IT’S WEDNESDAY MORNING, it’s 8.30am and if you want to be elected to the European Parliament to represent Dublin you’re at nothing if you’re not handing out leaflets at a Luas station.
At Stephen’s Green, the final stop on the green line, Mary Fitzpatrick, the Fianna Fáil hopeful Dublin, is vying for commuters’ attention.
It’s a competitive place. Jerry Buttimer – so good at canvassing he literally made the explanatory video – and senator Cait Keane are handing out leaflets for Fine Gael’s Dublin hopeful, Brian Hayes, while Labour’s sitting MEP Emer Costello has a few of her volunteers distributing literature.
“I don’t see any other candidate here,” remarks a grinning Fitzpatrick to TheJournal.ie before she hurries off to hand out a few more leaflets as commuters stream past, many appearing disinterested and unwilling to stop for a chat. Though no candidate expects them to.Source: Hugh O'Connell/YouTube
Later, Fitzpatrick says it’s not really a canvass anyway, more a “superficial interaction”.
“People are in a hurry, they’re on their way to work. You do have one or two who stop but it’s a small fraction. But it’s a good way of raising awareness of me as a candidate,” she says.
One woman who does stop is Sinead, from Foxrock, who appears sold on the candidate before they event chat. “I like her, I like the way she approaches things,” Sinead tells us.
But there’s no doubt that Fianna Fáil is not popular in Dublin and if it is to recover support nationwide in the coming years then that recovery starts in the capital.
“We really need to win the European seat, it’s particularly important for Fianna Fáil. We haven’t won a seat here since 2004,” Fitzpatrick says.
“Let’s go,” says Fianna Fáil’s director of elections Timmy Dooley, who’s been helping with a bit of leafleting this morning and wants to head down Grafton Street to get a few more people, some of whom might even stop.
On the way down two Spanish students approach Fitzpatrick looking for a picture. Theres selfies an all sorts before the candidate departs and we ask the students if they know who she is.
“Yes,” one insists, before having a sneaky look at the leaflet they’ve been handed. “Mary Fitzpatrick, a European candidate.” 10 out of 10.
The Fianna Fáil team set their stall out at the intersection with South Anne Street, where there’s plenty of footfall and more luck when it comes to people stopping for a quick chat.
“A lot of student and tourists around,” Dooley remarks. But ‘Brian’ is not a student, he’s from south Dublin and reluctant to give his name. He says he won’t be voting Fianna Fáil.
“They need to cut all ties with the past and I think you know what I mean. The events in Dun Laoghaire don’t help,” he tells Fitzpatrick, referring to the Mary Hanafin debacle in Blackrock.
Undeterred, Fitzpatrick tells ‘Brian’ of her business background and the fact she is a new candidate (for Europe at least), like many others that the party is running across the capital to emphasise its ‘renewal’.
To much surprise, Brian may have changed his mind. Is he swayed to vote for her, we ask, as Mary disappears to give out more leaflets.
“I just think it gives the wrong appearance,” he says of the Battle of Blackrock. “She makes a good case about needing to elect new candidates. I’ll think about it. I won’t give her my number one, but I’ll give her something!”
One thing that strikes us during the morning is the willingness of many women to stop and talk to the candidate. One of them is Catriona Murray, from north county Dublin, who notes: ”You look much younger than your photo!”
“People are very disillusioned, we’re all being squeezed,” she says as Fitzpatrick nods sympathetically.
But the candidate doesn’t need to do much work here. “I’m always Fianna Fáil!” Murray says. We ask does that mean a number 1 for Fitzpatrick? “Ah yeah, I probably will,” she says before heading off up the street.
But one person who isn’t voting Fianna Fáil is a woman cycling purposefully up the street who takes a leaflet only to take one glance and throw it on the ground.
“Go home,” she shouts back disappearing up the street. Thankfully Dooley is on hand to recover the fallen leaflet. It’s one of very few negative reactions to Fitzpatrick who is not encountering the kind of anger Fianna Fáil candidates were three years ago.
Meeting the competition
The ordinary voters are all well and good, but how does one deal with the awkward moment when you bump into the competition. The Green Party’s candidate Eamon Ryan is walking down Grafton Street and stops for a chat. He’s carrying a big bag of leaflets and looks a bit weary.
“Nine days to go,” he says to Fitzpatrick as if praying for the end of the campaign. “Then we’ll all be twiddling our thumbs until 25 May,” he adds, noting the delay between the vote on Friday and the result on Sunday of next week. Then he’s off again.
Before they wrap up, Michael Considine from Foxrock stops for a chat. “I like Mary Fitzpatrick. I met Brian Hayes yesterday, but I’m not mad about him,” he tells us.
Then it’s off for a coffee where the candidate insists on a selfie with TheJounal.ie – we’re kind of a big deal – before admitting there’s “a good amount of exhaustion” from the campaigning over recent weeks.
Eight days to go and still many leaflets to hand out, many hands to shake, and many cases to make before 23 May.