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The campaign trail is rocky road to walk

Mr Leafy South Dublin was angry. His house was losing value, his taxes were going up, his children weren't getting jobs.

Five years ago, during the last election for the local authorities, I was canvassing for my friend, ex-Herald journalist David Robbins, who was running for the Green Party.

His leaflet would sometimes be ripped up in front of us.

"Politicians! You're all the same!"

It got so bad that one evening we got a bit hysterical.

When one canvasser came away from a door saying the householders blamed Fianna Fail for the collapse of Lehmann Brothers, we developed a new slogan: "Vote Fianna Fail and smash capitalism!"

ANNOYING

ONE VERY FUNNY FEMALE CANVASSER BEGAN IMAGINING THE MOST ANNOYING APPROACH OUR CANDIDATE COULD POSSIBLY MAKE.

It began with the canvasser pointing at the large, expensive car in the unfortunate householder's driveway and announcing: "If you don't mind me saying so, your lifestyle is completely unsustainable."

Then the fun stopped. A door opened and a stray dog ran in off the road and up the stairs. The house-holder looked at me standing on the door-step and screamed: "Get your dog out of my house!"

"It's not my dog!"

"It is your dog!"

"It's not!"

"I don't care! Get it out of my house and f**k off!"

The dog had gone into one of the bedrooms and under the bed. He had to be dragged out.

Over the post-canvass drinks, we counselled each other. "You don't know what that man may have gone through today," said some wise soul. That's true. But he didn't know what the canvasser had gone through that day either.

One young female candidate for this year's local elections in Dublin reckons she's spending €5,000, when you count baby-sitting. Five grand out of the pocket of a young mother who has been canvassing her ward nearly every Saturday for two years.

She says people like seeing a young mother on the ticket, but others are hostile to all politicians. One of the strongest messages coming out of the canvass so far is against politics.

Which is a pity. Becausethere isn't a candidate out there who hasn't a strong desire to do good by this country. If they didn't have that they wouldn't be doing it.

It's not as if a local council seat will make you a millionaire. If you win you bag about €16,000 a year. And about two-thirds of the candidates will lose and go home out-of-pocket and publicly humiliated.

It's easy to shout at the radio about how politicians are only in it for themselves. It's not easy to have the bravery to stand up for what you believe.

It's not easy to put your mug on a lamp post in your local area and ask people to vote for you. It's not easy to walk up to the door of a stranger and ask for a vote.

RIGHT

I wouldn't do it in a fit. I'd crash the car rather than put my own picture on a post. I don't know how people do it.

But I'm glad they do. Because having a vote is a Right and you can't vote unless people stand for election.

The campaign is heating up and there are going to be canvassers on your doorstep between now and May 23. Show them respect.

You will hate some of their ideas - as well as their dress-sense, their haircuts, their manners and the stray dogs who hang around with them.

But there's no democracy without them. They are the people who make it happen.


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