IF, God forbid, there is a fire at the count the person you want to be beside is Aontu’s Michael Ryan.
The principal exudes a calmness that comes from dealing with children in classrooms for 42 years. Whether he tops the poll or gets one vote in Limerick City, Mr Ryan will be unflappable.
He is an interesting candidate. Around 50 extra votes would have got him elected to the council last year. Mr Ryan can’t vote for himself as he is a Pallasgreen man yet on a canvass in Carew Park they see him as “one of their own”.
Mr Ryan has been the principal of Our Lady Queen of Peace Primary School in Janesboro for 13 years. Prior to that he spent two years in Galvone NS, nine years as the diocesan advisor to primary schools and 20 years in St Kieran’s NS, which was knocked to make way for Le Chéile NS.
From dealing with parents and children for over 40 years he knows the issue affecting their lives. He finishes school and meets his supporters at 3pm on Tuesday.
With a spring in his step he sets forth for Southill. He doesn’t look 61.
“As I keep saying at some of the doors, yes I think people should elect youthful people, they should elect youthful people like myself! I have huge enthusiasm for politics, for working with and for people,” said Mr Ryan, who describes Limerick city as his “home from home”.
“In some ways it is an ideal situation for me. I have been here for 42 years and I know the issues of people living in the city. Yet, at the same time I live in Pallasgreen which is in the heart of east Limerick – I am looking for votes in the rural part of the constituency for that reason.
“Let’s be honest about it, there are four seats. I always believed one of those seats could be elected by the rural part of the constituency and have their own TD.
"There are more than enough votes to elect a TD on their own but they won’t do that because the ties of the main parties go deep but nonetheless it might be wiser if they did. Having four city-based TDs might not be to the benefit of the county part,” said Mr Ryan.
If he could get a large percentage of the one third who voted not to repeal the Eighth Amendment he would be a TD.
“It is a lot of people but they haven’t voted together as a homogeneous group. I wish they would and I would appeal to those voters to have a pro-life presence in the Dail. I think that is important - it is one of the reasons I am running.”
Mr Ryan continued: “It is not all about the referendum – for or against abortion. It is about creating conditions in this country whereby people can have children, they can be born safely, have a high standard of education, have the income in which to rear children because we all know nowadays that young families – I have two daughters who will attest to this – if you have a mortgage and also have childcare costs, if something goes wrong with the car you’re in trouble. You just don’t have the extra income. We need to look at all that.”
Mr Ryan highlights the equalisation of pay for young teachers and nurses.
“It is a scandal it is taking so long. They are playing with the lives of people,” he says. While also attacking the major parties for “abandoning” Shannon Airport and having to go to Cork or Dublin Airports.
Married to Teresa they have four girls and a boy – Úna, Anna Jane, Ríona, Maria and Éamon. Mr Ryan was joined by Úna, Anna Jane and Ríona on the canvass.
“Not a bother. We look after our own,” said Gerard Gardiner when asked for his number one. Carew Park neighbour, Mary Lysaght said Mr Ryan taught her children and sang in the choir. It’s a promising start. It gets better when they meet Alvin Harris.
“He was the nicest teacher I ever had. He taught me and my brothers in St Kieran’s. I’ll be voting for him and I’ll get the whole family to vote for him,” said Mr Harris.
At the next house there is a Maurice Quinlivan poster in the window. “Does that not stop you?” asked the Leader. “Not one iota. In fact the opposite. There are number two votes to be picked up,” said Mr Ryan. Either way there was no answer.
The next door opened was by Joy Hayes. “We need change,” she says as the warm receptions continue. “Course you will,” reply Ciara O’Connor and then Susan Naughton when asked for their first preference. As the Leader takes its leave Úna described her dad as a “dark horse”. The finishing line is coming.