Campaign Diary Week 2


Monday Feb 7: Still trying to decide if the constituency poll in yesterday’s Sunday Independent showing myself and Michael Noonan ahead of the rest is a help or a hindrance.

One of the oldest political tricks in the book is for another candidate to corner one of your committed voters, saying: “His seat is safe … give me your No 1.”

It is bad enough when your own side are up to it, but I am hearing stories that others are at it, even those who profess elsewhere to be my greatest adversaries. It beggars belief. Do they really expect voters to fall for this? But then desperate people do desperate things.

Tuesday Feb 8

There is an old defence mantra that no battle plan survives the first engagement. This is why I am so surprised that my original canvassing schedule is still almost on target. Even last week’s rain and gales failed to set us back too much, though the news that I have two media engagements tomorrow will upset the week’s schedule as it’ll involve a return trip to Dublin.

The pace of the canvass continues to be slower than in previous elections, but for good reason. People want to talk, even those whose support I know I cannot reasonably expect.

Yes, people are angry, and I am getting my fair share of that, but the response I encounter most is fear and lack of confidence. People want hope, but hope based on reality, not promises or easy options. For the most part the responses I am getting are courteous and good-humoured, the banter of previous campaigns is not much in sight.

We get the start time of the TV3 encounter wrong, so I am still knocking on doors even after the No-Show Enda debate has started. I am amazed by how many are watching the debate and how many open the door saying: “Your man is doing well.” As I say on Twitter after it: Micheal was impressive, he won tonight’s debate. Gilmore a poor 2nd with Enda way behind in 3rd place.

Wednesday Feb 9

Today is mainly a media day. First we have most of the local candidates in the Savoy Hotel for Pat Kenny’s radio show. It is an interesting debate, especially when the Labour candidates tie themselves in knots trying to explain their ever-shifting banking policy.

After a few hours’ canvass in the afternoon, I head to Dublin for tonight’s Prime Time debate on jobs. It is the issue raised most often on the doors and the one I have written about most frequently here over the last year.

Unfortunately, tonight’s Prime Time does not do the issue justice. Rather than having a good exchange of ideas and approaches, they opt to run it like a star chamber where the four of us are questioned in turn, but with no interaction. The result is fairly sterile, leaving all four of us — and, I suspect, the audience — dissatisfied.

It must be the first time I have travelled so far to sit in a studio with Pat Rabbitte and not cross swords. I think even he may regret the missed opportunity. Tonight’s four-party panel would suggest the five party leader debate format might be turgid fare, with voters turning off in droves. This will suit Enda’s protectors.

Thursday Feb 10

As we start canvassing in Janesboro, news begins to emerge of the Cork Airport crash. We take a short break away from canvassing to listen to the details on the car radio. The mood is subdued among both canvassers and householders. We adjourn a bit early to watch the harrowing news on TV and to grab lunch.

We start back on the campaign trail in Rathbane. As with Janesboro this morning, the team canvassing with me is local, so the reaction is particularly good.

Around 4.30pm one of my team tells me that the news is coming through on Twitter that JP McManus has been named as this year’s Limerick Person of the Year. I tweet my congratulations and then get back campaigning.

Friday Feb 11

Today I want to try to catch up on some canvassing hours I missed on Wednesday. The plan is to cut my own meal breaks and allow the teams to rotate so that half the team can get a break while I plough ahead with the other half. It can often happen that you are just hitting your own personal stride when it comes time to break for tea or, in this case, to finish writing this diary. Barely two weeks to go and thousands of homes to get to still.

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