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Senator Mary Fitzpatrick, local election candidate Caio Benicio, MEP Barry Andrews, and Tánaiste Micheál Martin. Dave Fallon.
On the campaign trail

'He could be the next Bertie!': Caio Benicio, Barry Andrews, and the Tánaiste hit the doors

“I am considering leaving the country to be honest, I am so unhappy with the way things are,” one woman said after speaking to the politicians.

“JUST SAY YOUR name, where you are running, and make one point about why,” the Tánaiste tells Caio Benicio – a first time local election candidate for Fianna Fáil who is well-known for his intervention in the Parnell Square attack six months ago. 

The Brazilian is trying to record a video clip aimed at Dublin’s North Inner City voters flanked by the Tánaiste, MEP Barry Andrews and Senator Mary Fitzpatrick while stood in the middle of the street in Stoneybatter – a situation that anyone venturing into politics for the first time would find intimating. 

It’s third time lucky: Martin’s advice works, and Benicio gets his message across succinctly – he wants to bring new energy to Dublin City Council, and be a voice for the diverse community he lives in, he says. 

Before the Tánaiste’s arrival, the Fianna Fáil politicians had been largely focused on pitching their two candidates for the local and European elections – Benicio and Andrews respectively – to locals in the Arbour Hill area as soon as the doors opened. 

“You are probably wondering why I am not in Brazil, having my pint, but I want to do something meaningful,” Benicio told people, while Fitzpatrick spoke of his heroics on 23 November and the instrumental role he played in stopping the armed attacker that day, which people were receptive to. 

WhatsApp Image 2024-05-23 at 22.35.47 Caio Benicio and Mary Fitzgerald. Dave Fallon. Dave Fallon.

(When one US expat was talking about the need for smaller brown bins, and for recycling to be “simplified”, Fitzpatrick jumped in to say the former Deliveroo driver “simplified matters that day at Parnell Square”. “Remember, brown bins!” the woman called out after goodbyes were said.) 

The Tánaiste, who arrived to join in a little later, took a more laid-back approach, often opting to open conversations with “hello, how are you?”, and at one point he mouthed “calm down” to his colleagues – in good humour – between doors. 

As relaxed as his approach was, his presence after dinner time in Stoneybatter caught locals unawares – including one man who discussed political issues on his doorstep in his dressing gown and socks. 

People raised issues including illegal dumping, traffic congestion in Dublin, crime, and barriers to accessing free legal aid with the politicians. Immigration, which has become one of the biggest issues that voters tell pollsters they are concerned about, came up on just a few occasions.

WhatsApp Image 2024-05-23 at 22.35.37 The Tánaiste with some local soccer players. Dave Fallon. Dave Fallon.

Many locals recognised and praised Benicio, and some knew Fitzpatrick personally, while one homeowner congratulated Martin and Andrews for their role in advocating for the European Union to take a stronger stance on Israel’s actions in Gaza. 

“Andrews has long been on the right side of history on Palestinian issues, but I wouldn’t vote for Fianna Fáil, I’m a centre-left voter,” one person said. 

Most were more candid about their feelings towards politicians and their views on the current state of Irish politics once the Tánaiste moved on to the next house. 

One woman in her 30s who had bought a house in the area said that she felt “lucky” to have become a homeowner, but that she has no money to do her place up. 

“It’s freezing. I can’t afford to do anything with it. 

“I am considering leaving the country to be honest, I am so unhappy with the way things are, crime is a big issue here, my car has been broken into twice outside my house. 

“My partner is Brazilian and he was trapped on Abbey Street the night of the Dublin riots. I have a real bad sense of the place now… I don’t like the atmosphere anymore,” she said. 

I work hard, I pay my taxes, I don’t get much back. 

Some did raise the issue of housing on the doors. “We’re working on it,” Fitzpatrick says, while listing off some new schemes and initiatives aimed at helping prospective homeowners and renters. 

Fianna Fáil aims to reflect ‘Modern Ireland’

Martin told The Journal that when he started canvassing a few weeks ago, people weren’t that aware that elections were upcoming. 

“Posters going up has focused people’s minds, debates are happening now on the doorsteps,” he said. 

The Tánaiste said he is hoping that his party will retain their position as the biggest party in local government after claiming 27% of the vote in 2019. 

“We have strong community activists and new candidates – in Dublin there is significant diversity in our candidates,” he said. 

WhatsApp Image 2024-05-23 at 22.35.39 (1) One man took time to chat politics in his dressing gown. Dave Fallon. Dave Fallon.

He agreed that running new candidates like Caio Benicio is part of Fianna Fáil reflecting “modern Ireland”, and said that there are 57,000 Brazilians here now, and that of course new communities would want to seek representation.

“Caio is particularly engaged and has a clear mission. A lot of it comes from his own experiences of being a Deliveroo driver here,” he said. 

Multiple people in Stoneybatter voiced their concern about the plethora of far right candidates running in the European elections, but sitting MEP Barry Andrews said that he is also concerned about people voting for far-left candidates as a protest vote on issues like housing. 

“I believe very strongly that it is a waste. Most decisions are taken by majority parties in the EU. I want to align Irish people’s positivity towards the European Union with the way they vote, so we vote for people who are positive about the EU, not eurosceptics,” Andrews said. 

A few locals said that they aren’t that aware of the European elections coming up on 7 June too, or the issues. 

IMG_1980 A local woman stresses the need for recycling to be simplified. Eimer McAuley. Eimer McAuley.

“People raise domestic and national issues, but also the geopolitical situation globally, the war in Ukraine, the war in Gaza. People are concerned that there are double standards in how we are approaching these two issues and that’s a concern I’d share frankly. I think it’s damaging, the way we’ve [Europe] reacted to the Gaza situation, to international law,” he said. 

Andrews focuses largely on trade agreements, supply chains, and the implementation of sustainability strategies. 

“We need to ensure that we implement the Green Deal, but know that there is a sense people are being left behind: local communities, small to medium sized businesses, and specifically farmers. 

“It’s about not leaving it to the next generation to pick up the tab for bad decisions – that’s not good enough for me. 

One local man – Seamus – said that he feels immigration has become a “sizeable issue”. 

“There needs to be better communication between the Government and the people on it… it has to be fast-tracked,” he said, taking issue with lengthy delays in refugee applications. 

“I’d have talked about it more with them if I wasn’t…” he said, gesturing to his dressing gown.

Andrews says that how often immigration is brought up depends on where you are canvassing. In Stoneybatter, people brought up the importance of integration, he said. 

For Benicio, the experience must have been somewhat of a baptism of fire into how Fianna Fáil does politics. 

IMG_1997 The Tánaiste having a kickabout. Eimer McAuley. Eimer McAuley.

“I remember when Bertie came around, if you had an issue, Bertie would say ‘I’ll come back to you in three or four days’, not a week, not two weeks, and he would,” an older man muses to Mary Fitzpatrick. 

“Well, this man right here could be the next Bertie,” Fitzpatrick said, speaking of Benicio.

Martin demonstrated some star power of his own, with locals asking for pictures with him, a group of kids having a kickabout, and one little girl coming over to tell him that she’d met him before, when she’d won a prize. 

“He seems hard-working and genuine, like he cares, but when it comes to my generation, good luck getting votes,” one local woman in her 30s said. 

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