Friday 31 October 2014

No party machine behind her, but Nessa Childers happy to brandish her independent credentials

Published 14/05/2014 | 02:30

Nessa Childers on the campaign trail in Kimmage as a poster for Emer Costello looms across the road
Nessa Childers talks to a constituent in Kimmage. Photo: Mark Condren

NESSA Childers was keeping vigil for shoppers outside the large SuperValu supermarket in Kimmage.

Right in her eyeline, on the opposite wall of the car park, loomed a huge poster of Labour's Euro candidate for Dublin, Emer Costello.

"The main parties sweep into places like something out of 'Transformers', in a line of jeeps covered in logos," she shrugged.

Nessa was part of the Political Machine herself, not so long ago. Until last summer she was ensconced in the Labour Party, after successfully running in the East constituency in the 2009 Euro elections. (Before that, she had been a Green Party councillor, joining that party after failing to get nominated to run in the local elections for Labour.)

But she proved to be one of Labour's multifarious members of the Awkward Squad. Among her various rebellions against the party line was her vociferous objections in 2011 to supporting the government decision to hand a plum post at the European Court of Auditors to Kevin Cardiff, former secretary-general of the Department of Finance.

So it was little surprise when Nessa resigned first from the parliamentary party, and then Labour itself last year, declaring: "I no longer want to support a Government that is actually hurting people".

Also, in what may prove to be a canny move, in January she announced she would also switch constituencies for this month's elections, running in Dublin rather than Ireland South.

And despite the dizzying series of moves that leave her without a Transformer team of her own, Nessa is still in the hunt for a seat in what's shaping up to be a tight race in the capital, with Fine Gael's Brian Hayes, Labour's Costello, Fianna Fail's Mary Fitzpatrick, Eamon Ryan of the Green Party and Sinn Fein's Lynn Boylan in the mix.

It was clear on the canvass yesterday that the MEP was more than happy to brandish her Independent credentials. Almost every person wandering past en route to the shops who stopped to take an election leaflet had the same opening question: "What party are you from?"

Nessa smiled happily. "Oh, I'm an Independent in every sense of the word," she assured her inquisitor. "I'll vote for you, so. I'm not voting for anyone but Independents," came the inevitable reply.

"We're getting loads of that on the canvasses," reflected Nessa. "There's a lot of anger out there about Labour and FG – actually FG is getting it even worse in the past few weeks over all the Shatter business," she reckoned.

One woman pushing a buggy stopped for a chat. She wasn't happy. Iraqi woman Maha Al-Adheem has been living in Ireland with her husband for three-and-a-half years, and despite being a qualified doctor, is still unable to work here. Nor can the couple find a landlord who will accept their rent supplement and are living in one room with their newborn baby, Omar. "I worked as a doctor in Syria, but I cannot do so here, and I really do want to work. I'm getting very mad about it," she told Nessa.

Canvassing alongside Nessa was John O'Donovan, first-time Independent candidate in the Crumlin-Kimmage constituency.

John, who teaches journalism at Griffith College, said he had forged a network of both support and intelligence with other Independent candidates across the city. "The word is that Independents are getting a great response – there's no anger directed towards us," he said.

He is campaigning to have a community benefit clause made part of the Dolphin's Barn regeneration project, whereby a clause reserving about a quarter of all jobs created through it would be part of the city council's tender. He also wants the many shuttered premises in the area to be opened up to business and community projects.

Nessa said she had sought like-minded Independent candidates to canvass within the different areas of the constituency.

"It's fascinating how local groups and communities have taken over from government authorities in trying to get things done in their areas," she said. "People are taking back control, because they're disillusioned with broken promises."

Nessa is "hopeful" of snatching a seat in Dublin. "But I need No 1 preferences," she added. "I've no big machine behind me".

Irish Independent

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