Wednesday 11 December 2019

Eamon's refusing to bare his teeth in battle for Dublin seat

Back l-r: Loraine Mulligan, Labour MEP Emer Costello, Joan Burton, and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore. Front l-r: Emily Hassett (7), Amy Boran (7), Laura Hassett (10) and Tom Boran at Emer Costello’s campaign launch in Dublin. Photo: EL KEEGAN
Back l-r: Loraine Mulligan, Labour MEP Emer Costello, Joan Burton, and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore. Front l-r: Emily Hassett (7), Amy Boran (7), Laura Hassett (10) and Tom Boran at Emer Costello’s campaign launch in Dublin. Photo: EL KEEGAN

Lise Hand

SO it's finally Election Week, or Mehlection Week more like, given the abject failure of both the European and local contests to fire up the imagination and interest of an electorate, which has taken the collective unmerciful hump with the current incumbents of Government Buildings.

Alas, it's all a far cry from the last electoral race to be run in this country in the autumn of 2011, when the various candidates vying for the Aras kept a nation electrified and entertained with their theatrics.

This time out, it's all so darn polite. One would see more mud flying about in the Gobi Desert, and more committed digging-matches in a chipper at closing-time. Fine Gael and Labour are scarified of causing any rows and further enraging the electorate, Sinn Fein's euro candidates are all running on the Polite ticket to calm the nerves of their new middle-class following, and Fianna Fail isn't sufficiently far out of the dog-house to resume its usual electoral black arts. Even in constituencies where candidates are running thisclose (SIC) to each other in the polls for the final seat, there is a marked reluctance by those in the ring to come out swinging.

And one of those Euro dog-fights is for the third and final seat in Dublin. With both Sinn Fein's Lynn Boylan and Fine Gael's Brian Hayes looking likely to fill the first two seats, it seems set to be a close-quarters knife-fight between Fianna Fail's Mary Fitzpatrick, Labour's Emer Costello, Independent Nessa Childers and the Green Party's Eamon Ryan.

But the sniping has been remarkably muted. As there is no rest on the Sabbath before an election, Emer Costello, flanked by party top brass Eamon Gilmore and Joan Burton, launched her 7 Point Plan to improve the capital city. (Already she's two-up on the Taoiseach, who only mustered a 5 Point Plan to save the country in the last general election.)

The Plan is a glossy, impressive-looking document, filled with vows to wrestle more money out of the Brussels bureaucrats to finance schemes to tackle youth unemployment and homelessness and water conservation and anti-drugs initiatives.

"My plan provides a vision for making Dublin an inclusive city, a working city, an enterprising and global city, a learning city, a liveable city, a smart and sustainable city and a creative city," she declared at the launch in the Deaf Village complex in Cabra.

All of which are admirable goals. But first Emer has to get elected to the place wherein lies all the euro-lolly. And that won't be easy, particularly since one of her rivals, erstwhile party colleague Nessa Childers is attracting many disaffected Labour voters in Dublin (and worryingly for the party, they are legion at this moment in time).

Yet despite the fact that four years ago, the Labour leader barnstormed the-then Ireland East constituency proudly showing off his political blue-blood acquisition, Nessa proved to be quite the handful once elected, and she eventually departed for Independent pastures in that lofty vehicle, high dudgeon, declaring she no longer wanted to "support a Government that is actually hurting people".

Oh dear. But still both Eamon and Emer declined to take a leaf from the book of former MEP Avril Doyle who sniffily dismissed Nessa in 2009 as "politically naive". So are the Tanaiste and the candidate concerned about the Childers Factor? Eamon stayed his boot. "What we're concentrating on is winning support for Emer Costello," he insisted. "Anybody who looks at the record of the European Parliament, Emer Costello did more in the three years that she has been in the parliament than many of the other MEPs did in either the five-year term they had, or in some cases, an even longer period of time."

And nor did Emer sink her stiletto in the opposition.

"I agree with the Tanaiste. I'm very much focused on my own campaign," she declared, and went no further.

Eamon reckoned there was still all to play for, given the volatility of the polls, and also resisted having a dig at their rivals-on-a-roll, Sinn Fein.

Moreover, his own number-crunching has led him to the conclusion that Emer will be contending with Fianna Fail's Mary Fitzpatrick for the final Dublin seat.

So did Eamon say something about Mary?

Not a word.

Nothing to disturb the voters – who aren't floating, but drowning in ennui.

Irish Independent

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