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On the canvass

'People are raging': Bríd Smith is capitalising on voter anger

The People Before Profit MEP candidate has said she is “as equally in contention” as anyone to take the third seat in Dublin.

CameraZOOM-20140521103110261 Bríd Smith meeting parents at Small World Crèche. Save Small World Crèche / Twitter Save Small World Crèche / Twitter / Twitter

PEOPLE ARE FURIOUS. People are raging with the government. When you knock on the door you have to say who you are. You have to say People Before Profit because if they think for one second that you’re part of the establishment they bang the door in your face and tell you where to go.

There will be a dog fight for the third and final MEP seat in the Dublin constituency this Friday, and Bríd Smith knows it.

Polls suggest Lynn Boylan of Sinn Féin and Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes are set to claim the first two seats, but there’s not much in it as the remaining candidates battle it out for a spot in Brussels.

Smith, who is running for People Before Profit, said that she can capitalise on Labour’s “wobbly” support base. She has been polling at about seven to ten per cent.

“It’s going to be a really interesting competition, particularly for the last seat [in Dublin], Quite clearly Sinn Féin are in. It looks like Fine Gael are in – they have their constituency, they have the middle classes. They have the government supporters and that’s kind of solid from their point of view.”

The wobbly ones are Labour because the Labour constituency feels betrayed, abandoned, let down by the Labour party so they’re shifting in different directions. Some of it is going to Sinn Féin, but a lot of it is coming to the left … people like myself. There’s a very good chance that we’re as equally in contention for the third seat as anyone else. It depends on the transfers. I’m very transfer-friendly.

While out on the campaign trail today, Smith met with parents and staff of the Small World crèche at Tallaght Hospital who recently found out that the facility will be closing in August.

Employees were told on 14 May that the crèche would be closed after the hospital’s board accepted a report saying the facility was not financially viable and would not meet regulations from Tulsa, the new child and family support agency.

This is despite the fact these regulations won’t be released until next year. Should it fall short, the crèche would have six to twelve months to meet the necessary requirements, but it will not be afforded this opportunity. Both parents and staff told Smith they were extremely shocked and disappointed with the news, saying they would fight the decision.

Parents, most of whom are hospital employees, have started a petition to save the crèche, which Smith promised to promote online. She also called on Brian Hayes, a TD for Dublin South West and fellow MEP candidate, to “immediately intervene”.

Smith is a trade union activist and has pledged to help employees join a union to help protect their jobs.

The hospital’s not going to be able to function if all of you have to resign in a year’s time. Where does that leave parents? Who cares for the carers?

Small World has been open for 11 years. It has 12 members of staff and is attended by about 50 children.

Election week promises

Suzanne Graham’s son has attended the crèche since she returned to her role as a physiotherapist in the hospital last January.

“For me just coming back I have such peace of mind when I leave him here … I’m very disappointed.”

Graham said many politicians and local councillors have promised to help their campaign, but noted that Smith was the only one to meet them personally.

We haven’t actually had any come to us yet but we’ve had a lot of interest. A lot of TDs have written to the Minister for Health and the Minister for Children.

“A lot of [politicians] have been honest and said they’re very busy but they’d be very willing to help us after the election. We’re thinking maybe they’re offering support now to get our votes but they have promised they will support us. Bríd has said she will continue to support us.”

Graham said that Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte has contacted the hospital’s CEO David Slevin about the issue, while Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has raised it with Health Minister James Reilly.

She said she hoped such promises of support were genuine and not stunts in the run-up to this week’s election.

Water, housing and jobs

Smith, who is a councillor in the Ballyfermot/Drimnagh ward in Dublin, said the biggest single issue she hears about on doorsteps is water charges, followed by housing and employment concerns.

She said the issues that young people are most likely to raise with her are jobs and inequality.

“Young people never cease to amaze me – how concerned they are with differences. They don’t want anybody treated differently.” She said they are particularly motivated by LGBT rights, racism and the environment.

Hazel Norton met Smith while campaigning to open an Irish school in Ballyfermot. The 27-year-old became involved in her campaign soon after.

It’s sad to see how people are fed up and that they’re giving up. They’re kind of losing hoping really. They think that they have no voice.

Norton said that “every second person” tells them they will vote for Smith, adding that she’s “really hopeful” about Friday’s result.

She said the campaign team is not meeting that many young people while canvassing, instead connecting with them online.

“I’d love to see people of my age have more of an interest in [politics], then it could work from the bottom up.”

Smith said she has been “pleasantly surprised” by people’s responses on the street.

“We’re getting a really good reaction … Places I didn’t know I had a reputation, people say ‘Oh Bríd, yeah – I know her’.”

I mean we’re spending really feck all on this campaign. I’d say probably about €10,000-12,000. It’s very low, other people are spening over €100,000. We’re spening nothing really by comparison. It’s all volunteers, decent people rowing in and working hard.

Supporting Travellers: ‘Not a vote-catcher’

Smith is an advocate for Travellers’ rights and has met with members of the community on numerous occasions while canvassing, something she says many other candidates have not done.

She said there is a “rampant” anti-traveller sentiment among certain councillors in Dublin.

You don’t get votes fighting for Travellers, it’s not a vote-catcher … In fact, the right wingers use [not supporting Travellers' rights] as a vote-catcher for them.

Smith said that the government has cut the Travelling Community’s education and accommodation budget by a “staggering” 86 per cent in the last four years.

“It went under the radar. Nobody noticed because who gives a shit in any way about them?”

Related: ‘I hate the viciousness of capitalism’: People Before Profit hopeful on the need for an alternative

Read: Whatever about the candidates – can you trust the voters?… On the trail in Tipp

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