Tullamore food poverty and anti-eviction campaigner Ken Smollen is set to run in the next local and general election as a candidate for the Irish Democratic Party.
Mr Smollen is well known throughout Offaly for his work with the Ken Smollen Food Appeal which provides food packages to over 400 local families every month, including over 200 in the Tullamore area alone.
The former garda also ran as a candidate for the Irish Democratic Park in the 2016 General Election and received almost 1,000 first preference votes.
“I wasn't one of those candidates that when defeated disappeared into the undergrowth until the next election happens. I'm not in it for election purposes I am working on the ground with people and will continue working on the ground with people no matter what happens,” he says.
Mr Smollen and his group of volunteers provide food packages to families across the midlands. He says that for these people and many more like them – recent report puts the number of people living in poverty at around 800,000 – there has been no economic recovery since the bust a decade ago.
“Politicians on all sides are bluffing about the recovery and that we have more employment than we ever had in the last ten years. It's not showing on the ground. It won't show. We all know that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The gap between poor and rich is getting wider.
“We have almost one million people on hospital waiting lists, we have almost 800,000 living in poverty, we have an unknown number of people on the verge of going into mortgage distress and who are going without the basics to service their mortgage and are terrified the banks are going to take the roof over their heads.
“When they talk about stable government, can we legitimately call a government stable when we have so many crisis like that and I haven't even mentioned the housing crisis,” Mr Smollen said.