Some things better left unsaid as Mullen pitches to wider audience
Rónán Mullen pledges to take on Brussels for ailing rural communities
Senator Rónán Mullen and Senator Fergal Quinn in Navan shopping centre canvassing for votes for Mr Mullen in the European elections. Photograph: Alan Betson
“I’m not in anyone’s pocket,” says Senator Rónán Mullen to a couple in Navan shopping centre as he strives to get himself “more well known” among the voting public.
“I want to address the areas where the EU interferes too much in your life.”
They smiled and took his leaflet.
Rónán is fighting a new campaign these days. He is devoting his considerable energy, conviction and resources to the task of winning a seat in the European Parliament.
At the heart of this endeavour is his strong belief in The Right to Life of the Unsaid during Election Time.
In this regard, the Independent candidate for Midlands- North-West is more mainstream than some people might want to accept.
Because there are areas that most politicians don’t want to visit when campaigning.
This is not a geographical thing. It’s about things that are best left unsaid. When trying to win votes, why inform or remind people of controversial subjects that could potentially alienate them?
If they don’t ask, sure they don’t need to know.
Keep it positive.
Until, as Mullen sees it, “the media from Dublin” come along with their “obsessions” and start asking about issues that simply “don’t come up on the doorsteps”.
He’ll get no argument from the various party leaders currently trying to scatter fairy dust around the country while dodging awkward questions.
They all call themselves “conviction” politicians, but nobody really takes that too seriously.
Mullen, on the other hand, is all about conviction. The socially conservative Senator, who voted against civil partnership and vigorously opposed the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, is always happy to say how his deep Catholic faith informs his thinking.
In Leinster House, despite some stiff competition, Rónán is the market leader when it comes to family values.
Which is why it’s a big surprise to find not one mention of his career-defining involvement with the pro-life movement on his campaign leaflet. Observers of life in Kildare Street would hardly recognise the Rónán they know from the Seanad chamber.
But in the battle for a seat in this huge, 15-county constituency, he knows he must cast his net wider to have any chance.
He has no need to trumpet his anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage credentials.
“I know I have that vote.”
And he has Senator Feargal Quinn too. His fellow Senator has generously travelled to Navan for the afternoon to help his colleague.
Rónán is a smart cookie and wisely coasts on the celebrity coat-tails of the popular Quinn, the country’s best-known and best-loved grocer.
The candidate wants to talk economics and meet small business people. Feargal is his golden ticket into local shops. They pose for photographs in a shoe store.
Rónán removes his wallet from his pocket. It’s ruining the line of his jacket. “Will you hold that, Grace, it’s too bulky.” Then he sees us. “Oh God, I shouldn’t have said that.”
Feargal finds it hard to pass a shop. And when the owners see him, they want to drag him in, and Rónán gratefully slides in too with an expansive smile and lots of talk.
“I’m Rónán Mullen” he says to butcher David McGrane.
“Who are you with?” asks David.
“I’m with Feargal Quinn.”
Rónán wonders what could improve business for him.
“If we could get rid of the Superquinn sausages, it would help a lot.”
He says he’s fed up with politics in Ireland. “I think what’s going on is absolutely shambolic . . . The ones I voted for last time – they’ll not get a vote from me this time.”
A young butcher emerges from the back. “Ming’s yer only man,” he shouts. The boss raises his eyes to heaven.
Feargal says Rónán isn’t married. “Do you know anybody who would put up with me?” chortles the candidate. Feargal shakes his head.
“I might surprise ye all yet!” chortles Rónán.
Rónán and Feargal weren’t to know that while they were bantering about marriage, their fellow National University Senator, John Crown, was announcing his engagement to colleagues in Leinster House.
Prof Crown is to marry Orla Murray, who is personal assistant to FG leader in the Seanad, Maurice Cummins.
In the shopping centre, Brendan Carley, a retired courts’ official from Trim, says he’ll be voting for a party candidate, as they have more political clout.
“One woman called to the door the other day wearing huge sunglasses. I told her she might as well have been wearing a balaclava.”
Mullen meets another shoe salesman, who tells him: “I’ve saved more soles in Ireland than you have.”
The Senator talks to people about the disconnect between ordinary folk, who are struggling to make ends meet, and the people in Europe who are making decisions that will affect their lives. He says that, as the son of a small farmer, he will fight for ailing rural communities pitted against the might of Brussels.
The shoppers who talk, talk about local matters. Nobody mentions Europe. One woman comes over to say he has her vote because she knows “what you have done for the pro-life” and she is pro-life too.
Mullen is behind in the polls. But he feels he will do better on the day, and if he is ahead of Labour’s Lorraine Higgins, who is also from Galway, he reckons he has a good chance.
One of his rivals told him the other day: “All your people will vote. I can’t say the same for mine.”
Does it annoy him when people call him the Dana candidate? “I’m very happy to be what I am. I’ve never hidden the pro-life thing.”
Mullen disputes that it isn’t mentioned on his leaflet and points to the line saying: “I will uphold the life and dignity of every human being.”
He doesn’t want to be pigeon- holed. “I have a social and economic purpose.”
For the purpose of this election, the social element is about the quality of life of people struggling to cope with taxes and EU interference.
His helpers (he has an organiser in each county) have large bundles of the glossy leaflets. There are posters all over the town. The website is a classy production. Where’s his funding coming from?
“Come back to me afterwards. All I will say is I have a lot less than the candidates running for the political parties. They also get outside support from Europe.”
So will he issue full details of his funding after the election? “I’ll give a broad idea afterwards. I spend what I get in . . . people tend to focus on the handful of large donations I get. I spend what I get in, but I can’t manage a lot more than €100,000 to get started.”
Outside the shopping centre, Jim and Noreen Vesey from Dunshaughlin are remarkably pleasant, given they have been handing out leaflets for a couple of hours in the wind and rain. Noreen says the reception is “mixed” and is struck by the general apathy of people.
They are both surprised so few people seem to know their man. “They’re asking: ‘Who is Rónán Mullen?’”
Why are they supporting the Senator? “Because of the pro-life,” says Noreen. “Because he’s worth it,” says Jim. “He has a value system that the others don’t have anymore.”
Rónán thinks he might pull off a surprise. And a stunning vindication of The Protection of The Unsaid during Election Time campaign.