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Hopefuls hit the streets for one last push before the polls open

 

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All smiles: Peter Casey jokes with Olga Mahon, from Rathmines, and her son Roman (10 months). Photo: Damien Eagers

All smiles: Peter Casey jokes with Olga Mahon, from Rathmines, and her son Roman (10 months). Photo: Damien Eagers

All smiles: Peter Casey jokes with Olga Mahon, from Rathmines, and her son Roman (10 months). Photo: Damien Eagers

How to spend the last day of this monumentally bizarre presidential campaign?

Curled up under a blanket in a darkened room would probably be the first choice for most of us, after suffering months of lofty claptrap and cheap publicity tricks.

But for our six lucky ticket holders, the show had to go on.

For Michael D Higgins, it was very much business as usual - as he received the Ambassador of Spain, José María Rodríguez Coso, in a farewell courtesy call at Áras an Uachtaráin.

 

But it was a farewell to the ambassador, who has come to the end of his term, rather than to the President. Perhaps.

Peter Casey spent his own final day casually campaigning in Dundrum Town Centre with no advisers, no leaflets and no fuss.

Instead, his wife Helen and their daughter Alicia popped into the shops as he strolled through the centre, shaking hands with well-wishers.

 

For a man who started as an almost complete unknown in this race, he now attracts a mixture of curious nods and congratulations. Over the course of an hour with the Irish Independent, he met with no disapproval despite being at the centre of a racism row.

He repeated his mantra that his controversial claim that Travellers were "basically people camping in someone else's land" is "not racist".

"How can you be a racist when the Traveller community are the same race as us?" he said. "That just doesn't make sense. I lived with a guy from Jamaica for three years in university," Casey argued.

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"I think it's more somebody speaking out. It's nothing to do with the Traveller community."

 

He insisted his pause to consider pulling out of the race was real and largely caused by Leo Varadkar's call for people not to vote for him.

An emboldened Casey subsequently said the Taoiseach should "shut his trap" - but, surprisingly, that's the one comment he seemed willing to take back.

"That was wrong of me to say that. I will apologise when I meet him. I was just so annoyed and so tired and a bit bad tempered," he said yesterday.

There'll be no such apology for Michael D Higgins over his campaign attacks, which even took in the Áras dogs - but Casey conceded he would wish him well if the polls turn out to be accurate.

 

Gavin Duffy was at Manor House School in Dublin's Raheny, while Joan Freeman had a quick trip to Dublin Zoo followed by a visit to Trinity College and a walk on Dún Laoghaire pier.

She was in a reflective mood, saying that putting herself forward for election had been "the best decision" of her life.

It had been "the most wonderful experience" and had allowed her to see people "at their finest".

But she was not at all sorry to see the back of the presidential debates.

Freeman said the whole process of electing a president now needs to be looked at "from start to finish".

"We're supposed to be voting for a president, not who can be humiliated the most. Not who has the fastest answer on the Constitution," she said.

Liadh Ní Riada was out and about in her native Baile Bhuirne, Co Cork.

Seán Gallagher made a last foray down Grafton Street in Dublin in a bid to pick up votes, as well as a visit to the DCU Law Society.

"One of the sad days for the country was when the Cabinet had come out in force down Grafton Street to make tea to support the President," he claimed, given the extent of the homelessness crisis.

"It was a shocking indictment of the Government."

Half way down the street, Gallagher met with 'Simon from Donegal' who works for the US Democrats in New York but who had come home to vote.

He had watched the debates with his American girlfriend who had been shocked, asking him: "Is this the standard of politics in Ireland?" He planned on giving his number one to Joan Freeman, he said, believing that Michael D Higgins had become "a bit condescending" in the debates.

Gemma Fletcher, from Co Offaly, said she was off on holiday and so would not be around to vote - but Seán Gallagher had "grown" on her mother, who would be.

"He's a small bit of a change but he's not too radical," she explained.

 


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