We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Squeaky Bum Time

"You're prepared to lose"-the dying days of a European campaign

In the teeth of a four-way battle for the final Dublin seat, a seat which she won, joined Nessa Childers on the campaign trail.

LUNCHTIME, MID-WEEK in the sunny car park of Nolan’s supermarket of Clontarf, the cars are new and the clientele grey.

Most are middle-class and female – a strong constituency for Nessa Childers, according to her handlers.

On the Wednesday before polling, she had beaten a path through similar areas, covering Howth, Sutton and now Clontarf.

The candidate herself was relaxed. Impressive, considering many pundits had placed her behind Eamonn Ryan, Mary Fitzpatrick and Emer Costello in the running for the last seat.

“You have a feeling that you have to let go control of the situation. You’re in the hands of the voters now. Once the last public outing is finished, you’re in the hands of the voters.”

Drawing on her professional life as a psychoanalyst, when ethics stipulations limit the working hours, she says she guards closely against over-canvassing, which she says can hurt her ability to connect with voters

European Socialist Women Childers during her days in the Labour Party Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

Burn out

“What you see is that some politicians start burning out, because they go too far, and they can get to the end of the campaign and they’re literally burning out.”

“Sometimes candidates get so tired in a day that they cease to make contact. That is the time when you take a break.”

Childers topped the first Sunday Independent Millward Brown opinion poll at the end of April, but since then had slid down the polls.

The transfer-friendliness which eventually got her over the line remained throughout, but she never credited her strong early numbers.

“You don’t believe an opinion poll with an outlier like that. You don’t believe a figure like that. You think you might be somewhere in the middle, and that it’ll all depend on the election day.”

Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

She doesn’t try to peddle the predictable line that she doesn’t pay any attention to opinion polls. Neither does she claim to sleep soundly at night.

Preparing to lose

The prospect of losing, or at least preparing mentally for it, is a routine that runs through her head at night.

“I’m prepared to lose. I’ve kind of rehearsed it in my mind by imagining it. Otherwise you’d go into a state of shock.”

(To prepare) you allow yourself to experience that kind of loss…it’s like any loss. You lose part of your future. You lose things you’ve imagined.

The prospect of losing is something she’s sought to insulate herself, and her family, from. But that doesn’t mean the fear isn’t there throughout the dying days of a campaign.

“There isn’t a person who can put things into a box and not have them leak out.”

In such a situation, political rivals can find, if not solace, certainly empathy in each other amid the usual campaign barbs, she says.

“Every politican out there puts themselves out there and takes a risk…I think only a certain type of person can do that, and every politician understands every other politician at that point.”

“The candidates are there together all the time at hustings, and of course everybody knows what everybody else is having to deal with.”

The fickle nature of political office means that many of the perks of office can evaporate quickly, something she learned early.

“I learned as a child that you have to be very careful how much you allowed yourself to believe that you had all these things because you’re you.”

I experienced a complete loss of everything when my father (former president Erskine Childers) died…I saw what happened. Some people just don’t want to know you any more.

Hurdles and enemies

One group she has become politically estranged from is the Labour party.

In the dying days of her campaign, when she is defending a seat she won for the party before leaving mid way through her term, the thought of the breakdown of that relationship still makes her “extremely furious”.

In that campaign, she says, the Labour party came to her because they couldn’t get anyone else to run in the old Ireland East constituency in what she terms a “case of mutual benefit”.

Dublin European Elections RDS. Outgoing Childers, alongside Brian Hayes, waits to hear confirmation of her election Eamonn Farrell / Photocall Ireland Eamonn Farrell / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

“According to them, they would have had no seat in Ireland East if I hadn’t run. I’m not sure that anybody in the country knows that. I don’t think the Labour voters know that.”

Thanks to the re-drawing of the European constituencies, she says, “I was kind of made redundant”.

“In the northern part of Ireland East, I was polling at 25-30 per cent. You imagine what that’s like, to have to leave that, because the Midlands North-West constituency is an unmanageable task for (another) independent.”

Nontheless, the “risk”, as she terms it, of running in Dublin, ultimately paid off for Childers, and it will be five years before she has to countenance the prospect of losing again.

Confirmed: Nessa Childers and Brian Hayes join Lynn Boylan in Europe as Ryan’s recount effort fails>

Nessa Childers: A lot TDs don’t understand what it’s like to be in my position>

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.