Founder of Ireland’s Future, Gerry Loftus, will contest the upcoming general election as an Independent candidate.
The Mayo farmer, who was born in Cloughbrack, at the foot of Nephin Mountain, views this as a “critical election” for the people of Mayo and Ireland.
“We, in the west, and indeed across rural Ireland, are not being represented, politically, socially or agriculturally.”
“We have been underfunded by successive Governments the past 25 years, with all investment going to the east and south,” Loftus added.
Loftus has spent the seven years involved in farmer representation and community activism; he is a former Mayo county chair of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers' Association (INHFA) and its former spokesperson on climate change and forestry.
"For the past number of years, I have been at the forefront of representing farmers, from the west of Ireland in Dublin, the Oireachtas and Brussels," explained Loftus, who ran in the local election in May 2019.
With a belief that a thriving agricultural is critical to the rural economy, Loftus is calling for a total reconstruction of Irish agriculture with equal treatment for all sectors.
He firmly opposes a reduction in the suckler herd and believes that the current level of Sitka spruce plantation is threatening the fabric of rural Ireland.
His prioritises include fighting for equality in CAP, a support for suckler cows and the development of a new and improved Sheep Welfare Scheme.
He said that environmental scheme, that suits land-types in the west, must be introduced and believes the hemp industry has "untapped potential".
He is of the view that Ireland needs to stop importing chemically-produced food to “keep people healthy”.
He reiterated his call for a reformation of Ireland’s health system. He stressed that Mayo University Hospital must not be downgraded to a 'drop-down centre'.
“This hospital was built many years ago and is not at the standard required to provide an acceptable health service for its catchment area.”
“We must dismantle a failed health service and start again. It is past time the people of this country stood up and defended the old, the sick and our children, who are the most vulnerable in society.”
He said that a national campaign and believes that people power will achieve this.
A public meeting, which was promised during Loftus’ local election campaign, will take place at the TF Royal Theatre, Castlebar, Co. Mayo on Thursday, January 23rd at 8.30 pm.
National Planning Framework
He highlighted that small towns and villages are the “lifeblood” of rural Ireland and need to be protected.
He said that the National Planning Framework needs to be revisited as rural areas require local investment and business opportunities.
“Galway and Sligo are proposed hubs in National Planning Framework – there is too much of a distance between these locations, which is why I believe we need a ‘super town’ such as Castlebar or Charlestown.”
“We also need to introduce legislation to stop multinationals taking over our towns and to limit the number of them, e.g. one store per 1,000 of population.”
Loftus would like to see a 30% increase in the state pension for those living alone and said the old-age pension should be paid at 65-years. “There is a €45 difference per week on Jobseeker’s Allowance, which you stay on until 67-years,” he explained.
Loftus said he is committing to fighting for communities, people and issues that are of deep importance to him.
I have seen thriving, rural communities replaced with struggling villages, empty houses and ageing farmers."
"I want people to work with me, a passionate voice for rural Ireland, to secure a better future for our people, rural communities, towns and villages."
“I want to give a voice to rural Ireland. Let's get representation for the west." Loftus concluded.