FF rebel Mattie gets locals to sing from same hymn sheet with record
"YOU'VE all been telling lies!" said the man.
"I never told a lie in my life," replied Mattie McGrath, the Fianna Fail rebel now running as an Independent in Tipperary South-West Waterford.
The man, who didn't want to be named, was the first and only angry voter Mattie met yesterday while canvassing in Cahir, Co Tipperary.
Mattie is loved in Cahir, the town just miles from his home and where he went to school.
"If you're to get the vote from me, I want no more bull****," continued the man.
As this exchange was going on, one of Mattie's vans did a lap of the town square, with a recorded message from Mattie belting from loudspeakers attached to the roof.
"I need your number one," the message blasted. "If you re-elect me, I will continue getting the work done for the people of Tipperary-West Waterford."
The loudspeaker also plays a few tunes from Mattie's new election CD, 'The Man in the Van' (or 'Now That's What I Call Mattie 2011', since he had one for the last election too).
It includes such tracks as the techno-dance music tune 'Rise and Follow Mattie' and the more traditional 'Working till Morning', which the sleeve notes say was written "in appreciation of Mattie's hard work".
The final track -- 'Our Guy, Your Guy, Mattie McGrath' -- has a reel at the end of it "as a mark of respect for Mattie as he chisels persistently at all issues and policies in need of change".
The CD, Mattie tells us, only costs a few bob, and all proceeds go to charities for the blind.
One of the musicians on the CD, Stefan, is visually impaired.
Meanwhile, at the side of the square, the spat continues.
"You were all jumping ship like rats," says the man.
Mattie throws a curveball.
"How's your mother?" he asks.
"Ah, she's alright . . . ah, hang on, there's no point in asking how my mother is."
The man moves on to Mary Harney, and Mattie points out that he's been "fighting Mary Harney for four years".
"And those pensions are too much. Your wages should be cut. There should be a constitutional referendum."
And then Mattie takes a handful of cue cards and a pen from his pocket, as if he is about to take down a complaint about a broken streetlight or pothole.
"Now," says Mattie, scribbling on the card. "I'm just writing it down here about the constitutional referendum."
And he jots down "constitutional referendum" before putting the card back in his pocket.
The man then tells how his mother is upset after a letter from the local Fine Gael TD, Tom Hayes, arrived through the door addressed to his father, even though the father died five years ago.
"Ah, that's very careless," tuts Mattie, who's quickly off, shaking more hands and handing out more leaflets.
It's a cold, blustery day in Cahir but Mattie is well received by almost everyone. He's wearing a baseball hat with 'Vote Mattie Number One' written on it.
Everyone knows him and everyone has a word -- even a pack of 20-somethings who drive by in a stretch Hummer give him a cheer. Mattie McGrath -- rock star. Well, he does have his own CD.
On the way out of the Punter's Rest pub, a man shouts: "Mattie, I want to thank you for sending Seanie Lanigan up to fix the lights for me."
A Shane Ross-style Independent Mattie ain't. But some voters are focused on the national picture.
"You can't be jumping ship the way you did with Fianna Fail," says shopkeeper Patrick O'Donovan.
Mattie says he's confident of holding his seat.
He visits the local enterprise centre and prompts Helen Quirke, who works there, to "tell him about my colleague, my former colleague".
She tells how the centre wrote to local FF TD Martin Mansergh in December 2009, asking for help.
He never got back to them, but appeared in the centre a few weeks ago, where the issue was brought up with him.
"He said, 'Oh you got that sorted'," Ms Quirke said. "And we said, 'yeah, Mattie sorted it'."
Poor Martin, he doesn't really stand a chance.