THE IRISH TIMES Saturday, May 12, 2007 9 R2 Election2007 Campaign trail: an election miscellany Compiled by Carl O’Brien Overdose of ‘remarkable scenes’ Shatter keeps his eye on the balls As any general election candidate will tell you, it takes balls to campaign for public office. And, in Fine Gael candidate Alan Shatter’s case, it takes about 4,000 of them. His campaign team has been handing out multi-coloured rubber balls in shopping centres across south Dublin, emblazoned with the logo: “Shatter is on the ball”. So far, they’ve proved a huge success. So much so that when the former TD is out canvassing he finds himself surrounded by frenzied voters eager to get their hands on his balls, as it were. “It’s been great fun,” he told Campaign Trail yesterday. “They’re proving to be very popular. We’ve had parents and grandparents chasing after us to get them.” Not everyone is happy, though. When he approached a couple and their two young children the other day, they harrumphed loudly when offered a ball. “Clearly,” he surmised, “they were Fianna Fáil voters.” Perspective . . . “Election fever is growing in North Kilkenny” – A headline in last week’s Kilkenny People, describing the much-anticipated Muintir Na Tíre community council election in the village of Clogh FF candidate seeks power with ballad Ever wonder what the secret to a successful election campaign is? Sound policies? Nope. A well-organised constituency operation? Close, but no cigar. An incredibly annoying campaign song with repetitive lyrics? You got it. Fianna Fáil’s Cllr John Fleming is the latest politician to release a ballad appealing to the electorate for first-preference votes. It’s a humble homage to his personal qualities and his quiet dedication to the good people of South Kerry. The song mentions him as “the greatest man that we have ever known”, “the greatest man in Kerry, from Dingle to Rathmore”, and “the best thing the Dáil could have”. Evidently, the electorate begged to differ, opting not to elect him to the Dáil when he last stood for election. FG give Mairead a helping hand Have Fine Gael apparatchiks been thumbing through self-help books in a bid to boost their election campaign? It certainly sounds like it. Check out this motivational text message sent out to the party faithful in Louth after its candidate, Mairead McGuinness, wobbled in the polls the other day. “Hi all, polls show a drop of 5 per cent for Mairead. We need to give as much support as possible. We are the best damn team on the hustings. Let's show them we have the best damn candidate. Thanks. Emir.” Cue outbreaks of whooping, hollering and high-fiving across Louth and environs. Quote, unquote “I think he [Gerry Adams] said that about teachers. I think he said that about corporation tax. Any day now, he’ll eliminate income tax. So he would be great. In fact, I’d certainly think of voting for him, because everything would be solved.” – Taoiseach Bertie Ahern trying out a bit of irony when asked about Gerry Adams’s offer to give the nurses all they demand. Election gets hairy as mullet returns It’s the hairstyle that’s sweeping the nation. Some misguided souls may ridicule the mullet haircut as an emblem for all that was questionable about 1980s taste. However, a host of election candidates are proudly displaying their long, flowing manes. The wispy locks of John Bracken – the Independent candidate for Laois/Offaly – have already been displayed in all their glory on these pages. Now enter Peadar O’Donnell, PD candidate for Tipperary South, and Peter Enright, Green Party candidate for Mayo, who are both causing a stir with their hairstyles. Our election candidates clearly know something many style gurus don’t. The mullet has never gone out of fashion. Barney Hoskyns, author of The Mullet: Hairstyle of the Gods, confirms this. “We’ve seen in recent months it has been making a comeback on the catwalks in a sort of ironic way,” he says. If mullet-wearing candidates fare well come election time, expect to see an outbreak of flowing locks on politicians across the country. ◆ Keep Campaign Trail informed of happenings on the hustings by contacting [email protected] Sorry kids, don’t count on us for a deposit. It’s our money and we’ve decided to spend it. So, we’re off to Beijing ﬁrst, then Lake Garda, then Cape Town, and after that, who knows? And don’t worry about us – all our ﬂights, accommodation and guided excursions are taken care of by The Travel Department. See you soonish, Mum & Dad P.S. Your rent’s due on Friday. The world is waiting www.thetraveldepartment.ie WORLDWIDE ESCORTED HOLIDAYS • CALL 01 637 1600 Holidays operated by The Travel Department are fully licensed and bonded by the Commission for Aviation Regulation (T.O.163) On the airwaves Shane Hegarty On Thursday evening, the nation turned on RTÉ’s Six One News to be greeted with what newsreader Sharon Ní Bheoláin described as “remarkable scenes”. The phrase is almost worn out from use during this campaign so far. On Thursday, those scenes involved the Irish Nurses’ Organisation confer- ence where Mary Harney and Brian Lenihan received what Charlie Bird first described as a “frosty” reception, but later upgraded to an “icy” one. Yet the bulletin opted not to show the most remarkable of those scenes. Viewers needed to have watched TV3’s earlier news report to see the Minister for Health’s speech being greeted by the sound of one hand clapping. It was as if RTÉ was showing a little mercy towards the Government parties, who must be fervently hoping that very soon the “remarkable scenes” will involve someone else’s discomfort. The PD press conference, Albert Reynolds’s accusations, the nurses’ strike: with the exception of his visits to Stormont and the Boyne, and the peculiar solace he now finds in the company of Ian Paisley, it was a tough media week for the Taoiseach and his allies. It wasn’t as bad as the first week of the campaign, and on Sunday night Ahern had given a confident interview to RTÉ1’s The Week in Politics (watched by 300,000 viewers – double its normal figures). But how much did the resurrection of “Bertiegate” scupper any plans to engage more with radio and television? He appeared at Fianna Fáil’s press conference yesterday morning, but until then it was as if Ahern believed that every interviewer only really had one big question, and that all the other queries are just stepping stones towards it. You could see how guarded he was by the way he treated a light interview from a TV3 reporter on Thursday. He was asked nothing tougher than “how do you relax in the evening?” but his mouth had a rictus expression that suggested he was expecting a jab in the ribs. To compound matters, the impending resignation of Tony Blair allowed com- mentators to make parallels between the two men, as if in the slow setting of the Blair era we were also getting a glimpse at the twilight of Ahern’s leadership. Blair’s speech was shown during RTÉ’s morning show Campaign Daily, and host Bryan Dobson couldn’t resist honing in on one of the outgoing prime minister’s key lines. “Ten years is long enough,” repeated Dobson. “That’s not a sentiment that Bertie Ahern will be admitting to.” It would be interesting to know if before the controversy over his financial affairs the Taoiseach had planned to do more one-on-one radio and television interviews. This week, Trevor Sargent, Pat Rabbitte and Gerry Adams were all busy doing the rounds. Even Michael McDowell, despite starting his week with the “remarkable scenes” at his Sunday morning press conference, was allowed to put in a strong performance on TV3’s Polls Apart with Matt Cooper and Eddie Hobbs. But it is Enda Kenny who has attempted to step into the Bertie-shaped hole. He was in open-necked shirt mode on TV3’s Ireland AM; combative on Newstalk; interviewed on local radio stations and RTÉ radio. If “Bertiegate” has done anything, it has allowed Kenny to impose himself on the coverage in the way that his “presidential” campaign required. Things will change next week. On Thursday night, the two men will come face-to-face in a live television debate that could prove a tipping point in choosing the next taoiseach. Enda Kenny will be hoping to drive home his advantage. Bertie Ahern will be hoping to prove his resilience and reassert his authority. The massive television audience, meanwhile, will be hoping for more “remarkable scenes”. A touch of masochism gives way to foot massage On the canvass Kathy Sheridan with Nicky Kelly Candidates get used to packs of snarling dogs. They learn stoicism in the face of non-functioning doorbells. They keep smiling when the umpteenth gas card, stunned by her own originality, folds her arms and smirks : “So what are you going to do for me?” The one element they have no control over is the weather. And Labour seems to trigger its own mini-weather patterns. Yesterday, when the battle bus rolled into Kilcoole, a gentle drizzle became a deluge. As Pat Rabbitte and local candidates, Nicky Kelly and Liz McManus, stood gamely waiting for parents outside the school, minders wielding protective umbrellas over the leader managed to funnel another few gallons of rain on to his pinstripes. “Why would anyone vote for anybody who’s prepared to do this? This is masochism,” he declared to no one in particular. We tittered as the most urbane of canvassers, who manages to be approachable without being sickly, tetchily and damply pointed out the obvious. “Why am I where there are no people?,” he wondered, after shaking the hands of two women – the only human presence to be seen – working in the petrol station. Out in the rain, a man stops and gets out of his car with some deliberation. He was there to say that he was giving Labour one more chance, he said. He was voting for change, not for Fianna Fáil, as happened in 1992, and he didn’t want to see it happening again. “We’re getting a bit of that all right,” conceded Rabbitte later. As the school empties, women fleeing the downpour shake hands on the run, pausing to say “Howya, Nicky.” “Give us a number one and we’ll mind the baby for you,” he jokes. Kelly has been through the wars in the past. He received a full presidential pardon in 1993 following his wrongful conviction for the 1976 Sallins mail train robbery. In November last year, he was fined ¤730 at Wicklow District Court for motoring offences and picked up five penalty points on his licence arising from his conviction for not having insurance. Kelly is no flowery phrase- spinner. An eager handshake, a few earnest words. “Only 19 more votes,” is the slogan and the focus, a reminder of the 2002 marathon when he lost out to Mildred Fox by that number. This time round, public transport is the major issue. He talks about the commuting drudge that is the lot of over 3,500 south Wicklow commuters. “They spend three to four hours a day in a car. No quality of life. When a 6am train was laid on, no one thought to put on a corresponding one in the midafternoon for people who were in early and wanted to leave early.” A lethal and mysterious nine-kilometre break in the dual carriageway to Arklow remains two-way, because – the National Roads Authority informed – a “political decision” meant the money was no longer available. Kelly claims it was diverted to an orbital road for Waterford, in Martin Cullen’s constituency. “At the last election, no one wanted to engage on the doorsteps because they were all doing so well. This time, you can’t get away from them”. There is quiet optimism, buoyed by yesterday’s poll, that Labour can recapture the glory days and two seats. At Arklow Community College, the reception party is a line-up of neat, cheerful students, head prefects and tall to small members of the student council. The school has been waiting for a PE hall for 20 years, has seven pre-fabs bolted on and is expecting two more. It’s high on the list for an extension, but no one is losing the run of themselves. Meanwhile, two teachers can be heard commenting that Rabbitte “comes across very well . . . very charming”. In the classrooms, he scores 50 per cent recognition with the fifth years. Kelly scores 100. They know him as Nicky. The principal, Pat Bolger, proudly escorts the party to the vocational training area, where a practical beauty therapy exam is in progress. “Jazes, Nicky, you could do with a touch of that,” says Nicky’s boss, as we pile in to scrutinise a row of mortified women, lying prone, having their feet massaged. “An unconscionable intrusion,” Rabbitte pronounces cheerfully, heading off for a meeting in the antiquated home economics room, with members of Arklow Chamber of Commerce. It’s a sorry report from the Garden of Ireland: raw sewage and rats in the river, undrinkable water, impossible traffic. On the way out, a student presents him with a silver pen set. “When we’re in the next government and signing for a new school, that’ll be the pen we’ll use,” Nicky tells the student. Everyone grins but stays schtum. ‘Last time no one wanted to engage... They were all doing so well. Now you can’t get away from them’ Student beauty therapist Pauline Weadick gets a helping hand from Wicklow Labour Party candidate Nicky Kelly at Arklow Community College yesterday. Party leader Pat Rabbitte watches on. Photograph: Garry O’Neill GENERAL ELECTION 2007 Electors with Physical Illness or Physical Disability Electors with a physical illness or physical disability who have difficulty gaining access to their local polling station may apply to have their vote transferred to a more accessible station in their constituency. This facility is intended to assist these electors who find access to their local station difficult because of the situation or design of the building. In order to avail of the facility, an elector should apply in writing to the returning officer for his or her constituency by Wednesday 16th May 2007 at the latest. A special application form is not necessary. The names and addresses of the various returning officers for each of the 43 Dáil constituencies are given below. If possible, the elector should suggest an alternative polling station in the constituency which is both suitable and convenient to him or her. Constituency Name & Address Carlow-Kilkenny Cavan-Monaghan Clare Cork East Cork North-West Cork South-West Cork North-Central Cork South-Central Donegal North-East Donegal South-West Dublin Central Dublin North-Central Dublin North-East Dublin North-West Dublin South-Central Dublin South-East Dublin Mid-West Dublin North Dublin South Dublin South-West Dublin West Dun Laoghaire Galway East Galway West Kerry North Kerry South Kildare North Kildare South Laois-Offaly Limerick East Limerick West Longford-Westmeath Louth Mayo Meath East Meath West Roscommon South-Leitrim Sligo-North Leitrim Tipperary North Tipperary South Waterford Wexford Wicklow Ms. Mary N Enright, Circuit Court Office, Courthouse, Kilkenny. Ms. Josephine Duffy,The Courthouse, Church Square, Monaghan. Mr. Patrick Wallace, Circuit Court Office, 1 Bindon Street, Ennis, Co. Clare. Mr. Michael O’Driscoll, 70 South Mall, Cork. Mr. Martin A Harvey, 33 Washington Street, Cork. Ms. Geraldine O’Connor, Circuit Court Office, Courthouse, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal. Mr. Brendan Walsh, 13 Fownes Street, Dublin 2. Mr. John M Fitzpatrick, Unit 17,Tolka Valley Business Park, Ballyboggan Road, Finglas, Dublin 11. Ms. Marian Chambers Higgins, Circuit Court Office, Courthouse, Galway. Mr. Padraig Burke, Circuit Court Office, Courthouse,Tralee, Co. Kerry. Ms. Eithne Coughlan, Circuit Court Office, Courthouse, Naas, Co. Kildare. Ms.Verona Lambe,The Courthouse, Cormac Street,Tullamore, County Offaly. Mr. Patrick J Meghen, Circuit Court Office, Courthouse, Merchant’s Quay, Limerick. Ms. Imelda Branigan, Circuit Court Office, Church Street, Longford. Ms. Mairead Ahern, Court House, Market Square, Dundalk, Co. Louth. Mr. Fintan J Murphy, Circuit Court Office, Breaffy Road, Castlebar, Co. Mayo. Ms. Máire Tehan, Circuit Court Office, Courthouse,Trim, Co. Meath. Mr.William Lyster, Courthouse, Abbey Street, Roscommon. Mr. Kieran McDermott, Circuit Court Office, Courthouse, Sligo. Ms. Mary Delehanty, Courthouse, Clonmel, Co Tipperary. Mr. Niall Rooney, Circuit Court Office, Courthouse, Catherine Street,Waterford. Ms. Marie Garahy, Circuit Court Office, Courthouse, County Hall,Wexford. Ms. Breda Allen, Circuit Court Office, Courthouse,Wicklow.
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