A former Cork City councillor, Buttimer was unsuccessful in the 2007 general election but was subsequently elected to Seanad Éireann, where he was Fine Gael’s spokesman on community, rural and Gaeltacht affairs. A former secondary school teacher and director of adult education, Buttimer tells eolas that his passion for politics was ignited at an early age.
How did you become involved in politics?
I grew up in a house where my dad and my maternal grandfather were very involved in Fine Gael. It would be fair to say that politics and our house went hand in hand, especially at election time. As a teenager and even younger I used to drop leaflets at election time. I remember being brought to political rallies, and ard fheiseanna as a young boy. So politics has been central in my life.
How will you contribute to making ‘a better Cork’?
By advocating and proposing positive solutions to making Cork a better place. Cork is a city of educational opportunities, as we have excellent third level institutions and have a very educated young population.
Funding for local initiatives is important but I am very aware of the current economic situation and the difficulties any future government or department will have in funding initiatives. But it would be a role for both local and national representatives that, where funding is available for local projects that they ensure it is spent appropriately with measurable outcomes. We have a vibrant city which offers locals and tourists a choice of festivals and immense culinary variety. Cork requires a convention centre, further action on the Dockland project and completion of key infrastructure projects.
What are your main priorities as a newly elected TD?
Development of legislation to promote and protect employment opportunities. These strategies need to be targeted at different age groups as there are increasing numbers of younger people who have become unemployed but also a significant rise in the number of people in their 30s and 40s who have also recently been made unemployed.
Another of my top priorities would be the reform of the HSE and the manner in which health care is delivered. I believe that the Fair Care model which we are proposing will ensure that people receive better and more equitable access to health services. We need to progress the development of primary care teams in local communities to take pressure of the acute hospitals as well as incentivising local GPs to provide more effective screening and diagnostics.
Our system of government at local and national level needs reform. The number and role of public representatives at different levels needs to be addressed. We need a political system that is smaller, cheaper and better. This will mean less elected politicians, fewer bureaucrats and fewer quangos. I believe that we should introduce changes that will deliver better services, more accountability and greater transparency in the way the political system works.
The single most important issue is job creation and job protection. People are crying out for work and it is important that the new Government in its infancy is placing job creation in its jobs budget at the top of the priority list.
Following my involvement in Operation Transformation and participation in Weigh2live campaign, the issue of men’s mental and physical health is one I intend to highlight whilst actively promoting the importance of taking care of oneself.
As a keen sports enthusiast I would seek to have the capital sports and community grants, which were funded through the National Lottery programme, reinstated. This is money is raised locally and should be spent locally. Community grant funding for the development of youth cafés, older adult projects and community education projects are all important.
How important is the retention of grants for third level education in Ireland?
Continuing access to third level education is important. It is critical that we allow young people the opportunity “to go to college”. Fine Gael, prior to the election, published our policy green paper ‘The Third Way’ which placed reform of the higher education sector as a key driver of our recovery. Education is critical to our ecomomic recovery.
The Programme for Government is clear that Fine Gael and Labour will: “Undertake a full review of the Hunt and OECD reports into third level funding before end of 2011. Our goal is to introduce a funding system that will provide third level institutions with reliable funding but does not impact access for students.”
What three people would you invite to a dinner party and why?
Bill Clinton as he is a man whom I admire greatly and feel he would be an interesting dinner guest.
Alan Shortt (ex Bull Island) because I find him extremely funny and know him personally. He would bring humour to the table.
Jimmy Barry Murphy because he was my early childhood hero and has made an immense contribution to GAA and sport in Cork and Ireland.
How do you spend your spare time?
Canvassing, attending GAA matches, sporting events, cooking, walking, reading and a little bit of gardening.