Rural Independents throw gauntlet down to Fitzmaurice!

The battle for the hearts and minds – not to mention the votes – of rural Ireland has further intensified in the past 24 hours.

Hot on the heels of Roscommon-Galway Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice confirming his interest in establishing a new rural party – a project he has been working on for a few years – comes confirmation of plans for an alliance of rural TDs which does not include Fitzmaurice.

On Wednesday, Cork South-West Independent TD Michael Collins told RTE’s Morning Ireland that as many as 20 ‘independent community rural candidates’ are ready to contest the next General Election as a new party or grouping which will be committed to addressing the many issues facing rural Ireland.

Deputy Fitzmaurice, an Independent TD in Roscommon-Galway since 2016, has spoken in recent days of his long-held view that a new party of rural Independents should be formed.

While it is known that Deputy Fitzmaurice – now an established voice on rural Ireland – has held talks with a number of Independent TDs, Deputy Collins’ interview with RTE hints at divided camps. He is a member of a loose ‘Rural Independents Group’ which does not include Deputy Fitzmaurice, but does include Deputy Collins, as well as Deputies Mattie McGrath, Michael Healy-Rae, Danny Healy-Rae, Carol Nolan and Richard O’Donoghue.

Deputy Collins indicated that he and fellow Independent TDs Mattie McGrath and Richard O’Donoghue have already sourced a number of candidates or potential candidates, adding: “All the best to Michael Fitzmaurice, but we in the Rural Independents are one step ahead of him”.