“IS THIS your first canvass of the week?” I ask the city’s Sinn Féin candidate as he rummaged through the boot of his car and dutifully doled out hi-vis vests and leaflets.
“Of the week?” replies Maurice, “God no.”
It’s 11am on a Monday morning, and as we walk into Rosbrien, the TD is met by a friendly man who cheerily states: “I just said I’d come over and wish you the best. You’re guaranteed at least two number ones in our house anyway.”
The two pose for a quick photo, and the man asks how Maurice’s campaign is going, to which he replies lightly: “it’s going very well in fairness.”
As we meander our way through Weston Gardens, he says: “It’s hard to know how today is going to go, in this area here. I haven’t canvassed here in a while, it’s a fresh area for me.
“It’s hard to know what the main issues hitting an area are until you knock on the door.
“Housing is a concern, the hospital comes up on every single door, no matter what the conversation. Pay comes up, and the pension issue is huge,” he continues, “we might get some anti-social behaviour complaints here on the main road maybe, which is something we get in a number of places.”
Maurice mentions that the previous day, he and his team reached over 1,000 homes in Murroe, Caherconlish and Corbally, and that every day they do three canvasses.
“I won’t be complacent about it but the response has been the strongest I’ve ever seen,” he says.
“Our message is getting out to people now, a lot more than it did in the locals. We didn’t have a clear message in the locals, but we have one now. Give workers and families a break. That’s it, and I think that’s resonating. People are getting up in the morning to go to work. They feel like there’s nothing there for them.”
The first door we knock on is opened by an elderly woman, who tells the candidate of her housing issues, as well as problems surrounding her pension.
As the conversation flows, the two realise they know of each other's families, and as we move on he says: “I didn’t know I knew her, but her brother and my uncle would have been best friends.
“You find during the day you’ll speak to a lot of elderly folk, they come out and chat for ages - they’re lonely too.
“In the morning we target areas where we know there’s a lot of elderly people living as at night they don’t tend to open their doors.”
The team are well ahead already, and we spot another canvass entourage in the estate.
“I think someone said they saw Willie here earlier, it could be him,” says Maurice. “Yesterday was the first time that happened too - and it was Willie again in Caherconlish!”
Siobhán O'Leary is beside her car in her front yard when Maurice introduces himself and asks “do you know which way you’re voting?”
“I’d say I’m going Sinn Féin to be honest, and I never voted Sinn Féin before,” she replies.
“Yeah we get a lot of that, people are saying they’re fed up of the two parties,” says Mauirce, “we want to give workers and families a break.”
“It’s the squeezed middle, such as myself.”
“Yeah exactly, going to work but getting nothing for it...” Maurice finishes the thought.
Siobhan continues, “That’s it, we have to struggle on with our mortgage and things like that and it’s very difficult.”
Maurice takes up the baton: “Well that’s it, we’re trying to bring down childcare costs, and for car insurance companies we’re going to go after them as we believe they’re running a cartel, and then for USC, you won’t be taxed on the first thirty grand.”
“I like your housing strategy, I do,” she says.
“Look where you’re living, there’s thousands looking for a house,” he responds
“Ah stop, there’s one right beside us sure,” she says as she looks over to the terraced house next door, she says.
“There’s 161 houses boarded up in the city, it doesn’t make sense,” the TD observes.
“It doesn’t. I work in homeless services, I work for Saint Vincent de Paul.”
“Oh brilliant, my brother works for NOVAS,” he responds.
“Very good,” she smiles.
“They’re dealing with crazy stuff everyday,” adds Maurice in a worried tone.
“The rent situation is just,” Siobhán struggles to find the word “it’s crazy. I’m hopeful for this election.”
“I’m not just saying this because the media is here,” says Maurice, but this is the best response we’ve had. People are engaged, they want change, they realise that Fine Fail and Fine Gael have been in power for ever and we’re asking them to give us a chance and I really think they will.”
“We might just be witnessing the end of civil war politics - imagine that,” says a member of the canvassing team, “100 years later - it’s about time isn’t it?”
“Exactly, we shouldn’t be in this situation, the country is wealthy enough,” says Maurice firmly.
“And listen, look, Sinn Fein began our country,” states Siobhán, “I don't see why we can’t give you a chance.”