Valentine’s Day, and while my path is not strewn with rose petals, the welcome on the doors around Mungret is good until mid-afternoon, when I detect a sudden frostiness. Maybe frostiness is putting it too strong, but people do seem surprised to see me at their door.
This goes on for a while until someone eventually tells me why. “This is Niall Collins’s area,” says the woman opening the door. “We haven’t been constituents of yours for ages.”
Turns out I have spent almost an hour in an area that was transferred out of my constituency in a boundary change. The boundary line between the two new Limerick constituencies not only meanders in and out, but also moves back and forth in a manner reminiscent of Spike Milligan’s Puckoon.
Slightly red-faced, but relieved, I thank her, tell her how bright and hard-working Niall Collins is, and then gather the 20-plus people with me together to head back to our own side of the border.
Tuesday Feb 15
If it’s Tuesday night, it must be Castletroy. I am now so on auto-pilot that I can almost sense where we are going without having to check the schedule. Or maybe it’s that we traverse the city in such a way that I can work out the evening location based on where we have been in the morning and afternoon. I could tell you how I do that, but I think I’ll keep that secret safe until after polling day.
Wednesday Feb 16
The news that the Irish Independent poll says Fianna Fail has slumped to 12 per cent starts the day off badly. I arrive in Killeely to meet my canvassing team. They are not as chatty as usual. Obviously they have seen the poll.
I have met people who tell me that they voted for me back in 2007 but that they cannot vote for me on this occasion — so, while we can see the level of voter support has understandably fallen, we know it has not slumped that dramatically.
Despite our slow start, the day progresses well and
the mood improves. Just before we finish for the night, I get a text saying the next day’s Star poll has Fianna Fail at 17 per cent.
“Ah,” says one of the lads, “we started today at 12 and finished it at 17. Let’s make sure tomorrow we repeat everything we did today — it seems to be working.”
Thursday Feb 17
Today I am due to have the competing colour writers for the two main national broadsheets out on the canvass with me, so we decide to bring them on separate canvassing trips in the afternoon.
About one hour into the morning canvass on the Hyde Road I wish I had brought them out with me as the response is so good. Indeed, it seems we have to import irate voters from outside the constituency to give me grief when a guy in a car pulls in alongside to tell me, my canvassers and the neighbourhood what he thinks of politicians.
Friday Feb 18
I call to the door of someone I had met on the streets a few weeks back. On that occasion he was so non-committal that I presumed I wasn’t getting his number one. Tonight, however, he tells me that I can be assured of his vote. I thank him and am about to move along to the next house when he goes further.
“I had almost decided to vote against you,” he says, “until I saw the smugness of Fine Gael and that Brian Hayes fella in the Irish Times yesterday.” He beckons me to wait there while he goes and fetches the paper.
I hadn’t read Hayes’s comments myself, so I was intrigued to see what he had said to provoke him. He returns with the paper and points to where Hayes says, “We are feasting over the carcass of Fianna Fail. . .”
“The sheer arrogance of these guys,” he says, “and we haven’t even elected them to anything yet.”
Indeed, one week to go until any of us see if we will be elected to anything.