Over 600 people attended the election campaign launch of Fine Gael Deputy Denis Naughten at the Royal Hotel in Roscommon town last Friday night. Special guests on the night were MEP Jim Higgins, Senator Frank Feighan, Deputy Naughten’s fellow Fine Gael front bench spokesperson Olwyn Enright (who launched his campaign), Mayor of Roscommon Co. Council Cllr. Charlie Hopkins and local councillors and party workers. The event MC was Fine Gael national activist and and well-known Roscommon native Michael Miley. The night began with a video presentation which showed Fianna Fail and Progressive Democrat Ministers and the Taoiseach trying to explain their way out of the various crises that befell the current Government over the years and it also showed some of the controversial newspaper headlines over the past ten years affecting the Government. The video was accompanied by the tune ‘Send in the Clowns’ to the amusement of those present. ‘The dye is cast and the election now looms’ was the opening salvo from MEP Jim Higgins. ‘The plain people of Ireland are waiting in the long grass for this Government who have made a cock-up of the health service and who have engaged in squandermania of the public’s money’ he said. ‘We have the highest class sizes in Europe, there is a crime epidemic and inflation is rocketing. It’s time that there was a change and that time is now’ concluded Senator Higgins, to sustained applause. Senator Frank Feighan told the crowd that he was looking forward to the election campaign. ‘I want to pay particular tribute to the people and councillors from South Leitrim where I have got great support.They could not be more helpful to me and with their help I can join Denis Naughten in Dail Eireann after the votes are counted’ he said. ‘I am looking forward to serving in the Dail with Deputy Denis Naughten as a senior government minister. The choice for the people is stark. ‘Do you want Michael Finneran or John Ellis or do you want Denis Naughten, Frank Feighan and Enda Kenny as Taoiseach. I’m confident we can take the two seats but we will have to work hard to get them’. Deputy Olwyn Enright said that she knew Deputy Naughten from their time in Young Fine Gael in UCD. She said that the people of Roscommon/South Leitrim had two great Fine Gael candidates to vote for this time around. ‘Denis Naughten is a very experienced and capable TD yet he is only 33 years of age and I am confident that he and Frank Feighan will do the business for the party and help us get into Government’ she said. Deputy Naughten was the final speaker and he began by saying that the watchword of the present Government was ‘waiting’. ‘People are waiting for operations, waiting on hospital trollies in A&E, waiting for cancer treatment and Breastcheck,waiting for orthodontic treatment for their children and waiting for occupational therapy. Recent announcements were only a sticking plaster solution and an election gimmick’ he said. ‘People are now going in to hospital sick and coming out sicker because of MRSA and other deadly diseases. It can’t go on’ he said. ‘When we are returned to Government we will provide an extra 2,300 beds nationwide and in addition we will provide an additional 1,500 step-down beds to reduce the logjam currently being experienced. ‘This Government are closing down rural Ireland. Post Offices and Garda Stations are closing down every week. The farmers are persecuted with mindless bureacracy and the rural roads network is a joke. There are areas that have no broadband access and there are many other issues too that have to be addressed immediately and we intend to do that when we are in Government.’ On the question of Roscommon Co. Hospital Deputy Naughten says that it is vital that surgical services are retained. ‘On my re-election I will undertake to ensure that no surgical services are removed from Roscommon Co. Hospital and that its current status be fully retained. ‘We intend to establish an A&E unit in Athlone to take the pressure off Portiuncla and Roscommon Co. Hospitals’ he said. He also referred to the big issue of childcare. ‘As a young father I am very aware of what is required in this area. When we are returned to Government we will be providing every child under five years of age with free GP cover while U 16s will be afforded free health insurance and we will be providing far more child care places than has been the case under this Government.’ Denis Naughten also said that care of the elderly and road safety were also his priorities. ‘There are many issues such as insurance for younger drivers, the reform of the driving test and improved road safety measures that have to be addressed and we will do that and the care of the elderly has also got to be addressed and will be reformed under the new Government’ he said. There was also a bit of levity during the speech when he was paying tribute to the support that he was getting from his wife Mary. ‘Her father Larry is not the same politics as me but I hope he will find it in his heart to give me a number one this time’ he said to great laughter. Deputy Naughten concluded by saying that his election and that of his running mate Frank Feighan was very possible and achievable. ‘I am appealing to you all here tonight to get out and work hard. We are starting with a clean slate and every vote will count. If you work hard and stick to your task I am sure that we will have two Fine Gael TDs returned here after the votes are counted in the next few weeks’ – a comment which drew a standing ovation from the crowd present.