The Sinn Féin candidate who is making a name for herself
Lynn Boylan is a mystery candidate, but has rocketed to the top of the polls
Sinn Féin European election candidate for Dublin Lynn Boylan on the canvass with voter Jim O’Connor in Tallaght yesterday. Photograph: Aidan Crawley
Who is Lynn Boylan/Ni Bhaoigheallain? She is the mystery woman who, in the short course of this European election campaign, has rocketed so far up the opinion polls that she seems a dead cert to take a seat for Sinn Féin in Dublin.
But who is she? Where did she come from? What has she done to emerge from political obscurity a couple of months ago to become the bookie’s favourite? Her electoral track record yields no clues. Boylan, or Lynn Ní Bhaoighealláin as she was known, contested the 2007 general election for Sinn Féin in Kerry South and in 2009, she ran in the local elections in Killarney.
Ni Bhaoigheallain was eliminated on the first count in the national poll and came in ninth out of 12 candidates in the locals. An ecologist and UCD graduate, she worked with the Kerry Parks and Wildlife Services until returning to Dublin five years ago to take up a job in Ballymun. Last September, Lynn Ni’Bhaoigheallain was selected to contest the European elections.
Sometime after that, she reverted to Lynn Boylan. This is a move Fianna Fáil’s Eamon O’Cuiv might appreciate. In the last general election, Crafty Cuiv dropped the “O” from his name and shot up the ballot paper listings to the top spot. But Sinn Féin, as Lynn told us yesterday while out canvassing in her native Tallaght, is not like other parties. “I’m Boylan. When I moved to Kerry I changed it – for no reason in particular, other than I have an aspiration to be fluent in the language. I suppose I liked the idea of using the language in any way I can. . . But nobody would recognise my Irish name here.”
Language is hugely important to Sinn Féin. Take the party’s line on the EU. The biggest criticism levelled against SF by its political opponents is that they oppose almost everything in Europe. And the unkindest cut of all are the comparisons with Britain’s Ukip. Boylan repeats the line, first unveiled at the party’s Euro manifesto launch by her partner, Councillor Eoin O’Broin, when outlining their policies.
Sinn Féin is neither Europhile nor Eurosceptic. “The way we look at is: Sinn Féin is Eurocritical” says Lynn.
Meteoric rise Still, we puzzle at her meteoric rise. Might it be the Sinn Féin brand, which appears to be sweeping up all around it. Perish the thought. It’s not the brand, says the candidate, it’s the message. On the doors, she points out, people are saying they like the Sinn Féin message and the work being done by their TDs. That work ethic is strong and incredibly disciplined. It’s also financially underpinned for the fortunate candidates.
As we move along the doors in the leafy Bancroft Estate, Boylan tells us she left her Ballymun job in November to work full time on her Euro campaign — canvassing “there to four times a day.” That’s some sacrifice, giving up a paid position to knock on doors for six months. Luckily for Lynn, she walked from one job straight into another which helped her combine her political ambition with earning a crust – Sinn Féin now pays her wages, she works for the party, essentially a full-time candidate.
“As a Dub in Kerry the odds were stacked against me,” she says, explaining her poor electoral showing there. Things are much improved now. So much so that Lynn and her upbeat canvassing team take the two journalists accompanying them into this lovely housing estate.”
“This wouldn’t be our territory. This is deffo not a Sinn Féin hotbed,” jokes one of the team. But they don’t have to worry. For waiting to guide them are Mick Kirby and Jim O’Connor, both retired and both stalwarts of the local residents association. Neither are Sinn Féin members. But they turn up to help as a mark of appreciation to Councillor Maire Devine, who has done trojan work over the past few years for the residents, sorting out many difficulties for them at council level when other parties haven’t done a thing for them. Lynn Boylan may be running for Europe, but at every door, Jim tells people that Sinn Féin “are the only ones in the area giving us any support”.
This has all to do with bockety footpaths, planning issues, double yellows lines and general maintenance. The candidate says her party is “trying to get more Sinn Féin councillors” so that they do even more. Europe – as with most other party canvassers – often comes a distant second. Leo Oman says he will give Sinn Féin a vote. “I can’t wait to give the Government a kick” he says. He’s fuming over how they are “raiding pensions” and “hammering people with disabilities.” The water charge isn’t too welcome either. But he won’t vote for Sinn Féin in a general election. “I wouldn’t agree with their views.”
The woman next door says her husband is self-employed “and it’s nothing but tax, tax, tax. I think if Sinn Féin get in they might make it easier for the self-employed.” Lynn agrees. A young mother says she recently moved to the area and appreciates the work done by Ms Devine. The chat takes an international direction.
“We think we need to take a bit of a firmer stance in Europe because we need to be standing up for ourselves. We were told two years ago we had a banking deal and we have seen any of it,” says Lynn. Mick and Jim, meanwhile, stress they are purely non-political, with all shades of political opinion and none in the residents’ association. “We’ll support people who support us.” What about a general election.
So, if elected will Eurocritic Boylan do what her Dáil colleagues do and hand over a large chunk of their salary to her party? Yes. She’ll take the full wage packet to spend as she sees fit. For her, this means holding on to the equivalent of the average industrial wage “and vouched expenses” and giving the surplus to her current employers, Sinn Féin.
Designer bags She could equally bet it on horses or blow it all on designer bags, but she’ll follow party policy and give them the money for “providing facilities in the local community.” Like what? “For example, Sean Crowe [the local TD] has a full-time office that people can visit ever day and we employ a person to sit there full time.” Why not just instruct the state – or Europe – to keep the surplus and spend it on worthy projects?
“That’s an issue for party policy.” But on a personal level, does Lynn think it might send out a more credible message to the others drawing down the same amount if they saved the hard-pressed state this money? “I think we stand on our record . . . we do our business differently to every other party.” For Sinn Féin “the big issue is that TDs and MEPs are paid too much.” But there’s no point in refusing to take the money. How else would they fund the wages of full-time candidates like Lynn, not to mention all those busy, fully manned offices? Investing in the future, Sinn Féin style.