Wednesday 20 February 2019

Mary Lou in Bertie-land as SF tightens grip on capital

Mary Lou McDonald has been SF’s star TD. Photo Tom Burke
Mary Lou McDonald has been SF’s star TD. Photo Tom Burke

John Drennan and Ronald Quinlan

Fianna Fail's hopes of regaining the seat it surrendered in Dublin Central following the departure of Bertie Ahern appear to be diminishing by the week, as the electoral machine of Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald cements its hold on the constituency once firmly controlled by the former Taoiseach.

In its latest advance on Mr Ahern's territory, Sinn Fein has established a new cumann in Phibsboro, with a view to solidifying and increasing Ms McDonald's already formidable support base.

Named after the area's local Roman Catholic church, the St Peter's Cumann holds its regular meetings above Mooney's pub in the north inner city. Sinn Fein's weekly occupation of the venue has unsurprisingly raised more than a few eyebrows within the ranks of Fianna Fail, given its previous use by Mr Ahern for constituency clinics.

Commenting on what they described as the "changing of the guard", a source told the Sunday Independent: "It really is quite the sight to see Sinn Fein holding court in one of Bertie's old political bases. It was one of Bertie's listening posts where his people would soak up local intelligence on the issues in the constituency. Now it's Sinn Fein with their eyes and ears on the ground."

Referring to the similarities in the approach now being adopted by Sinn Fein's deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald and that of Dublin Central's former ward boss, Bertie Ahern, another source said: "It is astonishing to see the Mary Lou machine in action. Wherever Bertie went and whatever Bertie did successfully, they're now following. At this rate, I wouldn't be surprised if they bought St Luke's."

Quite apart from Sinn Fein's increasingly vice-like grip on Dublin Central, the party's growing influence on proceedings within Dublin City Council is also being noted by its political opponents.

"When it comes to the politics of top down, the spirit of St Luke's is alive and well," Fine Gael councillor Noel Rock said, adding how Sinn Fein was now "starting to look more like Fianna Fail than Fianna Fail themselves".

It's a phenomenon that hasn't gone unnoticed by individuals within the Fianna Fail organisation, who are less than impressed by the party's efforts to prepare for the next general election.

"He mightn't like to say it, but Bertie would be impressed with the Shinners and what they're doing in Dublin Central and beyond.

"They're out knocking on doors, meeting people face to face and listening to what the problems are. There's an awful lot of people in Fianna Fail hanging out on Facebook and Twitter these days. They might want to take their eyes off the screens and take a look at what's going on in their own back yard."

Sunday Independent

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