'This treaty is a load of gobbledegook.' 'Deliberately so,' interjects Morgan
One woman wanted to know if a Yes vote would mean 'we'd get Michael McDowell back', writes Kathy Sheridanfrom the campaign trail.
POLITE, CAGEY and wary, the people of the Glenwood estate in Dundalk are living proof that Arthur Morgan is not leading us into a set-up.
He could have; Dundalk was one of the few places to buck the plummeting Sinn Féin tendency in the last election, so it has plenty of areas where a welcome plus a No vote package could have been prepared earlier. But Glenwood, a mixed estate of private and local authority houses, middle class and working class, is an unknown quantity, he insists. By the time we leave, it remains unknown.
The response adds up to a truck-load of don't knows, a few solid Nos, a possible couple of Yesses, disguised courteously as "not sure yet", plus the woman who wanted to know if a Yes would mean "we'd get Michael McDowell back".
A woman who appears at the door, dinner plate in hand, is typical: "I haven't even read up on it yet." She is a genuine Don't Know, she explains, when Arthur has moved on: "I respect Arthur and would listen to him but then I hear other people sounding just as sincere. It's really about who you trust the most, and that's the problem. In the end, you have to go with your gut."
Morgan's canvassing style is non-hectoring and respectful. For small talk, he can chat about growing spuds and the old smuggling routes in the Cooley Mountains, but given half a chance he talks about "the one thing that's annoying me massively", which is "the Euratom Protocol". This, he says "is enshrined in the treaty and really means we're endorsing nuclear power if we say Yes. It's not going to facilitate nuclear power coming here, but it's endorsing it."
In an area with a cancer rate 13 -14 per cent above the national average and with long-standing suspicions about Sellafield, it's a potent issue. "At a time when we're approaching a breakthrough in renewables, we shouldn't be going back into encouraging a dirty industry like that," he says, handing out a special leaflet with a gentle plea to read that if nothing else.
"Ten days to go and you're the first person that came to my door," declares a talkative man, with a wife peeking over his shoulder. "This treaty is a load of gobbledegook."
"Deliberately so," interjects Morgan, while the man canters on. "That fella on the radio - Fergal Keane is it ? - said he didn't understand 50 per cent of it. If he didn't understand it, where does that leave me? Ninety-five per cent of this has already been rejected by the French and the Dutch and nothing stopped. As the fella said, 'If in doubt, leave it out'."
"You've got it," says Morgan.
Once Morgan has left, the man's wife pokes her head out: "I hadn't a clue, but then I read this paper I found at the back of the church and I said I'm going to vote No," she says in the manner of a woman who has seen the light. Whereupon, she produces Alive!, ripping out page 8 as exhibit A. Sure enough, under Media Watch, along with the ritual claims of bias against RTÉ and The Irish Times, there's a slap for the Sunday Independent for failing to put Gay Byrne's anti-Lisbon critique - "sneaky, dishonest, under-handed and sinister", in short - on its front page.
For the woman, Gaybo's quotes are proof positive that the "big countries" are indeed coming to get us, and not in a good way.
Meanwhile, the husband is still talking: "The fact that all bar Arthur and them are joining forces and supporting the treaty is causing a lot of people to say 'it must be good'. I'd have the opposite opinion - the fact that they're all saying it's good means it's good for all the people on the gravy train," he adds darkly.
"And we're going to lose our corporation tax," sighs the wife, perusing Alive! again. "I'm really afraid now. We're going to be taken over."
By now, Morgan is six houses away, chatting to 32-year-old Yvonne Irving, who says she is "definitely" voting No because she hasn't "a clue what they're talking about. And I'm a clairvoyant," she adds. "Well, if you're a clairvoyant, what's the result going to be?" asks a Sinn Féin wag. She predicts a No victory.