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FF hopefuls fear party is facing local poll wipeout

FIANNA Fail candidates for the local elections are being "hammered" on the campaign trail with many of them fearful that the party will be annihilated on polling day, June 5.

"Of course there is anxiety out there because of what is happening at a national and global level and sometimes people will initially say 'I'm not voting for you because you're Fianna Fail', but I represent an opportunity to vote for a change," claimed Garret Tubridy, the brother of one of RTE's highest-earning stars, Ryan Tubridy, who is running in the six-seat Pembroke/Rathmines ward in Dublin.

Independent candidate Jimmy Guerin, who is among 22 former Fianna Fail activists now running as independents after failing to get a party nomination, said the difference this time around was "unbelievable".

"I have been canvassing for over 30 years and for the first time ever I see real fear amongst people about the future," he said. "Women are literally crying on doorsteps. But also I have never met such anger with the Government. People ask what party are you and when you say independent they stop and talk and are far more receptive than if you are Fianna Fail."

The Greens are also feeling the backlash. First-time candidate and Irish Independent columnist Dave Robbins, who is standing for the Green Party, in the ward of Pembroke-Rathmines, sees the negativity but feels it is directed at their coalition partners, rather than his own party. "There are feelings that people are reluctant to take the medicine from the people they feel gave them the disease in the first place," he said.

Fianna Fail General Secretary Sean Dorgan has admitted there is much disquiet within the party over the selection process for candidates. "Clearly the election is going to be difficult and challenging," he said. "People are concerned and our candidates understand that, but they are still going to the doors with confidence because of their records locally."

However, it is believed that at least one candidate has already been threatened with violence after knocking on a voter's door.

Labour candidate Rebecca Moynihan is running in the South West Inner ward of Dublin City Council and says even lifelong Fianna Fail voters are switching allegiance.

"One man recently came flying from behind the door waving his fist ready to have a go, but as soon as he saw I was Labour he told me he will be giving me a scratch this time," she said. "I have been knocking on doors since November and I have had just two people voting for Fianna Fail, which is a lot less than normal."

Political parties are also harnessing migrant candidates in their quest for seats.

The four main parties have confirmed 26 'New Irish' candidates -- Fianna Fail (9), Fine Gael (7), Labour (4) and the Greens (6). They come from countries as diverse as Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Nigeria, Russia and Poland.

Fianna Fail has selected its first Muslim candidate, Pakistan-born Shaheen Ahmed who has been living in Ireland for 28 years and is contesting the Lucan/Palmerstown ward. "The real challenges facing my campaign will be the strength of my policies and not the background I am from. We have the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others and to craft a community that is, instead, integrated and all-inclusive," he said.

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In Limerick, Elena Secas, a former journalist from Moldova, joined the Labour Party in 2006. She chose her party because of its "core values" and is of the opinion that voters will look for a candidate who can deliver, irrespective of nationality.

"I think people are looking for a change, for new voices and there are some good immigrant candidates. These people came to Ireland, settled, integrated and are now facing the same problems as the rest of the community," she said.

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