Thursday 17 October 2019

Swings and roundabouts on the campaign trail in Bailey country

Helping hand: Fine Gael candidate Lorraine Hall helps former Lord Mayor of Dublin Gerry Breen with some sun cream while canvassing in Dalkey, Co Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath
Helping hand: Fine Gael candidate Lorraine Hall helps former Lord Mayor of Dublin Gerry Breen with some sun cream while canvassing in Dalkey, Co Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey has sued a Dublin hotel after she fell off a swing on a night out.

It's the bizarre political story that's been the topic of countless water-cooler chats all week. So is it coming up on the doors on the local election trail in Ms Bailey's Dún Laoghaire heartland?

You better believe it is.

But it's an awkward question for first-time Fine Gael candidate Lorraine Hall, who the Irish Independent has joined on a canvass in the picturesque seaside village of Dalkey.

She has to concede that "yes, it has come up a few times". Pressed on what voters are saying, she replies: "People remark on it, that they've seen it reported on in the paper."

She quickly retreats to the line more senior Fine Gael politicians have stuck to: "I can't comment on individual cases... it's before the courts."

Fine Gael sources elsewhere aren't so circumspect. Party members are said to be "livid" that the issue is sparking grief on the doors, especially among business owners facing rising insurance costs. But Ms Hall is running in Bailey country and is perhaps understandably diplomatic.

Ms Bailey's father John has been a popular councillor in the Dún Laoghaire ward since 2004. He is a candidate today as well. Ms Bailey, also a former councillor, has been the local TD since 2016.

Ms Hall (37) has been on the campaign trail for months, building name recognition. She highlights her experience and how politics needs more young women. She has worked for former Taoiseach Enda Kenny and as an adviser to former Justice Minister Alan Shatter. She currently works for Ibec and is engaged to be married to Conall Mac Coille, the son of broadcaster Cathal. The local election has trumped wedding plans for now.

The streets of Dalkey are poster-free after the local Tidy Towns committee made it known they're not welcome. Ms Hall makes her pitch to a retired man on one door. "I definitely won't be giving you my vote. We're heading to Portugal, we miss the vote," he laughs.

"Have a blast," she says.

She's joined by "secret weapon" Gerry Breen, a former Lord Mayor of Dublin who has sun-creamed up, and May Garvey Keenan, who co-founded Young Fine Gael in the 1960s. Former Monaghan TD Brendan Toal lives nearby and offers to join her on a few doors. Aside from a certain controversial court case, what is coming up in Dalkey?

Pharmacy owner Blathin O'Brien wants to know why there's no free parking on Saturdays. Ms Hall will "check that out". One resident complains the Garda station has been closed. The candidate says five extra gardaí are being deployed. British-born resident Sarah Rafferty is applying for Irish citizenship. Ms Hall points to the hugely successful citizenship ceremonies brought in by Mr Shatter.

It's swings and roundabouts on the campaign trail.

Irish Independent

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