The Times – Sarah Louise Mulligan, An Independent And Failed Presidential Election Candidate.

Election 2020: Knock, knock, who’s there: possibly your next TD

Gary Gannon, a Social Democrat candidate, surveys the road ahead out on the campaign trail in Dublin Central yesterday
Gary Gannon, a Social Democrat candidate, surveys the road ahead out on the campaign trail in Dublin Central yesterday BEN HAUGH
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The candidate rings the doorbell. Instead of the usual furtive glance between the curtains or a door being cautiously opened, she is greeted by a bodiless voice from the doorbell itself.

“Who’s there?” it says. “It’s Neasa Hourigan, I’m running for election in your area,” she replies. “What party are you from?” the doorbell asks.

Ms Hourigan says she is with the Green Party and the shadowy voter gives their blessing for a leaflet to be placed in the postbox.

“Those things freak me out,” Ms Hourigan says afterwards as she continues the canvas in Dublin Central. She is something of an old hand at this campaigning lark and joining her on the trail is her sister Sinead and her father, Michael.

Michael is a recently retired Fine Gael councillor in Limerick, so Ms Hourigan knew how to canvass from a young age. But why the Greens and not Fine Gael?

“You know, Roisin Garvey [a colleague], down in Clare, her dad was in Fianna Fáil and I think there’s a whole thing, the next generation, not really compelled by civil war stuff,” she says.

Ms Hourigan is broadly well received throughout the afternoon. There are a couple of law and order voters but she gets a fair hearing from almost everyone she meets.

Ms Hourigan and her family are out canvassing a new part of the constituency, so much of her pitch is telling voters that they are now in Dublin Central, not Dublin Bay North.

One voter, Don Herron, a retired secondary school principal in the Navan Road boys school, says he never votes for the two civil war parties but is reluctant to predict who will take the last two seats in Dublin Central.

“It’s very hard to know, in an area like this. This is Bertie Ahern’s old seat, you know. I’m one of the 45 per cent, I don’t vote for one of the two main parties. I’m done with that,” he says.

Ms Hourigan knows the area well enough despite it being outside her own council constituency where she represents Cabra Glasnevin. Her seven-year-old child, who is blind, went to school in the area for a number of years.

Ms Hourigan is in with a good shout this time around. A debut general election candidate, she topped the poll at the local elections last May, hitting the quota on the first count. The most recent Irish Times poll put the Greens on 15 per cent in the capital.

The constituency of four seats is widely regarded as having two up for grabs, with Paschal Donohoe, of Fine Gael, and Mary Lou McDonald, of Sinn Féin, almost guaranteed to take the first two. Maureen O’Sullivan, an incumbent independent, is stepping down.

Mary Fitzpatrick, of Fianna Fáil, is under pressure to take a seat as the party needs to improve its showing in Dublin if it is serious of leading the next government, while Gary Gannon, of the Social Democrats, also has a strong chance.

Joe Costello, the old Labour warhorse and junior minister in the last Labour and Fine Gael coalition is running too. It is almost certainly among these four candidates that the final two seats will go.

Mr Gannon and his team are also pounding the pavements of Clonliffe Road, where Croke Park dominates the skyline as dusk falls over Dublin.

There’s a nervous energy to Mr Gannon and his team set off at high speed, not stopping for long at any door. Whether by accident or design, the first three doors all say Mr Gannon is getting their number one. As good a start as any to the evening.

Ann Cole, a social worker, says Mr Gannon will get her number one, with Ms Hourigan number two.

Ms Cole says she wants the Social Democrats and the Greens in the next government and is not interested in casting a protest vote.

“We think it’s really important that they’re in government in some way or other. We’d be very disappointed if they weren’t. We feel the other parties don’t represent us,” she says.

Mr Gannon has been around the block, following a failed attempt to win a seat in the general election in 2016. He came fourth in the three-seater, losing out to Ms O’Sullivan. He was elected to Dublin city council in 2014. He stands a much better chance this time around as an extra seat is up for grabs and Ms O’Sullivan is not contesting.

Mr Gannon will also face competition from Gillian Brien and Rita Harrold, both Solidarity-People Before Profit; Christy Burke, an Independent; Deirdre Duffy, Fine Gael; Sarah Louise Mulligan, an Independent and failed presidential election candidate; Sean O’Leary, an Independent; Ian Smith, Aontú, and Éilis Ryan, of the Workers’ Party.

Is this the last chance saloon for Mr Gannon?

“Ah here, I’m only 32”, he protests. “I don’t think it’d be do or die, what I will say is that you are limited in terms of what other jobs you can do as a councillor. I do want to start having a family, so I will have to get another job, and you’re limited in what you can do.”

It’s not all good news for Mr Gannon on the doorstep as he winds his way into the housing estates surrounding Croker as darkness begins to fall.

One elderly lady makes it out of her house unprompted and unleashes a tirade against the politician and his team of canvassers. She appears unhappy at the prospect of the Social Democrats guaranteeing a home for everyone. “People should have to work for their homes, there’s no vote for Gannon in my house,” she shouts.

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