If you had asked me three weeks ago where I thought I’d be spending the Monday of the first week of the campaign, I’d have probably said: Thomondgate, Moyross or Ballinacurra.
It did not involve travelling to a front-bench meeting in Dublin. Yet that is exactly where I am heading at 11am. Earlier, I had barely settled down to grab a pot of tea when I got a call to go and see Micheal who told me he is appointing me spokesperson on Communications, Energy & Natural Resources.
Within the hour, I am heading out on to the Leinster House plinth for the unveiling of the new team. Not unexpectedly, I hear my name come up as the journalists ask Micheal about his various choices. I almost blush as I hear myself described as one of the most talented people in Leinster House, particularly in the financial, taxation and business areas.
Good to see the investment in my education paying off, though I later wonder if the praise is all that lavish when I hear the waffle and contradictions emanating from others in Leinster House such as O Caolain, Burton and Reilly.
I get back to Limerick just in time to catch the last hour or so of the night-time canvass. The response on the doors is not bad. On a personal level, many people welcome my appointment, but they also put some very difficult and very precise questions to me. In more than one case, I am met with the words “can you wait there a minute?” while they go back inside to fetch a list of questions they had prepared.
Tuesday Feb 2
Watching the proceedings as Brian Cowen gives his final Dail speech. He is constructive and dignified. The contrast with the speeches from Messrs Kenny & Gilmore is striking. They act as if they were at a chicken-and-chips party fund-raiser rather than the closing session of parliament. At least, Kenny has the common decency to pay tribute to Brian’s personal qualities, something Gilmore pointedly fails to do. His old Stickie/Workers’ Party training coming to the fore, no doubt.
Wednesday Feb 3
Today’s canvass schedule is a bit curtailed with just morning and afternoon sessions, as Micheal Martin is coming to Limerick tonight to meet party workers. The morning session usually goes from just before 10am to about 1pm, then time for a short sandwich break and off to the next location for another three hours meeting people, up to about 5pm.
The mood at the meeting is upbeat. Activists are, as I said on the night, up for a fight. They know that not everything we did since 1997 was perfect, but they most surely are not going to let Gilmore, Kenny or Adams pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.
Thursday Feb 4
Another day: another poll. Third poll in a row and the third offering differing set of figures. Where are they conducting them — in parallel universes? I am already driven to distraction being asked why Fianna Fail is up two or level or down one in the space of 48 hours. I have no idea why the three polls vary, though the one consistent trend emerging is the public’s regard for Micheal Martin.
It is consistent with what I have been hearing on the doorsteps. People are prepared to give him a fair hearing and to listen to what he has to say. In the present circumstances and given the avalanche of political attacks the party has endured in recent months, this is no small achievement in itself.
I am about to break for a quick meal just before 6pm when I get a flood of texts and calls telling me that the TV3 news has shown a clip of a Limerick woman after she had met Eamon Gilmore, but who said she was still voting Willie O’Dea.
Friday Feb 4
Will spend most of today in Southill, grabbing a few minutes here and there to try and finish off this week’s election diary. Looking back over the first few days’ canvass, I am seeing an intensity to the engagement I cannot recall witnessing before. People are asking tough and probing questions. They are listening carefully to the replies and are ready to catch out those who are offering soft options or plamas.