Dublin South Labour woman seeks Number 1's in hunt for PD seat


The elderly lady sweeping weeds from the path in front of her home on St Columbanus Road usually votes for Séamus Brennan.

"But I don't like his Taoiseach. I don't know where they get this stuff about him having charisma. So," she says, clutching the bright red flyer Eithne Fitzgerald has just handed her, "I'll definitely think about giving you a vote."

"Well, I need your number one," says the candidate. "I lost last time by just 400, so every vote counts."

The Labour Party candidate in Dublin South courted little favour among some of her Dáil colleagues the last time she sat in that chamber. The zeal with which she drafted the Ethics in Public Office Bill, however, won her serious admirers outside - though not enough. Swept in on the Spring tide of 1992, with a majority of 17,000 it was thought she could lose 10,000 plus in 1997 and retain her seat.

"But that's democracy," she nods solemnly. "It wasn't a good year for Labour."

Since then she's been teaching social studies in UCD and Trinity, giving her five years to "research policy". "When you're in Government you're so busy implementing program- mes. But I've had time to reflect, research."

She's kept on a weekly clinic in her Dundrum bailiwick and sees herself now "in the hunt" for the PD seat, held by Liz O'Donnell.

Yesterday morning saw her accompanied by four canvassers in the long-settled, mainly working-class estate around St Columbanus Road in Dundrum. Most residents bought their homes from the local authority some years ago and have dickied them up with bright paint, polished double glazing and small but perfectly formed rose-beds.

"The main thing is trying to keep her moving," say Ms Fitzgerald's sister, Ms Bríd Ingolsby, turning back to collect the candidate, again, from another doorstep. "She likes to engage as much as possible."

Notebook out: name, address and grievance are being recorded. The issue, again, is housing.

"I have a lot of votes in here for you here if you can help my daughter get a house." Ms Fitzgerald nods, taking down details from the man, whose daughter currently shares one of the two bedrooms in the house with her three-year-old asthmatic son.

At another house, she's greeted with a fulsome: "You'll definitely be getting my number one because Fianna Fáil can go and get stuffed." The elector again, is "fighting for a house" for her son.