Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald is confident the party will defend all three seats it currently holds across Cork City and county in the upcoming general election.
She was speaking as she joined incumbent TD in Cork South Central, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, on a canvass in Greenmount, where housing, homelessness, and the pension issue dominated the conversations at the doorsteps.
Mr Ó Laoghaire and Pat Buckley will be hoping to retain their seats in Cork South Central and Cork East, respectively, while councillor Thomas Gould hopes to hold on to the seat being vacated by Jonathan O’Brien in Cork North Central. Paul Hayes will be looking to take a seat in Cork South West.
“We will be defending all of the seats that we hold. I think Paul Hayes is going to perform very strongly. I think he’s very well established and regarded within his community,” said Ms McDonald.
On the canvass in Greenmount, housing and home retrofitting were top of the agenda, with a number of residents complaining of dampness, mould, and unsuitable accommodation for their needs.
The Sinn Féin leader told one voter:
“We’re out campaigning in an election because we want Eoghan Murphy, who is the housing minister, not to be the housing minister any more. We have somebody on our team who can actually do the job, and do it with the urgency and pace that people require.”
The pensions issue was also raised, with Ms McDonald saying that both leaders “fudged” the issue when asked about it in the first leaders’ debate on Wednesday night.
“Very slowly and quietly, if they have their way, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will have people working until they’re almost 70, whether they want to or not,” she said.
“We believe in a prosperous society that when you hit the age of 65, you have to be entitled to your State pension, and then you can choose. Some people will want to work on, but other people, for a whole range of reasons, will wish to retire.”
Ms McDonald also called for sentencing guidelines to be implemented to ensure “serious crimes attract serious penalties” following recent incidents in Cork and Drogheda.
She said people often tell her the punishment rarely matches the crime in Ireland, and she called for a review of the judicial system generally. “There’s no doubt that there are special measures needed to deal with the level of depravity of the crimes that we’re seeing.
“We shouldn’t be knee-jerking — we need to be thoughtful, we need to be determined, and, above all, we need to get these thugs off the street.”
Ms McDonald called for maximum recruitment in An Garda Síochána, as well as reviewing community supports.
The Sinn Féin leader also wants good contact to be established, especially with young people in the community, to avoid people “falling into this way of life, this so-called gangland activity.”