Thursday 27 October 2016

'More positive than I expected' - Mary Hanafin hits the ground running

Mary Hanafin talks to Graham Widger and (below) with Rose Marie Carvill.
Mary Hanafin talks to Graham Widger and (below) with Rose Marie Carvill.

A short election campaign poses little challenge for Mary Hanafin, as the seasoned politician has her campaign strategy down to a fine art.

The Fianna Fail stalwart organises her canvassing teams with military precision.

On a brisk afternoon, more than a dozen people gathered in Brady's pub in Shankhill to be briefed before being dispatched to two estates.

"A lot of you haven't been around Shankhill before and there are a couple of significant issues," she told them.

The recent spate of alleged attempted sexual assaults was on everyone's mind, she told her team, and her role on the local Joint Policing Committee should be mentioned.

There is also the matter of retiring Labour TD Eamon Gilmore and where his votes will land on Friday.

"This is where he used to live. He got a huge personal vote, that vote is not necessarily a Labour vote," she said.

"If you meet a Labour vote, ask for the transfer, if you meet an Eamon Gilmore vote, try and win it.

"They always respected his personal work record in the area, just remind people of my own work record with all of the schools."

A number of schools in the area were extended under her term as Education Minister and should be used as examples of her work in the area, the team heard.

Prepped and ready, her teams made their way to their respective estates where it became clear why Mary was wearing runners.

The former TD sprints to every open door while out on a canvass and said she never knocked on doors without her runners.

"Ok hit go, go," she told her team - and off they went.

On the doorsteps, people engaged with her. Some had questions, others were keen to reassure her that she had their number one.

Those who had yet to make up their mind faced cajoling from the seasoned campaigner and she took notes on voters in a small notebook.

If this election is about Fianna Fail's recovery from the blows delivered by the electorate in 2011, then the re-election of Mary Hanafin will be a feather in their cap.

Having lost out in the last general election, she contested the election to Dun Laoghaire County Council in the Blackrock ward in 2014 against the wishes of her party, in what became known as the Battle of Blackrock.

Her addition to the ballot paper for the Dun Laoghaire constituency this time was contentious among some party members, but the in-fighting has yet to slow her down.


"You can't keep a good woman down. There was a lot of admiration, particularly in Blackrock, for the way I stood my ground and that I wasn't walked over," she said.

Her election to the council has also kept her in the public eye, which she hopes will be advantageous in the coming election.

"It brought me back into the political fray, so I'm not just reappearing after five years - so that helps," she said.

"There's a great advantage to not having to say 'hello my name is'. When people open the door they know who I am and they know my track record over the years," she said.

In an estate on the fringes of the seaside village, there were some residents who were adamant that they would not be voting Fianna Fail and who couldn't be persuaded to consider her for a second or third preference.

"That last seat could go either way so the transfers are very important," she said time and again.

But there were several people who signalled their support for the party, having voted elsewhere the last time around.

"People are coming back. The traditional voters who may have went the last time are very inclined to come back," Hanafin said.

"I have to work to bring back the people who might say 'I've voted for you in the past Mary' but they might not necessarily have been Fianna Fail votes.

"Then there are people who have decided who they're not voting for and it's about bringing them the rest of the way. That's why a good canvassing team is important."

Her personal brand is valuable but she said that, despite their differences, she remains loyal to her party and to leader Micheal Martin.

"As regards the party thing, I'm one of the two Fianna Fail candidates and I'm very much part of that organisation," Hanafin said.

On the doorsteps people raised a number of the 'big ticket' items such as childcare, education and the health service. Some voiced disappointment with the current Coalition and the amount of taxes they pay.

Before the canvass ended the election hopeful took stock of the responses she had received.

"I shouldn't be saying this but it is a lot more positive than I expected," she said.

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