Battle-hardened Mary Fitzpatrick gets doorstep boost
Seats are hard won and memories go back long way in Dublin Central constituency
Mary Fitzpatrick, Fianna Fáil candidate in the Dublin Central constituency, canvassing in Cabra. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
The 2011 election was a write-off for her party in many parts of the country – Dublin in particular – but her 2007 campaign must be a hard one to forget.
The then taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s political machine famously issued an eve-of-election instruction to his Dublin Central constituents to transfer votes to his running-mate Cyprian Brady, brother of former Dublin lord mayor Royston. He was subsequently elected despite securing about half as many first-preferences as Fitzpatrick.
HeartlandNow seeking to win a seat back for the party in Ahern’s former heartland, Fitzpatrick says the unfortunate way things panned out back then does not come up on the doorsteps anymore.
“It was a long time ago,” sighs Fitzpatrick, as she canvasses Cabra.
She knocks at a door where a woman tells her: “I hope you’re lucky this time. That bastard Bertie destroyed you. Give him his comeuppance.”
Fitzpatrick insists it’s a rare reaction, but after she departs from a warm reception at Bob Roche’s door, he says: “I didn’t like what Bertie done to her. The letter was sent out at the last minute and the people here weren’t too pleased.”
He reflects that a lot of those people in this mature, settled part of what is known as “old Cabra” have since passed away, however.
Dublin Central is a tough constituency, where four sitting TDs – Fine Gael’s Paschal Donohoe, Joe Costello of Labour, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald and Independent Maureen O’Sullivan – are contesting three seats.
Does a Fianna Fáil candidate have a chance in this crowded field?
Fitzpatrick’s canvassers say the reaction has been a world away from 2011, when “they were bringing Fine Gael in for tea and firing bins at us and chasing us down the road”.
Yet a number of householders say they stuck with Fianna Fáil through thick and thin. John Lawless says he would never vote for Fine Gael and Labour. “This crowd got the chance and they didn’t do anything with it.”
So are Donohoe and Costello in trouble? “I hope they are. The only power we have is to put them out. If people put them in again they deserve all they get.”
He does not think he would vote for Sinn Féin, at least not while Gerry Adams is leader.
He says Fitzpatrick has tried hard and he hopes she has a chance. “I always voted for her. I thought Bertie shafted her.”
MistakesAnother supportive constituent notes that while the Dáil is currently dissolved, the Government parties have managed to “dissolve the country”.
Fitzpatrick tells him Fianna Fáil is the only party to have really learned from the mistakes of the past.
“Correct, I’d agree with you,” the man replies. “The current Taoiseach and Tánaiste are always pointing the finger at Fianna Fáil.”
He thinks Labour will be “wiped out” in the constituency, and maybe farther afield.
“And Fianna Fáil, all of a sudden, the door is open for them. Fianna Fáil is the only one big enough to attack Fine Gael and make a government. Otherwise you’re looking at eeny, meeny, miney, moe.”
Fitzpatrick is almost universally embraced by older residents, who remember her father Dermot, a former TD. Only one man curses Fianna Fáil and says the party will never get back into power, although he remains polite to Fitzpatrick.
A woman at another door has not followed political developments closely, exclaiming “janey mac!” when Fitzpatrick says the party has no TDs in Dublin.
She always asks for a number one vote, and when people say they will “do their best” for her she says a second or third preference would be important as well.
“It’ll come down to transfers,” she says. “When you go to every door you never know what you’ll get behind it. Some of the people you meet and some of the challenges they have put any political challenge into perspective.”