Despite Covid-19 restrictions, a Fianna Fail government minister is travelling the country to meet local authorities, with a stop-off in Sligo due this Friday afternoon.
It’s not clear at present what Housing Minister Darragh O Brien wants to discuss or announce, but it’s expected that housing and, possibly, urban regeneration will be on the agenda.
However, there are also claims the minister’s trip to nine counties will also help boost his standing among Fianna Fail members ahead of a party leadership contest expected next year.
At the same time as Level-5 restrictions are in place, Minister O Brien is on a nine-county trip announcing grants for regeneration projects.
His schedule includes Dublin, Cavan, Longford, Galway, Carlow, Navan, Limerick and Cork.
He’s expected to be in Sligo this Friday afternoon, when he will meet council officials, councillors and party members.
Before Christmas, he visited the chief executives of 12 local authorities.
The trips are at the same time as other politicians, including local councillors, are using Zoom for various meetings in the effort to reduce travel and curb the spread of the Covid virus.
Minister O Brien’s tour started in his own constituency of Dublin/Fingal last Friday. On Monday morning he travelled to Cavan and, in the afternoon, to Longford.
He’s expected in Galway tomorrow (Thursday) evening and on Friday afternoon in Sligo.
Next week, he’s due in Carlow, Meath and Cork.
A spokesman for the minister says all visits are being done in strict adherence to Covid-19 guidelines.
But some political sources, both locally and nationally, are speculating there may be another agenda.
Labour Party TD Aodhan O Riordan says the only reason the minister needed to be in nine counties in the space of two weeks during a high level of restrictions was if he were running for the leadership of his party.
He adds that it’s not good enough for him to be going more than 5 kilometres from his home:
For now, however, it remains to be seen if his expected visit to Sligo on Friday will include a ‘good news’ funding announcement for the county which, of course, would be welcome in any format — be it in person or by Zoom.