Labour’s young gun James Heffernan puts wheels in motion in Limerick constituency

Aine Fitzgerald


Aine Fitzgerald

YOU wait all of four years for a politician to arrive and then two come along at once!

YOU wait all of four years for a politician to arrive and then two come along at once!

That’s exactly what happened in Cappamore at 3pm this Tuesday.

The quiet village didn’t know what hit it such was the flurry of activity at either end of the main street.

Huddled outside Hayes’ bar, was Dan Neville and his coterie, further down the street, outside the school, the James Heffernan political machine was stream rolling ahead. The man himself was tailing well behind his team of canvassers when the Leader arrived, passing the church gates, with obligatory phone to ear.

“We’re heading over to the estates on the right,” he says, all business, motioning us to follow.  It’s an afternoon for warm clothes and Cllr Heffernan fends off the harsh February chill with a bright red scarf.

Across the road Sandra Lynch is walking home to Turagh Crescent with her 11-year-old son Billy. A nice photo opportunity for the Leader becomes a great canvass coup for Cllr Heffernan.

“It’s nice to see someone young - someone near your own age. He is the Kilmallock side too, which is not too far away,” says the 32-year-old of the 31-year-old candidate.

“I would look after the ones who are local. The ones in Newcastle West, they are not going to look after us,“ she continues. Around the corner in Dromsally Woods, Kate Mackay is in the hallway of her home with her son 21-month-old Zander. It’s time to witness that special relationship that exists between politicians and babies.

Politician whips off backing on ‘Heffernan’ sticker. Politician goes to press sticker on baby’s jumper, baby sees right through politician and does a swift 180 degree turn. The direct approach didn’t work – it’s time for Plan B - subtlety, this time with mum.

“Zander - that’s a very unusual name,” says Cllr Heffernan handing the sticker to Kate who plants it on her jumper instead.

“It’s short for Alexander,” she tells the county councillor. Kate, who is originally from Waterford, has been living in Cappamore for the past three years.

“The facilities here are good and it’s one of the reasons we moved to a small community - there is the playground and there is a good community sense in the village,” she says.

Despite all the positives, it’s not enough to entice Kate, husband Andrew and young Zander to stay. Kate was made redundant when she was pregnant with Zander. She was working as a mortgage broker.

“I missed out on my maternity benefit by two weeks,” she explains.

“To be honest we will probably end up emigrating, for his future,” she says, looking at baby in arms. So what does she think of the young Labour candidate from Kilfinane? “I have been hearing a bit about him,” she says.

Is she impressed?

“Yeah, I’m kind of liking what the Labour party are offering but at the moment it’s a case of anybody but Fianna Fail.”

The canvass trail has disappeared into the concrete horizon. Door after door, there is no response. Finally a sign of life. The excitement is short lived however. On realising it’s canvassers, the man of the house, decides not to open up. Where is Cllr Heffernan during all of this?

The aspiring TD is at the very last house in Dromsally Woods, having sniffed out two potential votes. It will be a good 15 minutes before he leaves the doorway of raw emotion.

Frank Timmons and his wife Fiona moved out to Cappamore from St Patrick‘s road in the city for a better life for their two daughters Sophie, 12, and Emma, 8. Fiona works part-time in customer care.

“We are living here four years and you are the first politician to knock at our door,” Fiona tells Cllr Heffernan.

Frank worked in the building trade as a plasterer. He has been out of work almost two years.

“You are as well off to be out of work because the system looks after you better – that’s the way I look at it. It’s totally wrong,” he says, arms folded tightly across his chest.

“And then when you turn around and see the politicians who put the country in the mess, coming out and getting  pensions of €2,500 a week,” Cllr Heffernan pipes up.

According to Fiona, the banks are literally “knocking on the door looking to take the house back off us”.

They have negotiated and renegotiated but to no avail. Then comes the bombshell - the ‘E’ word again. ‘Emigration’. “We don’t want to leave, obviously, but we have to leave,” says Fiona while a black cat watches on from old wooden side fence. The Timmons family have already applied for their Visas. They are going to give Australia a go.

“There is no point living here and staying inside the door 24/7 - you have to have a life as well,” says Frank. “I was a member of a golf club - it was €1,000 a year. I had to pack it in - where am I going to pull €1,000? Whatever money we have is going back out on bills. There is no light at the end of the tunnel for us.”

No Fianna Fail candidate has come to the Timmons door yet. When they do, what will happen? “When they do- I’ll tell you something, they will get it. They are an absolute disgrace.”