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Independent who likes being a stone in authority's shoe

HIS turn of phrase alone would make him an asset to the Dail. Mannix Flynn talks like a character who has just stepped out of a Sean O'Casey play.

"There's a riot going on in Ireland but nobody is breaking out. The people in power are just sitting back supping tea because nobody has gone over the wall. All the prisoners are accounted for," he said.

Or: "Irish people are sitting on a nail and they could get off it but they won't because they are at home with their nail -- their sense of tragedy."

And how about: "Dublin City Council (where he is a councillor) is an amateur-dramatic society with too many egos. The Dail is just a bunch of amateurs without the flair to be a dramatic society."

For yesterday's canvass of Dublin South-East, where he is running as an Independent, he wore a navy pinstriped suit especially to show people that he could represent all sections of the community.

Over and over, he told voters that his politics were neither left- nor right-leaning.

Not all were convinced, but they smiled when he opened his raincoat the better to show off that suit.

"I don't regard myself as left or right, although there are certain philosophies I straddle," said artist and writer Mannix, a member of Aosdana.

"But I don't necessarily deal in ideologies, I'm too practical for that.

"I'm a radical conservative. I don't have to go down a left-wing road, this is not a left-wing country."

Going from doorstep to doorstep in Rathmines with Mannix (53) was Senator Fiona O'Malley, who befriended him after admiring his art work.

The former PD deputy believes the party-political system is necessary for stable government, but also thinks there should be room for individual voices.

"We can all learn from somebody like Mannix, who has had a colourful life and gone through all that he has done, yet has no bitterness.

"I particularly admire his refusal to be a victim. He places great value on the dignity of the individual," she said.

Born into a family of 15 children in a tenement just off St Stephen's Green, Mannix was in and out of institutions all through his childhood, including the notorious correctional school run by Christian Brothers at Letterfrack.

He was sexually abused there and has written plays and staged art exhibitions on the subject. But he now works with religious groups and says he has a strong sense of spirituality.

Carer Eileen Gantley asked why she should give him her vote and he spoke about the importance of retaining care-in-the-community services.

"But how are your politics different from Fine Gael and Fianna Fail?" she persevered.

He told her he stood for transparency and holding people and organisations accountable.

"I have a strong track record of challenging the status quo. I challenged one of the biggest institutions in the world, the Catholic Church, and got some satisfaction and accountability. I also challenged the Irish Government about their involvement in Letterfrack and their cosy arrangement of indemnifying the Catholic Church.

"How can we expect a different result if we're still choosing between mainstream parties with little difference between them?"

SCULPTOR turned publican Mark Leavey said he'd vote for Mannix because "he is not afraid to give his opinion". He said he had lost confidence in the current system.

"It's time for absolute change and creativity and Mannix invokes that. We need independent thought -- that's what created the State in the first place."

Civil servant Ivor Geraghty wouldn't give him a first preference, but promised a transfer because he admired his "honesty and independence".

Recovering heroin addict Patrick Dooner (29) pledged a number one because of his work in the community. Patrick says he wants people to realise the dangers of smoking cannabis and that it is a stepping stone toward other addictions.

"I notice a lot of young people in their early teens coming out of school and having a few joints behind the wall," he said. "That's how I started at the age of 12."

Russian poet Mary Duniyva doesn't have a vote, though she is convinced that artists would bring truth to politics. But she livened up a grey day by standing on the pavement and reciting one of her own poems, about a hurling match.

Senior citizen Una Fitzpatrick said she'd remember Mannix on polling day, although not with a first preference, because it took courage to canvass in the current political climate.

She was sticking with Fianna Fail because that's how she had always voted.

Mannix categorises himself as a New Independent in order to differentiate himself from politicians who, he said, only exited the party-political system "because they can't get their own way".

If elected, it's a safe bet he'll be the only TD with a pair of hearts inked on his right hand, for which he paid two shillings (10p) when he was 10.

They are a reminder of a past about which he chooses not to feel bitter.

"I can't afford the luxury of resentment. Resentment and anger are what's driving this country and they're dragging us down," he said.

Irish Independent