Sunday 22 April 2018

Green shoots of recovery? Eamon sees hope for party at polls

Green Party leader and MEP candidate Eamon Ryan, right, with local election candidates Ciaran Cuffe and Donna Cooney as the canvass on the new Rosie Hackett Bridge in Dublin city centre. Photo: Damien Eagers
Green Party leader and MEP candidate Eamon Ryan, right, with local election candidates Ciaran Cuffe and Donna Cooney as the canvass on the new Rosie Hackett Bridge in Dublin city centre. Photo: Damien Eagers
Lise Hand

Lise Hand

Unlikely as it seems that there would be an inch of city street left uncanvassed in the capital at this stage in the multifarious election campaigns, the spanking-new Rosie Hackett bridge was only officially open for two hours when Eamon Ryan was busily handing out leaflets to the first of the morning commuters to have a mosey over the Rosie.

A few feet away stood Ciaran Cuffe, another casualty of the general election bloodbath of 2011 which saw off most of Fianna Fail and which did for the Greens entirely. "They're not throwing rocks at us, like three years ago," reflected Ciaran who is now a lecturer in DCU and a local election candidate in the north inner city ward. "We're getting a positive vibe," he added.

So did he think that his compadre the former minister could defy the long-shot odds and snaffle a Dublin seat in the Euro elections? "He's in the mix," Ciaran reckoned. "When we won seats before, it wasn't predicted. And the guy knows Europe."

Eamon is indeed in the mix for one of the second brace of seats, along with Fianna Fail's Mary Fitzpatrick, Labour's Emer Costello and Independent Nessa Childers, with the first two likely to be taken by Fine Gael's Brian Hayes and Sinn Fein's Lynn Boylan.

Caught up in such a close electoral knife-fight, Eamon was closely monitoring the body-language of the people who accepted his leaflets which crossing the Rosie. "If they wish you luck, you can generally tell if they really meant it, or are just being polite," he explained. And a good few passers-by did stop, including former Fianna Fail junior minister Peter Power who's now CEO of UNICEF Ireland.

Then the small Green army were joined by Donna Cooney who's running for the party in the Clontarf ward. She pulled up on her bicycle which had a modified baby buggy festooned with posters.

"I've just dropped the youngest off to school, and now I'm heading out to canvass," the mother-of-four said cheerfully, as she and Eamon and Ciaran posed by her bike for a photo. "Do we have to pose with the bicycle?" sighed Eamon half-jokingly.

Perhaps Eamon had his fill of colourful characters, having spent the previous evening debating with some of the more interesting Euro candidates on RTE's 'Prime Time'. But he insisted he had enjoyed the schemozzle. "I liked the mix when you have a candidate representing women working in the home side-by-side with a Socialist Party guy and someone speaking for farmers," he explained.

He admitted that he was experiencing a distinct feeling of deja-vu as he watches the junior coalition party in the electoral wars. But his sympathy for Labour is decidedly limited. "They're in a more difficult position than we were in, as we hadn't gone into the previous election in 2007 in the way they did in 2011 promising all kinds of stuff that they could never deliver," he said.

"They knew exactly what was coming. You know this line that they didn't know how bad it was until they got in? That's utter, utter rubbish. We literally opened the books and showed them beforehand," he shrugged.

Nor is he impressed with the way Fine Gael is behaving in Government. "They don't really have a sense of what's next. They were fine within the confines of a plan that was set out for them, but there isn't a sense that they know what to do now. They seem more interested in guarding each other."

With the polls so volatile, Eamon can be no more than cautiously hopeful about his chances of being elected. "Every other Green party that's gone into government in Europe has lost all their seats at some stage – the German Greens lost all their seats in the early '90s, the Swedish Greens in the mid-'90s lost all their seats, as did the Belgian and Czech Greens," he explained. "And they've all come back."

So what does he say to people on the doors who ask him where he's been for the past three years? "I tell them I've been working hard towards this moment," he laughed.

Are there Green shoots for the party? The question is – can Eamon Hackett on Friday, or is forgiveness a bridge too far for a still-smarting electorate?

Irish Independent

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