It’s just gone 10am on Monday. Not everyone’s best time of the week.
Niall Collins is legging it through a convergence of hilly by-ways which form the village of Shanagolden, just off the Shannon Estuary.
The reception is different from the last time, when Fianna Fáil were in a “completely different space”.
“The one phrase I will always remember, from the 2011 election, at door after door, was ‘Niall, not this time’,” he says. “These were traditional Fianna Fáil voters. This time, these same people are committing to supporting Fianna Fáil. The vote that was loaned to Fine Gael is switching back and that’s coming over very strong.”
Shanagolen was the starting point for yesterday’s canvass, which travelled by the estuary along the N69. Ned Ryan arrived from Foynes to join the crew.
“I have been canvassing for the Collinses for as long as I can remember,” says Ned, a 69-year-old retired docker. “I must have done hundreds of miles, knocking on doors for Niall’s uncle, Gerry. I knew his grandfather, Jimmy, when I was a child.”
Once the election was called, Ned headed into Limerick to invest in a new pair of light, resilient walking shoes.
“The pair I’ve on are ideal for the job,” he says. “You need something good and light on the feet. I love the elections and going around, especially on a great day like this, with no rain. When you are out canvassing, it’s important to talk to people, and listen. If they have a problem, you leave Niall handle it.”
Mr Collins said there was one overriding issue in Shanagolden and the wider area: A plan for a €250m gasification plant at Gortadroma, where an old landfill closed in 2014.
Limerick City and County Council have entered a €4m-a-year lease of the site to US company Cadence Enviro Power (CEP). The company wants to burn 7,000 tons of domestic waste and tyres a week to generate electricity, which they plan to sell to the national grid.
Local people, who have had put up with the landfill from 1999, feel betrayed.
Postman Cathal Breen’s morning round takes in 460 houses in Shangolden, Creeves, and Clounties.
Cathal, who has done the job for 30 years, says: “There is anger right across the community, over the plan for this gasification plant. People thought they had got shot of having to keep their windows and doors closed all the time, after Gortadrom closed down.
“They don’t want to go back to those days, with this gasification plant, with all that waste being brought in by lorry, day and night. It will definitely affect the way people around here vote. There will be big lorries coming and going, if this plant goes ahead. Imagine, in summer, the dust and smell.”
Mr Collins, along with all other candidates and elected members of Limerick City and County Council, has been invited to a public meeting in Shanagolden on Thursday night, called by local campaign group Residents Against Gasification in our Environment.
Mr Collins says: “The gasification plant is an absolutely huge issue. It is a total failure of local democracy. There was a false consultation, after the council made the decision. The company, Cadence, now holds all the cards and it can proceed, subject to planning and environmental licences. The community are annoyed at the local councillors, some of whom are standing for election now.”
Mr Collins said Limerick City and Council should rescind the contract with Cadence and buy its way out.
“It’s the only way,” he says. “The council want to spend €15m on a footbridge in Limerick City, which nobody wants. There’s €15m they can put up and they are buying Nama sites all over the place. They have the money to end this matter.”
Patrick Kennelly, 77, and his wife, Mary, who live at Park View, Shanagolden, also feel angry at the gasification plant.
“It will poison the whole area,” says Patrick. “My son lives near the site. It is a very big local issue. The amount of heavy lorries coming and going will be a great danger on small rural roads. My daughter, Grainne, and her husband, Tom Ahern, and their four children, live within four miles. Nobody locally was consulted.”
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