He was besieged by voters looking for Rolling Stones tickets, offering free haircuts, and taking selfies, but Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had only the Eighth Amendment on his mind on his first high-profile referendum canvass yesterday.
During an hour-long event at Rathfarnham shopping centre in south Dublin which was closely monitored by Government officials, the Taoiseach urged anyone he met to vote yes on Friday. May 25.
However, while the message — and the leaflets he, Fine Gael TD Colm Brophy and Independent Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone were handing out — was taken home by most, almost all had other issues on their minds.
As he walked through the shopping centre, Mr Varadkar first spoke with Clodagh Flanagan from Co Roscommon who, clutching her four-year-old daughter, said: “I’m a big fan of his because he’s honest.”
A young man was next, calmly telling the Taoiseach — to momentarily awkward silence — that he will vote no, before Audrey Sellers said that while she will vote yes, she is unimpressed with the Government’s poster campaign.
Pauline Dallaghan, who has just turned 82, happily told Mr Varadkar she will vote yes because she is “a big fan of Michael Collins” before declining to say how she voted in the 1983 referendum, while 85-year-old Theresa McGrail said she too supports repeal.
The view was repeated by an elderly couple moments later, before they began a deluge of unexpected Taoiseach requests by asking for help in getting Rolling Stones tickets.
And it was followed by more opportunistic interactions, with barber Graham Doherty politely asking for a selfie with Mr Varadkar, before saying he should drop in for a free haircut at GB Barbers anytime.
With onlookers now acutely aware of the Taoiseach’s presence, more potential voters said they will support plans to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
Two middle-aged women walking past were concerned about when the next election will be: “Are you going on holidays in August or will you be busy then?”
Just 20 days out from the referendum vote, interest may be growing, but, for now, other issues are dominating the agenda.
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