“I’M ONE of the only politicians who puts on weight during a canvass.”
A panting Brian Leddin trundles his way up a steep hill on Corbally Road, only delira to get a chance to endorse his Green vision.
And while he admits he doesn’t have a whole lot of time for his daily exercise routine, this general election campaign may be the most-enduring workout of the fledgling councillor’s life.
His small troop comprises Trevor Hickey, an eagle-eyed lecturer who is peripatetically seeing who is available to chat; Adare woman Wendy Bibby whose silver tongue is able to recruit fresh Green voters; and former army reservist Victor Browne.
And it’s on this day Victor seems to be Brian’s most valuable cadet in the inventory, as he knows all the neighbours and their children, too. Crucial.
“What’s the big one you’re gonna ahead with?” asks a pensioner, the candidate’s first customer.
“Is it climate?” his wife appends to the question, though she is not as convinced as her husband is by the Green agenda.
“It is very much about climate. We think it is a huge global issue, and we have to tackle it, you know? But on a local level, we think Limerick is under-performing, and it has been for the last few decades,” Cllr Leddin replies. The husband is a definite number one, and maybe she’s number two after their chat.
Cycle safety is the next hot topic at the door, right down his alleyway since Cllr Leddin he founded the Limerick Cycling Campaign.
“It disappoints me when we spend a few hundred thousand euros on resurfacing jobs, but we don’t think about catering for cyclists and pedestrians as well,” he says. The man at the door, a deeply concerned father, says the idea of his daughter cycling into the city “is just frightening”.
“Anyone who does cycle has to be very brave,” he replies, adding that he hopes to see Limerick replicate the Northern European model of transport.
“There is no reason why we can’t do it, get around easily and safely by bike.” Looks like a number one vote, here. If you can’t count on a number one vote after a bonding session over cycling, can you really count on anything?
“But there is a scariness that comes across with the Green message...” the resident says. You can almost feel the dark cloud shrouding this young politician’s hope for a number one.
What has Eamon Ryan said this time? Or maybe it was that Greta Thunberg one again? Or maybe it was some anti-Green Facebook post about a garden gnome tax.
“...and that is that things are gonna be taken away, and that you don’t have another way of replacing them. There’s an affordability thing attached to it.”
This reporter doesn’t have a notion what this he is alluding to, but Leddin has an answer.
“That’s a fair point,” he starts. “We are a small party. We are staffed by volunteers, we don’t have the resources to actually counter that message that is often, you know, put out there to undermine us. Fundamentally, we are about just transition where nobody is left behind.”
And then the silver lining appears. The gentleman offers his number one and an extra number one from his daughter.
At the next door, Brian appears to be in his element when a woman speaks about her time in Australia, having witnessed the bushfire disaster, given climate is his thing.
But this bike-lover is challenged on why people continue to cycle on footpaths on the busy commuter road. He then tells her that for decades, Ireland has had a “car-centric” policy that serves just motorists, and that they can’t be encouraging cyclists if the infrastructure is not there. “And I know ye are the Green Party, but are ye going to do anything about the hospitals?”
He echoes everyone of his opponents’ calls that UHL is under-resourced, adding that the Greens will focus on resourcing the hospital “properly” while funding primary and community care.
He hints at saving half-billion euro by changing the M20 route to go through the N24, and using those savings for things like healthcare, education and childcare.
“We make no apology when it comes to being sensible spending money.”
One thing that stands out during this canvass is his forgetting to mention that he is already an elected representative. You’d think that would be helpful, so I ask him, perhaps, why he has forgotten this obvious point.
“I suppose I should. I am representing the northside, first and foremost, you know?” he says before bumping into a group of children who are more than eager to engage with him.
“Have you got anything to ask me?” he says, ambushed by them.
“What’s the capital of England?”
“London!” to which one boy rolls his head back, bamboozled by his wizardly intellect.
“But do you know how to say ‘baby seal’ in French?” and, for once, Brian doesn’t have an answer for his constituent.
This engineer’s intelligence has deceived him. He doesn’t know what a baby seal is en Francais. His face is rouge as his mind is screaming sacre bleu!
“Un bebe phoque!” the boy declares, giggling wildly.
And Brian is no baby seal, if the surname is anything to go by, with the family having one of the most successful pedigrees in local politics, going back over 100 years.
Predominantly trade unionists and Labour, the family’s politicism started with his granduncle Michael Keyes, who was a Minister under Taoiseach John Costelloe; then his uncle Frank Leddin, a former Mayor of Limerick; his father Timmy who was a Fine Gael councillor; his mum, the political matriarch, Kathleen, the last Mayor of Limerick City; and his cousin, Cllr Joe Leddin.
But Brian, being the fresh face of the family, is likely to be judged on his own ideals amid the current Green Wave. And February 9 will determine if it’s going to be a tsunami or a ripple.