A Confirmation party being held in the Oranmore Lodge Hotel got an unexpected surprise when An Taoiseach Enda Kenny dropped by to say hello on a chilly evening last week.
Some got their photos taken, while others watched as the cavalcade that comes with the Taoiseach hurtled down the corridor of the hotel to meet with a waiting audience of supporters.
Also present on Wednesday evening were the three Galway West Fine Gael candidates, outgoing TDs John O’Mahony and Sean Kyne and Senator Hildegarde Naughton.
All three spoke of how keeping on the same path was the best way forward with Deputy O’Mahony, running in Galway West-South Mayo for the first time, in particular using sporting terms to get the crowd of supporters going. “He has united Galway and Mayo,” said An Taoiseach to chuckles from the audience.
The polls suggest Fine Gael will hold one of its two seats in Galway West, and that a second could be a stretch too far. An Taoiseach urged those present to do their best by all three candidates.
Speaking afterwards to the Galway Independent, Mr Kenny addressed concerns in relation to the Emergency Department at UHG, stating that a cost benefit analysis on the new ED is currently underway and is expected to be completed next month.
“A full appraisal and cost benefit analysis will inform the building of the new ED. If this is favourable, it will go to design phase this year. It has to go through this process.”
Flooding remains on the agenda, he added, stating that all agencies have been called together in relation to the River Shannon.
Mr Kenny said that he had visited homes in the South Galway area and witnessed the flooding of businesses and dairies, and the emergency channel that was built to release water from the turloughs.
“In cases of emergency, these kind of works can be carried out. We are fully briefed on the Habitats Directive regarding habitats and water.”
He expects that a decision from An Bord Pleanala on works on the Dunkellin River should be known by next month. Mr Kenny added, “I can’t make the water disappear. The money is committed to the project. In a small number of cases the voluntary provision to build or provide a house in a different location could be the solution. There isn’t any point saying to people if you are getting flooded every year that you have to put up with this. This is too much stress and it’s not something I would support.”
He added that meetings with insurance companies have taken place. “We have asked that if a place is insurable, can it be re-insured?”
As regards solutions to the flooding problem, he added, “If it is possible to have an engineering solution without going to exceptional cost, then that is what we’d like to do.”
After his meeting with supporters, there were a few more photos and discussions with those present in the reception of the hotel before An Taoiseach headed off, firstly to Dublin and early the next morning to Brussels.
As he left, much of the talk among Fine Gael supporters was about how the party will do this time, and who they will form the next government with. With only days to go to polling day, we don’t have long to wait to find out.