Campaigners keep an eye on the ball at Croker

Mon, Jun 9, 2008, 01:00

Sport and politics don't mix, but that didn't stop the Yes and No groups from campaigning at the Dublin-Louth match

IT IS often said that sport and politics do not mix, but it did not stop every shade of political party and Lisbon campaigner stepping out at Croke Park yesterday.

But rather than the full-on canvass, it was a day just to be seen - and to tentatively offer a leaflet to those willing to accept them as they made their way to the Dublin-Louth football match.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore and the party's Dublin Central TD Joe Costello had a brief canvass on the corner of Mountjoy Square.

"I think views are hardening on both the Yes and No sides," Mr Gilmore acknowledged. "But I do think people are coming to the view that the safer vote is Yes. At least it's down in black and white what you're getting."

As he speaks, a Dublin supporter approaches. "There's an awful lot saying No, No, No and loads saying Yes and it's very confusing," he tells the party leader who gives him a leaflet and begins to explain the party's view.

"Is he now a committed Yes or still undecided," asks Joe Costello afterwards.

"An undecided veering towards No," says the Labour leader wryly. The delegation then moves down towards North Circular Road, where one Dublin supporter says "No. Sorry lads, but No" as he walks by.

At Jones's Road, Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald walks by with a child and smiles of acknowledgement are exchanged. Joe Costello, who is going to the match is later greeted by Sinn Féin's Aengus Ó Snodaigh in his Dublin shirt.

The margin in the votes "all depends on the weather" he says. "If it's a sunny day like today, that will help the No side." If it's raining, he thinks the referendum will be lost, but by a whisker. "We'll have to get the vote out."

At the other end of the road, both Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern and Arthur Morgan are canvassing the Louth supporters.

Back at the Dublin end, a few young Progressive Democrats canvassers are handing out their leaflets while a large contingent of blue T-shirted Libertas canvassers are handing out leaflets and biros.

The effort by the three largest parties for a Yes vote was continued yesterday by three Dublin MEPs: Eoin Ryan for Fianna Fáil, Gay Mitchell who is also Fine Gael's director of elections, and Labour's Proinsias De Rossa.

They're opposite the Hogan stand entrance, talking to some Dublin fans or people they knew.

"Since Friday's poll, far more people are beginning to look at the implications of a No vote" says Eoin Ryan, who believes the Yes vote will come out.

"I definitely think there is a shift among people who recognise that Europe has never done us any harm," says Proinsias De Rossa. "We have an historic compromise at European level that is based on consensus." He believes a lot of the No campaign is "myths, mantras and codology".

Gay Mitchell says the joint effort is a "symbolic move" to show the importance of a Yes vote. He stresses that Lisbon is a "great deal" for Ireland where it takes 300,000 people to elect an MEP, but 800,000 to elect a German MEP.

As the MEPs move off amid a mixture of shouts of "Yes" and "No", they meet Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny. He's here not to canvass but for "this people's festival".