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On the canvass

'My old stomping ground': In Portobello, Labour looks to bridge the gap to Fianna Fáil

We spent Wednesday morning at Portobello Bridge as Labour targeted commuters on foot… and on bikes.

costello quinn Lord Mayor Oisín Quinn and one of his predecessors, Emer Costello, at Portobello Bridge this morning Hugh O'Connell / Hugh O'Connell / /

IN SOUTH DUBLIN they don’t just battle for seats, they battle for the bridges.

“You’d be involved in a military challenge to take one,” Lord Mayor and Labour councillor Oisín Quinn explains. “In the last election, you’d send people to hold a bridge early in the morning.”

He’s been on Portobello Bridge, near Rathmines, since 7am and he’s not about to give it up easy. “Jonathan looks a bit lost over there, do you want to move him down,” he tells one of the other canvassers as he looks to capitalise on the footfall and maximise the number of leaflets he can distribute.

Dozens if not hundreds of people stream past on their way to work, few stop but plenty take leaflets, some decline altogether.

“It’s kind of like a Chinese city,” Quinn says optimistically. “The amount of people just walking, cycling, driving past.” He explains that while people generally don’t stop those in cars at the lights might roll down the window and give you the thumbs up.

photo Oisín Quinn stands on Portobello Bridge this morning Hugh O'Connell / Hugh O'Connell / /

“Really?” we ask with our best sceptical face. Surely they’d be more likely to dole out a bit of abuse?

Whether they do or not all over the country Labour candidates are pushing hard on a message that people are being pretty nice on the doors and on the streets and that generally they can see things are beginning to get better.

In Dublin, Quinn thinks people can see that policies have been delivered particularly in his constituency – a gym in Rathmines, two playgrounds, the refurbishment of Rathmines library and, all over the city, Dublin Bikes, of course Dublin Bikes – a Labour policy that truly has been an unqualified success.

In the capital, the party is putting all its efforts behind its best chance of a European seat, Emer Costello, the sitting MEP, who arrives on the bridge just after 8am. Up goes the banner and out come the leaflets.

What does Costello make of the debate last night? “It’s a pity we didn’t get an opportunity to discuss the European issues. We only had four minutes each,” she tells us.

While Quinn hovers by the bridge, Costello adopts an interesting and potentially hazardous tactic of approaching cyclists – “if they give you a nod, it’s safe,” she insists.

One takes a leaflet and Costello asks for her vote because she has achieved a lot. “Like what?” the cyclist shoots back.

costello cyclist Costello engages a cyclist stopped at the traffic lights Hugh O'Connell / Hugh O'Connell / /

The MEP launches into a standard spiel about her being a former Lord Mayor, having worked in the European Parliament for two year where she was part of the Troika review group, and she’s campaigning for a deal on legacy bank debt.

Back on the bridge, a woman from Kimmage, who’s just heard the same list of achievements isn’t hopeful on the legacy bank debt issue: “It doesn’t look promising, I think.”

But she’s been convinced to give Costello the number one telling us: “She’ll need it – so I probably will!”

“I moved to Dublin on 1 May 1980, this is my old stomping group,” says Costello with a reminiscent smile as she chats with us and every so often breaks off to hand out a few leaflets.

In the last week of the campaign, Labour is hammering home a message that it’s a battle between Costello and Fianna Fáil’s Mary Fitzpatrick for the last seat of there seats in Dublin.

She may have gone against Bertie Ahern in the past, but she’s still a staunch Fianna Fáil supporter, Costello insists: “That’s the choice people have.”

“I’ve worked on problems with people, I didn’t bring them to protests and shout about them…. I meet people now who say I helped them out as a councillor.”

Alice Leahy, from Trust Ireland, might consider herself to be one of those people. She stops for a long chat. “How do you politicians keep going?” she asks Costello. “There are a lot of people who are very negative but won’t vote.”

costello kimmage Hugh O'Connell / Hugh O'Connell / /

Leahy is sceptical about the government announcing a strategy on homelessness “in a mad rush” yesterday, just before the election and thinks it won’t work, that it’s not enough.

Does Costello have Leahy’s number one? She won’t say, but the quality of some of the people running is “appalling”.

“There’s a lot of waffle. I just hope people get out and vote,” she says.

Costello, who has been joined by TD Kevin Humphreys occupying the other side of the bridge, insists that while the canvasses have not been without angry voters, there have been some sympathetic ears.

“There was one man who said to me: ‘I’m voting for you because I don’t think it’s fair that the Labour Party is getting all the blame,” she says.

The canvass wraps up around 9am and it’s off to Ballymun for Costello and her possé where she’ll be hoping for more sympathy, but more importantly, more votes. 

photo 4 Dublin South East TD Kevin Humphreys rolls up councillor Oisín Quinn's banner as the morning canvass draws to a close. Hugh O'Connell / Hugh O'Connell / /

Read: 7 things we learned from last night’s Dublin Prime Time debate

VIDEO: Gilmore on whether he still wants to be Taoiseach, running in 2016 and the reshuffle

All or Election 2014 coverage right here > 

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