Noel Grealish is an Irish Independent politician who has been a Teachta Dála for the Galway West constituency since the 2002 general election. He is from Carnmore, near Galway. He was formerly a Progressive Democrats member.
In the Dáil recently, you brought up the need for a ring road in Galway city and the prices of living. Are you confident that there will be change for the better?
Yes, in the Dáil recently, I brought up the issue regarding the ring road. The traffic congestion within Galway city is chronic every morning and evening; people sometimes spend up to an hour and a half or two hours trying to get to work. Hence, there is a need for a ring road to be built, but the project has been deferred back to An Bord Pleanála, so we will have to wait and see what decision will be made by An Bord Pleanála. The Taoiseach did assure me recently that if the project gets the go-ahead, then the project will be built, and the funding will be there. The cost of living has increased drastically due to inflation and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine are the biggest exporters of wheat and corn in the world, so it had a knock-on effect on the cost of living.
What is the role of a TD?
A TD is a national legislator. Our primary role is to bring legislation through the Dáil in various bills and finance. For example, the finance bill is going through the Dáil soon. The budget which we had just before Christmas, so the role of a TD is more or less a national legislator to implement and bring in new laws that affect practically everyone in the country. But, we also do a lot of work in the constituency as well with people coming with issues and concerns. We work with them on the likes of medical cards, social welfare payments and the fair deal scheme. The role of a TD is a seven-day-a-week job. Still, it’s a great honour and privilege to be elected as a TD for Galway West on five or six occasions.
Do you feel the role of TD has changed much since you’ve been elected?
Not really, but I have noticed in the last while is that it’s harder and harder to get people to make a decision. It is difficult to contact people in a lot of government departments and a lot of the local authorities. I know a lot of that has to do with Covid with people working from home, so I’m hoping that role will change and that we will be able to make contact and have meetings again.
Did you always have an interest in politics growing up?
Yes, I had always an interest in politics. My father was heavily involved in Fianna Fáil, and at sixteen years of age, I was delegate for Ógra Fianna Fáil. I used to attend the meetings in Richardson’s bar in Galway city.
Where did you go to school and college?
I went to Carnmore national school, and I then went to secondary school in St Mary’s College, Galway. I then did a week’s course in Harvard University called Approaches for Optimizing Opportunities, which was a great experience. But I really enjoyed my time in school and college.
1999 was the first time you contested an election. How did it make you feel when you were elected to Galway County Council to represent the local electoral area of Oranmore?
Going back to that time, I left Fianna Fáil in 1987. I joined the Progressive Democrats, and coming up to the 1999 local elections, Bobby Molly, the former Minister and TD for Galway West, contacted me and asked would I run. Hence, I got elected, and it was a great honour and privilege to see so many people give me their actual number one vote. A vote is a very precious thing. A lot of countries around the world don’t have one. Hence, it’s great that people put their trust in me in 1999 and every election since then.
You have achieved a lot so far. Is there anything that you are particularly proud of?
Well, there’s a few projects that I worked on. One of them there was the installation of traffic lights at Carnmore crossroads. I also got a sewage scheme set up for Claregalway and the new Garda station in Oranmore. I secured funding for Coláiste na Coiribe in Galway. I was in Carna recently and assisted them in acquiring a million euro of a grant, so there’s lots of things I’m proud of, but there’s a lot of things I’m disappointed with that I didn’t get over the line, but I’m still working on them.
On the 24th of September 2010, you announced that you were withdrawing your support for the government due to health cuts. Do you feel it has got any better since 2010?
No, the waiting lists has got longer. Too much is cramped into University Hospital Galway, and it is such a small hospital. There are twelve minor injuries units around the country and none in Galway. It is one of my big campaigns to get a minor injuries unit built in Galway. It would take a lot of pressure off the U.H.G staff. We also need a new elective hospital in Merlin Park. We also require more home help as the population is increasing and people are living longer, but there is always going to be pressure on the health services.
You have been a good supporter of Galway GAA over the years. How do you think 2023 will go for our footballers and hurlers?
I was at the Galway versus Roscommon game, and I wasn’t too impressed with Galway at that game, but then they went on to beat Tyrone and Monaghan, so we have to be optimistic. Hopefully, they’ll do it. I think the hurlers are going to have a challenge. We have some great games coming to Pearse Stadium in the championship. I think the hurlers might struggle, but the footballers might do all right.
What law changes would you like to see in 2023?
Well, I’m doing a big campaign in the Dáil to get the bail laws changed for people charged with serious crime. When people are charged, they are let back out again, and that needs to stop. A serious criminal should not be allowed out again to re-offend when they are out on bail, so that’s one of the things I want to see change. Also, a person that keeps offending and getting free legal aid that also has to stop. Those are the two big laws I would like to see changed.