When it comes to pensioners and children, be careful who you canvass
THE old showbiz adage says that one should never work with children or animals.
And after a recent troubling canvass in Dublin South East, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin surely considered devising a similar maxim for politics: never canvass children or old people.
It had all been going so well for the new face of the discredited soldiers of destiny.
Cocksure after his success in the televised debates, Mr Martin obviously thought his charms would be enough to change the minds of disillusioned Dublin voters. Then he bounded into St Andrew's Resource Centre on Pearse Street and it all went horribly, horribly wrong.
He was being squired around by local candidate Chris Andrews and headed straight for the centre's creche.
His timing couldn't have been worse, as the kids were all busily mixing water and flour and didn't react well to the sudden intrusion of a flock of besuited men and a phalanx of photographers.
One little girl immediately tried to flee from the commotion, only for her flour-covered hand to collide with his immaculately pressed suit.
A concerned journalist proffered a baby wipe, but Mr Martin's poise was disturbed, and he hadn't even managed to secure a single party vote for his troubles. So he headed onward, this time over to the common room where some elderly visitors were enjoying tea.
Local woman Annie Long took one look at him and remarked: "You're Enda Kenny aren't you?"
He recoiled in horror, suggesting that the case of mistaken identity was one of epic proportions.
He should have made good his escape immediately, but he wasn't fast enough for one elderly woman, who had a bone to pick with the Fianna Fail leader.
Mr Martin tried his best to placate her, muttering about mortgages and children and various outgoings, but his challenger wasn't having any of it. The platitudes weren't working. Nor were Mr Andrews' manly attempts to intervene, so they eventually cut their losses and headed for the exit. It was a harsh lesson.
Then again, one would have thought that Fianna Fail had learned a lesson after the medical card fiasco. Suitably chastened, the Fianna Fail pair headed on foot to Charlotte Quay for a brief photo opportunity on the City Canal Tours boat MV Cadhla.
Like children in a toy shop, they posed happily for photographs at the helm, provoking all manner of comments about captains and sinking ships.
Mr Andrews, the very embodiment of the "buying local" ideal, led the way to Grafton Litho, where a new set of his own election posters were coming hot off the presses.
Following a technical explanation from director Brian Roantree, Mr Martin turned to the waiting press and twinkled: "I'm very impressed with the technology they used to portray Chris so well."
His chest swelled with pride, Mr Andrews headed over to the nearby Markiewicz House flats with a spring in his step. And his canvassing took a turn for the better when he stopped at the home of little Luke Treacy, who presented him with a doughnut. Lest other politicians beat a path to the same door, Mr Andrews was quick to explain that he's the only one to enjoy such a treat.
"Luke's granny lives on City Quay," he explained, "and when I was there a few weeks ago they were having doughnuts and I was messing with Luke and telling him that he took my one."
And as Luke's mother Donna explained: "We saw Chris was in the complex today and we had some doughnuts, so we told Luke it was time to give one back!"
Back outside, Mr Andrews, a keen soccer player, spotted some kids playing football, and began some raucous heckling from the balcony.
"You're brutal at that. Ah, that's useless!" he yelled, as the boys made several strikes towards the goal. "You haven't hit the target once yet," he laughed.
Considering Fianna Fail's abysmal rating in Dublin, one might say that Mr Andrews hasn't hit his own targets either. But despite being "anxious" about D-Day on Friday, he's not giving up hope.
And if all else fails, he could always follow his cousin David McSavage into the comedy business.
He said of the Savage Eye comic: "At one stage we thought he was mad to be trying to make a living in comedy. Now it turns out that being involved in politics is much more precarious than the life of a comedian."