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A tale of two inner cities as FG's altar boy does battle with the Shinner

THE pundits are even more confused about who will win the seat in Dublin Central after yesterday's polls, but the by-election has highlighted a fascinating sideshow.

The showdown between Fine Gael's Pascal Donohue and Sinn Fein's Christy Burke is a north inner-city battle between the secular altar boy and the republican rogue.

Mr Donohue is something of a door-to-door salesman selling Fine Gael's message of fiscal rectitude while Mr Burke moves from street to street talking about entitlements.

But while the Fine Gael-Sinn Fein roadshow moves through the constituency, both look apprehensively at Fianna Fail's tanks training their artillery on them.

The Fine Gael team believe the voters are consolidating in the final week and conclude that Pascal Donohue will be going to the wire with Fianna Fail's Maurice Ahern in the count next week.

"The Fianna Fail people are bristling now that their backs are to the wall," said one of Mr Donohue's campaign insiders. "And they will rally to the cause at the last minute."

Sinn Fein's Christy Burke took the opposite view: "I've been speaking to experts and nobody can call it -- but they all agree that Maurice won't do it."

And of all the seven elections he has fought, Mr Burke, who has been canvassing since January, believes this might be the one to get him a Dail seat.

Conventional wisdom sees the seat going to a candidate of the left, with Maureen O'Sullivan "the Tony Gregory candidate" slugging it out with Ivana Bacik of the Labour Party.

Yet the intriguing interaction between the two most polar opposite parties, Fine Gael and Sinn Fein, is carried on by the their candidates.

Christy Burke brought street traders on Henry Street to meet the Lord Mayor yesterday to secure an electricity supply for the Christmas sales.


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Then he was out canvassing again in the same area around Drumcondra where Pascal Donohue was knocking on doors last night.

Mr Donohue has quietly dropped his party leader's photograph from his election leaflets, preferring to use a picture of Richard Bruton, the party's economic spokesman, whose seat is in neighbouring North Central.

Mr Donohue's sense of duty and honour is an equal and opposite quality to Mr Burke's natural empathy with the underprivileged.

They speak politely about each other although their parties are the most diametrically opposite of any of those contesting the by-election.

And whether or not either of them is elected TD for Dublin Central, both will be civil to each other and continue to live and work in the area they so obviously care about.