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Dublin: 6 °C Monday 16 December, 2019
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Whatever about the candidates - can you trust the voters?... On the trail in Tipp

This butcher in Cashel’s promising his vote to the Greens. Other locals are also pledging their number ones to Grace O’Sullivan — but, it turns out, some are more genuine than others…

Meeting voters: Grace O’Sullivan with supporters Con Trass (right) and Denis Maher (background, left) [Daragh Brophy/TheJournal.ie]

THE IRELAND SOUTH canvass is going “very very well” first-time candidate Grace O’Sullivan insists, on a rainy Monday in Cashel.

The former Rainbow Warrior crew-member turned Green Party Euro-hopeful is on a charm offensive in the South Tipperary town for the afternoon, and says she’s hoping the personal touch will help shore up votes ahead of Friday week’s European elections.

A recent opinion poll put O’Sullivan on 6 per cent — at a squeak, still in with a shout for the ten seater-constituency’s fourth seat. Considering the electoral wipe-out experienced by the party at the last General Election, it’s an encouraging number.

“I was more surprised than anyone when I saw it,” says O’Sullivan.

I had just been keeping my head down and working away… All of a sudden this positive sense came around me and I thought ‘maybe I am in with a chance’.

The issue of the Greens’ role in the last Government is coming up on the doorsteps, the candidate admits, but “not very much”.

Whatever their voting intentions, the issue doesn’t appear to be too much of a concern for the people of Cashel either — at least, based on TheJournal.ie‘s entirely unscientific research…

[Daragh Brophy/TheJournal.ie]

On Main Street

Joined on the campaign trail by a small band of local supporters, including Denis Maher — son of the former Independent MEP and IFA leader TJ Maher — by the mid-point of the afternoon O’Sullivan appears to have convinced a number of business-owners on Main Street to back her Brussels bid.

Case in point, Donald Walsh — whose family have run Walsh’s butchers in the town for generations.

“Well, I know Denis well — and he’s vouched for her,” Walsh says.

Basically I don’t know anybody else in it — that’s the truth.

And is he put off by the Greens’ record in office pre-2011?…

 

(Youtube: TheJournal.ie)

Back on the street, O’Sullivan appears to have another two votes in the bag; the couple she’s just met are heading away on holidays, she says — but they’ll be back before Friday week, and have promised their first preferences.

However — a quick chat with the couple in question reveals an interesting insight into the capricious temperament of the Irish voter…

 

(Youtube: TheJournal.ie)

The candidate and her canvassers have been in and out of shops for the best part of the afternoon — and at this stage they know where the pockets of support are most likely to be.

Fortunately for O’Sullivan, there are no similar sudden changes of mind.

“I think she’s very good, she’s been around the world… I think she’ll do well,” says one Main Street shop-worker.

There’s a similar vote of confidence from Marian O’Dwyer, who runs a small butchers & grocery store with her husband Martin:

She’s a very nice girl. Very committed to what she’s going to to. We’re in the food business of course, so we’d take a big interest.

Around the town

Away from the Green canvass, however, there’s a distinct drop-off in enthusiasm for the upcoming elections…

“I haven’t seen any of them,” one resident says.

I heard Phil Prendergast was around… Most of them leave the Main Street until the week of the elections, because they know we’ll be here anyway.

At the local post office:

“No, no-one’s been in here.”

“No, we did, we did,” the clerk at the next-door counter insists. ”Micheál Martin was in the other week — he was in with the local Fianna Fáil guy.”

The elusive Fianna Fáil leader was also spotted at the far end of the town, it turns out…

“I saw his head going by the window, but he didn’t come in,” says florist Michelle Kenneally — who says she’s still considering all the candidates, but would consider voting Green this time out.

“She’s the only candidate to come in here,” Kenneally says, adding that — no, she wouldn’t base her judgement of the candidate on the party’s past performance in Government.

Marian and Martin O’Dwyer of O’Dwyers [Daragh Brophy/TheJournal.ie]

Back in the street, O’Sullivan discusses the financial challenge being faced by her campaign: the funding gap between the Greens and the more affluent parties is evident all over the consituency, where posters of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael candidates stare down from every second lamppost.

Money is tight, she says, but the party organisation is doing what it can to get the support out “mostly through quiz nights and coffee mornings”.

“There’s not much of a network of Greens in the area,” admits canvasser Conn Traas — who describes his role in the campaign as ‘Tipperary contact person’ .

We only have eight or nine members in South Tipperary.

The canvassers break up shortly before five o’clock.

Next stop on O’Sullivan’s trail is Tipperary Town, some 20km down the road.

Read: Running 3 FG candidates may have been a mistake, but the campaign’s on now — Seán Kelly

Read: Harris: ‘Personal wealth’ shouldn’t decide elections – but I’m not talking about Deirdre Clune

Read: SF Ireland South candidate: “We have to put up with the fact that we’re part of Europe”

 

 

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