No bother for SF man as voters speak out

Candidate Darren O’Rourke hopes to capitalise on anti-Coalition sentiment

Darren O'Rourke (left), Sinn Fein candidate, canvassing Brian Coombes at Duleek, Co Meath. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Darren O'Rourke (left), Sinn Fein candidate, canvassing Brian Coombes at Duleek, Co Meath. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

If there is one thing that distinguishes the people of Meath from all other counties, it is their unerring ability to insert the phrase “no bother” into practically every conversation.

Over the course of a week on the doorsteps, you hear it everywhere, in the commuterville of the south of the county and in the rural north.

The only difficulty is that there is in fact bother, and a lot of it, for some people.

They have problems with employment, mortgage repayments, the impending property tax, the cost of living, emigration and various local issues. And they’re letting politicians of all hues know about it.

Darren O’Rourke is Sinn Féin’s new standardbearer in this relatively newish constituency (Meath was split into two three-seaters as recently as 2007).

Some 3,795 people voted for his predecessor, Michael Gallagher, in the general election two years ago.

At 8.8 per cent, it constituted a five-point gain and gave the party a bit of a toehold in the constituency. That said, over in Meath West, Peadar Tóibín was elected.


Long-term gain
It does show there is a base here for long-term gain.

O’Rourke (32), a biomedical scientist, only began working with the party full time in 2011 when becoming adviser to health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin.

A native of Kells but living in Ashbourne, he is polite and sincere and quietly spoken.

Yesterday, he and local activist Séamus Lynch were part of a team canvassing in Duleek, a town that mixes picture postcard with industrial grey (the north of the town is dominated by a commercial incinerator and a cement factory).

They fly through Balsaran Drive – which should be a model for local authority estates – to encounter some apathy, a little anger and a lot of “no bothers”.

“This a reasonable area for us,” O’Rourke forecasts as we start.

At a doorstep, Rita Clarke, a grandmother, says it is getting harder and harder and that “€50 is gone before you know it on a few bits in the local shop”.

O’Rourke tells her: “We are trying to give the Government a clear message about how their policies are impacting on people’s lives. We want to show people there is a different way of doing things.”

Clarke’s view is of a similar cast: “The Government has made no difference, maybe just lining their own pockets,” she says.


Sympathetic ear
Elsewhere, O’Rourke gets a sympathetic ear from a young man “in between jobs” about Sinn Féin’s €30 million stimulus programme for training young people.

He gets short shrift a minute later, however, when an older woman opens the door.

“You’ve some cheek coming here,” she scolds him.

You try to live on €180 a week with all the Ministers and TDs with their big pensions. Go to hell.”

“But we are the ones who . . . ” O’Rourke never gets a chance to complete his sentence before the door is slammed in his face.

He takes it lightly. Farther down the street, a man will talk to Sinn Féin but not to the media.

“Youse are as much to blame as the Government,” he tells us quietly but firmly, making us do the walk of shame to the gateway.

There is clearly a mood of anger out there, most of it directed at the Government. Sinn Féin will tap into some of it.

But not all.

The only strong endorsement today is from Brian Coombes who says “defin-ITE- ly” when asked for his support.

Friendly and chatty, Coombes works as a tarmacadam specialist.

“Work is a disaster . . . I would not give that Government the time of day,” he says. “It’s a joke. There’s the house tax and the next thing water charges to take the last few pounds off people.”

Referring to the news about Bank of Ireland chief executive Richie Boucher ’s €800,000 plus pay package, he says: “The big man is doing well while the small man is left out on his own.”

“Thanks,” says O’Rourke as he leaves.

“No bother,” Coombes says.