Socialist Party candidate raises red flag in the heart of Cork's north side
ON THE CANVASS: Locals extend a warm welcome to passionate activist Mick Barry, ‘a pyrotechnic politician’
A SPECTRE is haunting Cork North Central – the ghost of socialism, and tonight he’s wearing a Beanie cap and navy waterproofs.
Socialist Party candidate Councillor Mick Barry is taking no chances with the weather as he goes looking for votes in the heart of Cork’s north side.
Passionate and argumentative, Barry has been described by his erstwhile rival for a seat in the constituency, retiring Fianna Fáil TD Noel O’Flynn as “a pyrotechnic politician. He never goes anywhere without flashes, explosions and booms.”
The description seems apt. Since being expelled from the Labour Party by then leader Dick Spring in 1989 when he, Joe Higgins and 12 others were shown the red card for their membership of the Militant tendency, Barry has been a committed activist.
He moved from Dublin to Cork in 1991 and immersed himself in local campaigns for improvements in the pay of home helps, cheaper car insurance for young drivers, protecting hospital services. He also went to jail after refusing to pay service charges.
It’s an impressive CV for a left-wing activist. But tonight he strikes a more emollient note as he works his way through Suttons Buildings, a terrace of houses built in 1905.
Joined by local supporter retired postman John Murphy from nearby Roches Buildings, Barry approaches John O’Hanlon, a retired dockyard worker, who is forthright about who will get his number one.
“You’re getting my vote anyway Mick. Fianna Fáil are only full of lies when they come knocking on your door, and we haven’t seen them since the last election. You’re one of the few politicians who’s done anything for us,” says O’Hanlon with vehemence.
Moving on to one of the houses, Barry meets Rose Linnane, sole earner in her house. She works part time and supports her two sons, Jonathan (21) who’s in college and Evan (12) who’s in school. Linnane is concerned about education and the universal social charge.
“I suppose you wouldn’t mind the increases in tax if you got a free health service or free education, but we’re not getting those,” says Barry, to agreement from Linnane, who also promises him her number one.
Up in nearby Roches Buildings, the Socialist Party candidate meets Tom Barry (no relation). “I don’t care whose pension it is but no State pension should be above the average industrial wage, simple as that,” says Tom Barry, with fierce conviction.
Mick Barry agrees: “One of the ideas we are saying for the northside is a worker’s TD on a worker’s wage; cos I would take the average worker’s wage and not a penny more,” he says, to his namesake’s approval.
A hat-trick of first preferences in the bag, Barry is beginning to look a bit sheepish at his success rate. “You’ll be saying that it’s a set-up,” he quips – “we’ll see if we can find someone who hasn’t their mind made up yet.”
He knocks into one of the houses and an elderly woman comes to the door. She seems a bit confused and asks if he’s with Fine Gael. So he explains he’s in the same party as Joe Higgins MEP, leaves a leaflet and slips away.
It is perhaps, to adapt Lenin, a case of one step back.
But a man walking a Labrador approaches to shake his hand. “I want to say I’m giving you my number one,” says Mick Coughlan from nearby Lansdowne Court, who explains that Barry is a great supporter of local residents.
“I see you’re a Leeds fan,” says the candidate, nodding towards the crest on the man’s cap before inquiring about the Yorkshire club’s fortunes. “I hope ye get promoted,” says Barry, himself a Red Devils fan, before adding “though I hope the Cork Manchester United Supporters Club don’t hear that I’ve been wishing Leeds well – it could cost me votes!”