ALTHOUGH CANDIDATES HAVE been on the campaign trail for weeks now, the battle to win votes on the streets and doorsteps began in earnest today.
And although the drizzle held off, it was a cold and damp start for Sinn Féin in Dublin’s city centre.
Sitting TDs Mary Lou McDonald and Peadar Tóibín and Eoin Ó Broin – a councillor hoping to gain a Dáil seat – were out to meet voters this morning, starting outside the GPO.
Sure where else would the republican party go?
Aside from being exposed to the elements, McDonald say she enjoys getting out canvassing:
You get a real feel for what’s actually going on rather than what sometimes people assume is going on. It’s where you get the real stories.
Before getting down to business, she took some time to attack Fine Gael in a quick chat with the assembled reporters:
“Today is the first full day of the campaign and in a startling break with tradition Fine Gael are actually breaking their promises even before one vote is counted.
“Their figures of the money that will be available over the next five years have been wrong from the get-go. Sinn Féin called them out on that fact, and they’re clearly now in a panic.”
McDonald described their ‘ditching’ of the rainy-day fund as the “fastest fiscal flip-flop in history” (impressively, she even managed that phrase twice).
She was also pressed on the Slab-shaped cloud hanging over the party. It’s been difficult for the party to dodge questions about Thomas Murphy after a former British soldier described the Republican as a “mass murderer” on a BBC Spotlight programme.
McDonald responded in a similar manner to Gerry Adams in recent days, not commenting on the allegations but instead focusing on Murphy’s impending sentencing for tax fraud. “That’s a matter for the courts,” she said simply.
While this might impact their election prospects, if selfies translated into votes Sinn Féin would be in no doubt of their expected performance at the polls.
Much like what happens when party leader Gerry Adams gets out on the campaign trail, many were keen to pose with McDonald once the group started to move. She described this as “selfie-mania”.
Tóibín and Ó Broin, however, were not quite in such high demand.
The issues the trio were approached on ranged from property tax to Moore Street’s future – that campaign is “really picking up strength”, Ó Brion commented. They were also asked about what the party will do for young adults facing zero hour contracts and high rents if elected.
After the buzz of outside the GPO the group moved down Henry Street. Whether it was the cold or the swarm of photographers surrounding them, the group were met with a subdued reaction from the public.
They drew little attention on their way to Moore Street. But once there, shouts of “Howiya Mary” emanated from FX Buckley butchers, as well as some hellos from the stall owners.
And of course, McDonald stopped to try her hand at selling the fruit and vegetables.
She even practiced a distinctive Moore Street call.
Tóibín was more subtle about it.
However, even at that, few members of the public approached the three candidates.
So no huge reaction on the streets but something we all know well was apparent – all politics is still local.
There was many a hushed conversation with nearby residents who asked for help on personal issues while others just wanted a catch-up with the TDs over a long handshake.
In fact, the canvass fizzled out on Moore Street, outside the hoardings for the construction, where a woman had McDonald move to one side for a private chat.