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Tuesday 23 July 2019

Crowley tells wavering voters to 'hang tough'

Aidan O'Connor

THERE was a time, not so long ago, when the Fianna Fail party faithful queued to canvass with MEP Brian Crowley, who has has consistently proven a big vote-puller.

But there was something different about his canvass in Kerry yesterday.

It might have been the absence of councillors and local election candidates.

In fact, you needn't have taken your hand out of your pocket to count the Fianna Fail team.

How Mr Crowley is received on the ground will tell the FF backroom team a lot; if he struggles, it augurs poorly for the rest.

A charity shop owner tells Mr Crowley how his parents emigrated and lived in England through the 1940s and 1950s.

"I'm afraid the same is happening here to me now, Brian," he said.

"There's no leadership in this country. There are a couple of fellas at the top running the country who haven't a clue. I'm afraid ye'll get a right hammering."

Mr Crowley reassures: "Hang tough. We made the right decisions over the last 10 years. Stay strong."

A group are meeting in Castleisland about funding for people with intellectual and physical disability. Mr Crowley joins the meeting. He freely switches from the political to the personal, openly referring to his own accident in 1980 when he fell from a roof and was left wheelchair-bound.

Behind the genuine charm and affability, Brian Crowley is as political and ambitious as they come.

And while, like many MEPs, he has managed to remain under the radar, he has had his odd spat with the Fianna Fail hierarchy.

He still refuses to fully back Taoiseach Brian Cowen, European Affairs Minister Dick Roche and his running mate Ned O'Keeffe on the issue of political affiliation in Europe.

Outside a cake shop, his phone rings. He takes a quick call, hangs up and then throws the car keys to his campaign manager.

"Go back to the car and listen to the radio." Manus O'Callaghan obliges.

Other candidates are on a panel debate. Inside the shop, Mr Crowley listens briefly to the radio. "It's more important to be here," he says. He gets a guarantee of a No 1 vote and a Madeira cake to take away.

Some believe Mr Crowley has bigger plans. He said last year that he would like to run for president. But the looming European election forces him to focus on the immediate.

"Most people in America might want to be the US president, but that doesn't mean it will happen. Right now, I have to get over June," he said.

Reflecting over a break, he sizes up the canvass. "We're not getting a bad reaction. At least nobody slammed the door in our faces yet."

And that seemed to sum it all up; an exercise in damage limitation.

How things appear to be changing for Brian Crowley and the once well-oiled Fianna Fail machine.

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