'My children will be paying for Enda Kenny's helicopter trips for years to come'
Philip Ryan joins Michael Ring as he hits a few speed bumps on the election trail in Claremorris
Published 22/08/2015 | 02:30
The Westbury and Lakeview housing estates sit on the outskirts of Claremorris town in Co Mayo.
Westbury is a mix of large individually-designed four- and five-bedroom detached houses with sweeping driveways surrounded by well-kept green areas.
Westbury leads into Lakeview, where similarly big pebble-dashed houses make up for their lack of aesthetics through sheer stature.
It is one of those upmarket rural Ireland neighbourhoods young families would have sold their firstborn to live in at the height of the madness.
But house prices plummeted and many residents are now struggling with negative equity.
One of the first things you encounter driving into Westbury is a newly constructed speed ramp bulging from the road's surface.
The smoothly rounded tarmac structure with freshly painted white triangles alerting motorists to the approaching impediment almost seems out place.
"I got that built for them and there's another one down the road," Fine Gael councillor Tom Connolly says looking at the concrete mound like a proud pharaoh surveying a recently built pyramid. A job well done.
Last Wednesday evening, Tom had an equally important job in chaperoning Minister of State Michael Ring on his maiden canvas of the two housing estates.
Michael, a Westport-based Fine Gael stalwart, has held constituency clinics in Claremorris for 15 years but has been barred from canvassing the area due to strict internal party rules.
However, local TD John O'Mahony has taken one for the electoral team and moved constituency into Galway West. The redrafting of the constituency boundaries have also left Michael down several thousand votes - this is a sore point for Michael.
Tom acts Sherpa, offering Michael background information on voters.
This is a TD in his natural habitat - no media gurus or party strategist - just face-to-face with the electorate.
Each door an audition.
Each issue raised an opportunity to prove their ability to troubleshoot for the community.
The pair get off to a good start with a call into Paul Newman. Paul's surprised to see his new local TD and questions whether an election is looming.
Michael says it "could well be in October" but more likely to be next year.
Before they leave, Tom asks: "Are you happy with the speed ramps?"
"We are, thanks Tom," Paul responds. Tom nods and gives him a thumbs up.
At the next door, roads are back on the agenda - this time it's a dangerous turn.
Tom insists he raised the matter with the council, and Michael says he will bring it to the attention of Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe.
"But you're happy with the speed ramps?" Tom inquires. She is.
It's around 7.30pm, what should be an ideal time for canvassing - but they aren't getting answers at a lot of doors. Some people are away on holidays and others just don't answer.
"They are fed up with ticket sellers and they won't come to the door because they don't have the money," Michael explains.
Approaching the next door Tom leans into Michael and gives a quick briefing.
A middle-aged woman answers. She states: "I know who you are and I won't be voting for you."
Michael asks why.
"Because Enda Kenny is only a b****x and my daughter and son are going to be paying for his helicopter trips for years to come."
"Ah now," says Michael, while Tom winces and looks at the ground.
Undeterred, Michael asks who she will be voting for.
"I'd rather see your man from the North in there if it kept you lot out," she says.
Michael says "good luck with that," and takes his cue to leave. Tom asks if she was happy with the speed ramps. She says "yeah" but doesn't offer any thanks.
Once out of earshot, Tom mutters "they're Fianna Fáil - I was expecting that."
Down the road, Bridie Mannion is delighted to see Tom and thanks him for the speed ramps.
Around the corner in Lakeview, Kevin O'Malley lavishes praise on the Minister of State for securing €70,000 funding the Claremorris Rugby Club.
"I'd love to have given them more but the papers give out hell when we give a bit of stuff to Mayo," Michael says.
An older couple answers the final door and after Michael does the introductions, the woman asks "what's the difference between you and the crowd in at the moment?"
"We are in," Michael says.
"Fianna Fáil bankrupted the country," Tom adds.
After a brief discussion on the closure of Roscommon General Hospital, the woman suddenly asks: "why are you trying to turn Ireland into an Islamic state?"
Slightly taken aback, Michael points out that plenty of Irish people travelled to Britain for work.
"They didn't put bombs in churches," she says.
"Well, there was a few that put bombs into Britain," Michael adds.
Not convinced, the woman continues: "If you get in again you will invite Islam into the country and the only way it can be stopped is if UKIP get in in England and Sinn Féin get in here."
"Sure, we'll make Gerry (Adams) Taoiseach and Nigel Farage can be Tánaiste," Michael says.
As he is walking off, Tom stops. "Are you happy with the…"
The door is already closed.