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Former WDC chair disappointed with former Taoiseach

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MISSED OPPORTUNTIES Paddy McGuinness has been criticial of Fine Gael's delivery to the western region.

Paddy McGuinness also critical of Fine Gael’s track record for rural Ireland

Edwin McGreal

The former Chairperson of the Western Development Commission (WDC) has revealed his disappointment with Enda Kenny’s tenure as Taoiseach.
Paddy McGuinness is a former Fine Gael councillor and a friend of Enda Kenny but speaking to The Mayo News for our What’s Best for the West series on challenges and opportunities for the western region, he expressed his disappointment with Mr Kenny’s time as Taoiseach from 2011 to 2017.
Mr McGuinness was chairperson of the WDC from 2012 to 2017 and stood aside in 2017, highlighting a number of issues in doing so.
“I wanted to draw attention to my perception of the situation, which is and was that the problems of rural Ireland and balanced regional development do not rate highly at all, at any level,” he said at the time.
He appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in June 2017 where he made a number of strong criticisms (for more see What’s Best for the West, pages 22-23) but felt little has changed since.
“At the end of all of that with the joint oireacthtas committee nothing happened. I’ve been around a long time, when I was in the post office when I was younger I was in the trade union movement and making noise and all my life I was looking at what was right and when something was wrong. The greatest disappointment of all was to chair the WDC at the time when we had a west of Ireland Taoiseach. It was the perfect setup. Money and schemes could have been channeled through the WDC and it would not have raised huge question marks in Dublin but nothing happened,” he told The Mayo News yesterday (Monday).
“I put forward a number of what seemed to me to be good proposals but they did not receive any traction from the then Taoiseach. For instance I did try to have the status of GMIT in Castlebar upgraded and more courses brought in but that didn’t succeed,” he said.  

Fine Gael introspection
A former Independent member of Castlebar Urban District Council, McGuinness served as a Fine Gael member of Mayo County Council from 2004 to 2009 but is critical of the party’s track record on rural Ireland.
“I served as a Fine Gael councillor and did my bit for the party. It sounds like treachery and I hate to say it but if you look at Shannon Airport, Fine Gael opposed it; Bellacorrick power station, Fine Gael didn’t support it. Fine Gael tried to shaft Knock Airport. Fine Gael did nothing to support the drive for the RTC in Castlebar, now GMIT.
“I say that in a constructive way that Fine Gael people maybe need to talk to themselves and say we are now in cahoots with Fianna Fáil and we maybe need to learn from Fianna Fáil and what they’ve done for rural Ireland. Positively, rather than blaming people to right the wrongs that have been inflicted upon us,” he said.
He also criticised a lack of co-operation among counties in the western region and among politicians representing areas who he said are ‘too often too loyal to their party and rural Ireland continues to suffer as a result’.
He is also highly critical of the Civil Service.  
“The real problem lies at permanent government level. Occasionally you get someone like (former minister) Michael Ring who will push back … All in all the thinking at senior civil service level is a bubble thinking. They all get into this group think and everything has to be justified by figures. There is never an initiative taken to put infrastructure in and the demand for it will follow, never front-loaded,” he argued.