IT’s bitterly cold and damp in Kilmallock when Seighin O’Ceallaigh sets off for the second part of his canvass in the medieval town following a quick lunch-break.
“Coffee is important – I’m living off the stuff at the moment,” says the 27-year-old former councillor as he arrives at the GAA pitch three minutes early.
Accompanied by his younger brother, Stephen, and volunteer Jim Hickey, the first stop is Millmount where leaflets are dropped in the doors where there is no answer.
“Rather than trying to organise two canvasses for Kilmallock we said we would start at twelve and take a break in between. We will be here until four or half four if people want to fall in,” says the Sinn Fein candidate as a few more members of the team pull up in a car.
“The cavalry has arrived,” says Cllr O’Ceallaigh as he updates the late arrivals. “We’ve done the front and that side to so just keep going straight down there,” he tells local man Liam Moloney.
“We are getting a decent response at the doors but you never know if that will transfer into votes – I acknowledge what the pundits are saying but they’s got it wrong in the past,” he says.
“We had a disastrous local election campaign but we are on the bounce back from it now and it depends if everyone is telling us the truth or not.”
As the canvass progresses, Seighin’s politeness and courteousness on the doorsteps appears to be well-received.
He explains to every potential voter that he is from the Bruff area and those he meets are encouraged (not forced) to read over the election leaflet which outlines some of his party’s key policies.
There is no attempt to hurry anyone and he and his colleagues are happy to engage with people for as long as is needed.
It might be a general election campaign but for Christina O’Donnell it’s a local issue that concerns her. After answering her door, she points to a street light 20 yards from her front door at Desmond Place.
“The entire area is pitch black – that light there may as well not even be on because it’s useless and it doesn't light the area at all – it’s an absolute Joke.”
Christina’s next-door neighbour, Marion Moloney, tells the Sinn Fein hopeful that while she agrees with many of the party’s policies, she has concerns as to how they will be funded.
“The thing about it is that ye seem to have great policies but ye are proposing to reduce tax. Where then will the icome come from?” asks the retired teacher.
“We will tax the banks and tax the millionaires who are getting away Scott free at the moment under our tax system,” says Seighin who insists that Sinn Fein in government will deliver on its promise to abolish the Universal Social Charge on all income under €30,000.
While Marian nods in approval, she raises a concern as to how the proposed wealth-tax will impact on billionaire JP McManus who lives nearby in Martinstown.
“He’s a fantastic man as far as I’m concerned – if he were to pay taxes and if were to give the money into the government coffers we wouldn’t have the oncology department inside in the regional hospital or other projects, he supports the locality. What happens if he is taxed?” she asks.
“He wouldn’t be because he is not tax resident in Ireland – he wouldn’t be affected by any of our proposals,” replies Seighin.
The crisis at University Hospital Limerick, the lack of local facilities for children with disabilities and other community services are all raised during the 90 minute canvass as is the proposed increased in the pension age.
“68 is a bit too much,” said Ester Quirke who lives in Millmount. “If you want to work to 69 or 70 that’s your own choice by nobody should be forced to work if they don’t want to,” she adds.
“I think that cruel, I absolutely do,” said another woman who Seighin encounters.
As the canvass moves from Millmount and Gortboy towards the town centre, the candidate and his team meet and greet people and call into various businesses and pubs as they make their way Lord Edward Street.
”It is different to the local elections because you are covering a lot more ground and you are doing a lot more driving and it’s less about the local issues,” said Seighin as the sky turns black and the heavens open.