As we walk on the road from Thomastown to Graignamanagh with St Columba's Hospital, barely visible in the background, the talk between myself and Deputy John Paul Phelan turns to St Columba's and the fact that most people in the area have an association with it, whether they or their loved ones work there or because they have someone resident there.
The outgoing Fine Gael TD, who is seeking re-election, disclosed that five years ago after being elected, the then Minister for Health, James Reilly was presented with a list of geriatric hospital to be closed, St Columba's hospital, Thomastown was on that list.
A new hospital will be built on the existing site at a cost of E21 million and the money has been ring fenced.
“In fairness to Reilly, Phil Hogan and myself we succeeded in safeguarding it.”
He is worried he will lose his seat and said that in urban areas, one of the main issues is employment.
“People are not feeling any benefit from the recovery, they see more activity but its not improving their lot, they say it is more centred in Dublin,” he acknowledges.
Before we headed out from his office in Thomastown we met up with canvassers; Cllr Fidelis Doherty and her daughter Katie, Richard Galwey, Margaret and Cllr Pat Dunphy, Catherine Phelan, Hanna Holden, Tom Barron, Michael Frenery, Joey O'Hanrahan.
Unlike other teams, there are no instructions as they go to places like Mong and Dangan Terrace.
We head out the country, on the road to Graig where we stop at the Prendergast household where we are met by sixth year Pres student, Grace (a first time voter) and her father, Martin.
“There are five Fine Gael votes in the house, he said as John Paul was asked in for a cup of tea by members of the hurling mad family. He receives a similar reception where ever we go.
What about the issues: “It depends on where you are. In rural areas, broadband and mobile phone coverage is an issue, especially around place like Kells and it's hard to get answers from eir (formerly Eircom).”
“We have a plan for fibre broadband and I want all of Kilkenny included in that not just towns but everywhere. It would be money well spent and would allow these areas compete, putting them on the same footing as bigger urban centres," John Paul said.
“Health is a huge issue. We're lucky with St Luke's Hospital. People are seeing the biggest investment to date there and a new emergency department in University Hospital, Waterford will soon open, “ he added.
John Paul is under no illusion about the battle that faces him and his party in the wake of successive opinion polls showing a decrease in support for the government and to create jobs and produce more graduates.
“This region needs and deserves a Technological University for the South East. It would boost the lower than average numbers attending university from this constituency; it would stop the brain drain from this region and it would be a magnet for hi-tech, hi-spec industry which would provide quality jobs and offer attractive wages.
I am confident that Waterford Institute of Technology, my alma mater, and IT Carlow can work out a compromise for the good of future generations in Carlow-Kilkenny.
Far too many of my friends have left this region to find work. We have seen jobs growth in this area in indigenous firms such as Glanbia, SmartPly, Transfer Mate and others.
“ConnectIreland, a Terry Clune jobs for Ireland initiative, is bringing jobs to regions such as the South East, as seen in the recent Cipher Techs announcement. The brewery site offers massive potential in the heart of our medieval city. I’ve been working closely with Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland to redouble their efforts to grow jobs in this region.
Fine Gael has also introduced new legislation and tax changes to help the self-employed and help farm families,” he concluded.
I’m delighted to see family and friends come home, find quality jobs and see them making plans to settle down in their home parishes and county. But we need to keep the recovery going, to protect jobs and our economy and to make important decisions for all our futures based on stability and progress as opposed to instability and chaos, to deliver new jobs and restore prosperity. This government has helped turn things around and I’m appealing to the public to put their faith in us for a second term so we can continue the job we started.