herald

Tuesday 21 August 2018

I ban ALL canvassing here says headmaster brother of former minister Dempsey

A HEADMASTER who happens to be the brother of former Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey, who told MEP Joe Higgins to move away from his school gate, has insisted he chases all political canvassers equally.

Dublin principal Sean Dempsey told the Socialist Party candidate to move away from the gate of the Sacred Heart of Jesus national school in Huntstown as he canvassed parents picking up their children.

Never stuck for a comeback, politician Joe stood his ground by telling the head teacher he was on public property.

But the school head then instructed the MEP that he and his canvassing entourage were posing a danger to pupils by creating a traffic hazard. "That's ridiculous," replied the politician, but he retreated a short distance.

But Mr Dempsey insisted to the Herald that political allegiances don't come into it, adding that he repels all attempts by politicians to seek votes at his school. And he revealed he had no qualms when he removed an unauthorised poster of local minister Brian Lenihan from his school gate.

Mr Dempsey has stopped other candidates in the past, including a Fianna Failer and Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald, from targeting parents at the school gates.

He said 900 pupils exit his school daily and on that afternoon he was missing one of his lollipop ladies. Joe's entourage included six canvassers, newspapers journalists, and a TV crew. The principal sometimes has to call gardai about cars parked on the clearway outside.

"Normally, I wouldn't dream of interfering with canvassing... I often canvassed for my brother Noel and I was on a shortlist of potential candidates in the 1998 local elections," said Sean.

"Joe has been a supporter of our school, along with Joan Burton, Brian Lenihan and Leo Varadkar. We've got €700,000 in grants for badly needed toilets, roofs, and IT since I became principal in 2008. They've all been very helpful," he said.

He joked that "the real gangsters" can be found this weekend in Blanchardstown at An Draoicht theatre where his school's pupils play mini-mobsters in the cast of the Bugsy Malone show.

Mr Dempsey and his brother Noel are two of 12 brothers raised by their parents Michael (84) and Maureen (86).

aokeeffe@herald.ie

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