon/South Leitrim.             The debate was chaired by Roscommon People Sports Editor Seamus Duke. The first question of the night came from Una Quinn of the Hospital Action Committee. She asked, ‘If elected as a TD how do you propose to maintain and develop acute and 24/7 services at Roscommon County Hospital?’ Deputy Michael Finneran described the issue as the ‘hottest political question in Roscommon.’ He outlined recent investment in the hospital and said, ‘If I am elected you will know we have elected somebody with a track record and who stood the test when the hospital was attempted to be undermined. The best I can say is that, if elected, my position will not change.’ Cllr. John Kelly pointed to the deal Tom Foxe made as an independent to secure the future of the hospital and said that people are talking about the hospital nearly 20 years later because there is no commitment to the hospital’s future.             Cllr. Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked ‘What is the candidates’ opinion on the issue of incineration. Is it the answer or what is the attitude of candidates?’ A lively debate ensued on that topic, with all candidates in favour of increasing recycling levels, but having different opinions on what should be done with the remainder of the waste. Deputy John Ellis said that the Government did decide to support a number of incinerators in the country and said that waste reduction is the key. Deputy Denis Naughten said that 90 percent of the baby milk produced in Europe is produced in Ireland because of low dioxin levels and that would be lost of incineration is introduced.             Sean O’Dowd asked about planning in the Boyle area. Senator Frank Feighan said that he believed that a ‘cabal’ in the Department of the Environment wanted to see Lough Key as a national park. Noel O’Gara answered saying, ‘the incineration matter has got a planning background because it’s a planning issue. Why I am entering politics is that I want to get back to the land.’ Garreth McDaid said that he thinks Lough Key would be a perfect location for a national park, one of only six parks in the country. ‘Look at Cootehall and tell me that we need another 300 houses in Lough Key,’ said Mr. McDaid.             George McCourt asked about water quality, asking what politicians had done in relation to County Roscommon to deal with this potential problem. Candidates were also asked about solving the nurses’ strike. Hughie Baxter said that he would sit down and talk to them, Martin Kenny said that he would give them what they want and Noel O’Gara said, ‘It goes back to planning.’             Asked who would the various candidates go into government with, Denis Naughten said, ‘I believe this will be Fine Gael and Labour’s turn.’ Martin Kenny said that Sinn Féin is already in government in six of the 32 counties and the Dáil would be no different. John Kelly quipped that he would ‘