| 13.3°C Dublin

Rock in a hard place between FF Lord Mayor and SF veteran


On the doorstep: Lord Mayor of Dublin Paul McAuliffe with Fiona Connolly while canvassing in Finglas. Photo: Arthur Carron

On the doorstep: Lord Mayor of Dublin Paul McAuliffe with Fiona Connolly while canvassing in Finglas. Photo: Arthur Carron

On the doorstep: Lord Mayor of Dublin Paul McAuliffe with Fiona Connolly while canvassing in Finglas. Photo: Arthur Carron

Timing of events is vital in politics. Sometimes it goes against you, sometimes with you.

Little did Lord Mayor of Dublin Paul McAuliffe realise he would be in the middle of a general election when he would be awarding the Freedom of the City of Dublin to Jim Gavin, the former Dublin manager. He made the proposal last September after the Dubs historic five-in-a-row All-Ireland titles, not knowing when the election would be.

Four months later, he's knocking on doors in Finglas just after the Freedom ceremony last weekend. An elderly woman on McKee Road waited at her door to shake his hand and thank him for recognising Gavin's contribution to the city.

Another man arrives to his door wearing a Dubs tracksuit top, delighted to meet him. Kids playing hurling on the street come up wanting their photo taken with him.

It doesn't get much better than this for the local boy.

McAuliffe is in his backyard. His family are from this area and the 43-year-old lives just up the road with his wife and two children.

"You don't need to call me Lord Mayor here," he says.

McAuliffe became Lord Mayor after topping the poll in Ballymun-Finglas in the local elections and managing the vote well to see his running mate Keith Connolly elected.

He lost out to Fine Gael's Noel Rock by just 600 votes on transfers in the last general election in Dublin North-West.

McAuliffe tells a voter on Cloney Avenue that Social Democrat co-leader Róisín Shortall and Sinn Féin's Dessie Ellis will be elected.

"It will be a re-run with me and Rock for the last seat."

McAuliffe is a Micheál Martin loyalist, citing his judgment on issues such as abortion and Brexit.

Daily Digest Newsletter

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan's exclusive take on the day's news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

"He's been right on a couple of things where even I maybe privately might have thought we should be doing something differently. He has a good ear for what's right," he says.

Martin could turn to McAuliffe for advice on managing a coalition of Fianna Fáil, the Labour Party, the Green Party and Social Democrats. It's the grouping he leads on Dublin City Council.

"There is a commonality between us on public housing. We could work with those parties. We do work with those parties," he says.

On many doorsteps, housing is the predominant concern of voters, along with health.

"We are a party that believes in home ownership and building houses," he says.

Across the constituency in Beaumont, McAuliffe's arch nemesis Noel Rock encounters the same mixture of local and national issues on Shantalla Drive. As a Government TD, he also gets queries about the pension age controversy.

He wants it cleared up and tells a voter it's "undignified" to ask people to sign on at the end of their working lives.

Rock differs on the final shake-up. He says the final seat will be between him and Ellis. "Me or Sinn Féin is what they're saying," he tells a voter.

Rock points to analysts saying McAuliffe will top the poll and Shortall is a safe bet.

"From people I am talking to, reasonable decent people, they respect my work rate, they respect my record, they respect my ability to speak out, on behalf of my party sometimes and against my party sometimes, but always on behalf of the people here."

Sinn Féin did take a hammering in this area in the local elections. The party's efforts were hampered by internal rifts and bad vote management. Nonetheless, Sinn Féin strategists are confident Ellis will have enough of a record to pull through.

While McAuliffe is flying high locally, the constituency will be a test for Fianna Fáil's lower vote in Dublin.

Rock managed to take a seat last time after decades of no Fine Gael TD in the area.

The odds are against him and yet nobody is writing off the 32-year-old at all.

Please register or log in with Independent.ie for free access to this article

Already have an account?

Most Watched