Closure of Ballymun’s Tesco dominates doorstep exchanges in SF local canvass
Campaign trail: local resident and Sinn Féin candidate Noeleen Reilly looks a shoo-in in local poll
Sinn Féin local election candidate Noeleen Reilly: “There’s been no economic regeneration of Ballymun. You can’t get rent supplement here and some of the rents are sky high.” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill
So, you’re a young Sinn Féin local election candidate heading out to canvass Ballymun on a miserable Thursday evening with a fine tally of nine helpers, plus Dessie Ellis.
What’s the biggest problem you are most likely to encounter?
Maybe some barracking about the party leader languishing in police custody up north?
None of the above.
The number one issue is the extinction of the local Tesco. It closed last weekend with a loss of 60 jobs, in a haze of emotion and balloons:
“They told me it was about profit . . . They weren’t making enough money,” says the candidate, Noeleen Reilly.
Among the rare voters who answer the door, it comes up repeatedly. Their concern – patently genuine, some are in tears – is for the older generations, for whom Tesco was within easy walking distance and the anchor tenant in a centre where they felt safe and the staff knew their names and even minded their bags.
“From the get go, Tesco was very low quality but had the best, most amazing customer service in Ireland,” says Cara Fennelly, who wants to enlist Noeleen’s help in aiding a woman with a range of problems to resettle in Ballymun.
It’s hard to see what Noeleen – a 32-year-old UCD commerce graduate and chartered accountant – can do about the shopping problem.
The ugly old fortress-style shopping centre was supposed to die as part of the great regeneration project and be replaced across the green by a big, glass edifice developed by Treasury Holdings. Now the site is in Nama and most of the residents use taxis or their own cars to shop in Charlestown in Finglas.
But the demise of the supermarket is part of the narrative, another “broken promise”, according to Noeleen.
A council worker sighs: “All the promises that were thrown to me – I’m still waiting for them to be fulfilled.” Noeleen nods sympathetically.
A 49-year-old lone parent complains about cuts. “Sinn Féin opposed all those cuts,” Noeleen says. The woman nods hopelessly and adds that they should have been given an ordinary shopping centre; that there was no need for all the glass.
“There’s been no economic regeneration of Ballymun,” Noeleen says. “You can’t get rent supplement here and some of the rents are sky high”.
We encounter a chatty 19- year-old Thomas Whelan in Belclare Park who wants his picture taken with Noeleen, along with his friend Shane Delaney.
“Now there’s an example of young lads where there’s nothing for them,” says a canvasser. But the lads themselves appear to have no complaints. Thomas explains that his arm is in plaster after a fall off a motorbike so he’s “on the sick”.