Cormac fights for his slice of the Dún Laoghaire pie
Cormac Devlin strolled into the bright and cheerful room in Beaufort day-care centre in Glasthule. "I hear you've lemon meringue for dessert," he greets the two women stacking dishes by the kitchen. "Any to spare for a hungry councillor?"
Lunch was in full swing, and Cormac, who is a voluntary member of the management board of the complex of 60 resident units and a day-care centre, was taking a break from the Great Dún Laoghaire Gender War.
"Are you looking for a vote?" asked one woman suspiciously, before several ladies around the table fell to checking his family background. No blow-ins would be tolerated by this community of senior citizens.
But even here, the war got a mention. "Do they want to get rid of you for Mary Hanafin?" enquired Josephine Lawless from Sallynoggin.
"Ah, sure we'll see what happens next week," replied Cormac diplomatically. "If I win, I'm a candidate; if I lose, I'm a councillor."
He strolled around the tables, introducing himself to the diners and settling into chairs for chats. One grey-haired woman regarded him thoughtfully. "He's very presentable," she whispered, taking in his smart suit and tie. Was that good for his chances? "It can only help," she reckoned with a smile.
After he left (sans any lemon meringue), he headed for a nearby estate for a short canvass. But it was the middle of the day, and a sunny day to boot, so pickings were slim for the Fianna Fáil councillor and his team (which included his mother-in-law Carol).
One woman, Norah Higgins, was just heading out in her car. "When is the convention?" she asked. "The battle royale is Monday night," he informed her. "Well, you've been around here, which is more than some, so best of luck to you," said Josephine. Cormac thanked her. "If things work out, I'll be back around again," he promised.
For once, the description "battle royale" is no exaggeration. For some months now, Fianna Fáil skin and hair has been flying in the ever-interesting constituency of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, with councillors Kate Feeney, Mary Hanafin and Cormac Devlin scrapping to be the single candidate on the General Election ticket.
But with the party facing financial penalty if it fails to reach the 30pc gender quota, headquarters appeared to be leaning towards issuing a directive that a woman should be selected, even though Devlin was regarded as favourite for the nod.
The Glenageary-based councillor (35) threatened legal action against the party, prompting the National Constituencies Committee to have a re-think; a letter was sent to councillors and party members this week confirming one candidate would be chosen at the convention next Monday, but no gender was specified.
Cormac, who was first elected to the council in 2004, had been on alert for a directive. "The real warning shot was two weeks ago when the diktat was issued two weeks ago in Dublin South Central for Daithí de Róiste and in Dublin Central for Brian Mohan. That's when the penny dropped," he said.
Over a coffee in the Eagle House pub in Glasthule village, Cormac explained his legal warning was to show how seriously he was taking the matter.
"I would've reluctantly proceeded down that road if it had come to it. I felt so strongly in the interests of true equality, that if a diktat had been given to the other extent, where it was only a man who could contest, there would be uproar and rightly so," he said. "I'm very happy with their decision".
Whatever the outcome, the three-way tussle has certainly raised the profile of the lone male candidate.
"The convention comes up on the doors all the time," he admitted, adding he was feeling "apprehensive" about the outcome. "You'd have to be apprehensive," he added.
But Cormac was adamant that if the result doesn't go his way on Monday, he will fully accept the decision. "I absolutely accept the decision and I totally respect the members' views. All of us in contention have stated it's a one-candidate strategy," he stated. "Now whether that's agreed by the National Constituencies Committee is another," he added.
Aha. So the bigwigs do have the power to add a second body to the ticket regardless? "They do, but it would be foolish to run two candidates in a three-seater," he pointed out. (The four-seat constituency is really a three-seater as the Ceann Comhairle, Sean Barrett, is returned automatically to the next Dáil).
Will the three of you shake hands afterwards? He nodded. "We'll all rally behind the candidate," he said optimistically.