Canvassing with Fianna Fáil: ‘Ivana’s nice but she was voted in by Trinity graduates’

Deirdre Conroy pushes her local record in an uphill battle for Dublin Bay South

Deirdre Conroy with Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin. Photograph courtesy of Fianna Fáil

Deirdre Conroy with Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin. Photograph courtesy of Fianna Fáil

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Two women, sitting on the steps of a beautiful Victorian house, are just seconds from popping the cork on a bottle of cold rosé in the evening sun’s glow.

Fianna Fáil heavyweight Jim O’Callaghan shepherds the party’s Dublin Bay South byelection candidate Deirdre Conroy up the path, perhaps hopeful of an easy chat, maybe even a vote.

“I am voting for Ivana,” one of the women warns.

“But did you know I am a councillor in the area, a heritage specialist and environmentalist?” Conroy counters from the bottom step. “I have been doing all the work for the last two years, just to let you know. I know Ivana is lovely, but … ”

The response is lightning quick. “I am devastated by the current Government. I just can’t do it. The restrictions, the lockdown. It is like 1950s Catholic Ireland. We are going to do it longer, harder and more miserably than anyone else. It’s like self-flagellation. So, anyone who is not Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.”

Conroy says “the Greens are involved in it as well”, before adding “and I am not saying I support it. We don’t necessarily support it; it is the HSE and Nphet”.

A joke is cracked by one of the women about Nphet standing for “No pubs, hotels, entertainment or travel”. Everyone laughs.

Conroy says: “It is almost like the church taking over.”

Out of business

The reason for the anger of the woman sitting on the steps becomes clear: “It is heart-breaking what is happening. I have been out of business for 16 months. Business was due to start again on Monday, and now it is not.”

She is on the pandemic unemployment payment. “People who do not have skin in the game just do not understand it.”

The Government just days previously has agreed to delay reopening indoor hospitality.

“I understand, my business has gone right down as well,” says Conroy. “I am a councillor. There is no way you could actually live as a councillor.” There is somewhat muted agreement.

Conroy tells them she is the woman behind D vs Ireland, “the first woman to take a human rights case against Ireland. And now I am taking the housing crisis, with Fianna Fáil, to get it sorted.”

Promises are made to look at leaflets, and the canvass resumes.

Conroy, O’Callaghan, Minister of State Robert Troy and a diligent team of canvassers are now hustling for votes on the street where the former taoiseach Jack Lynch once lived.

Lynch has often been described as one of the most popular leaders in Fianna Fáil’s history, but the area now appears to lean heavily towards Fine Gael or Labour, with some Green votes evident too.

Bacik’s ratings

Conroy says she cannot understand Bacik’s poll ratings. In the recent Irish Times Ipsos/MRBI poll, Bacik was on 22 per cent to Ms Conroy’s 10 per cent.

“There was a man up there around the corner who said he is voting for Ivana Bacik. I know she’s a nice person but she was voted in by Trinity graduates. I wonder why all the work I have done in this area, does anyone know? It just doesn’t make sense. I am not saying anything against Ivana, but she is not working in the area.”

After being told by one man that he will be voting Green, she tells him: “I’m very green myself, I am an environmentalist and heritage specialist, I’m the one who has done all the work and reports on the Busconnects, for all of the area.”

“Okay,” he says, and shuts the door. Conroy keeps her disposition sunny.

She is an architectural historian, specialising in protected structures and campaigning for reform of planning applications needed to change older buildings.

O’Callaghan fears some view next week’s byelection as a two-horse race.

And what of those who say it is a test of his mettle as a future leadership contender?

“The byelection is not about me. I am doing my best on behalf of Fianna Fáil and Deirdre and I am really pleased with the support the whole parliamentary party has given. The Taoiseach has been out eight times with Deirdre, and I’m out every day.”

Later that night, Micheál Martin joins the effort for a ninth time, while Fine Gael canvassing teams filter through the same areas, looking decidedly more assured.

Dublin Bay South byelection

Full results and analysis