Uphill struggle for fresh Green face

“WE’RE going to end up paying for air the way the Greens are going,” was the doorstep response of one voter to a request from Cork North West Green Party candidate Mark Collins to consider him in the upcoming election.

Vincent Crowley, a resident of the well-heeled Limewood estate in Ballincollig, 12km west of Cork city, reckons the Greens are too interested in taxing everyday commodities and he holds them personally responsible for ruining car sales. This is a reference to changes to the VRT system, brought in at the Greens’ insistence, linking car tax to CO2 emissions and resulting in cars with larger engines typically attracting high tax.

“We’re going to end up driving our two cars into the ground over your policy,” Vincent said. He holds no truck with the notion of electric cars, although Mark does his best to defend the technology as the cleanest and greenest way forward.

Mark, a self-employed food quality consultant with three young daughters, is running for election because he is fed up with the existing political representation in Cork North West. He is open and genuine and able to relate on the doorstep to difficulties faced by the self-employed. Reaction to his request for a vote is mixed.

In Dennehy’s Health & Fitness club on Ballincollig’s Link Road, Kevin Mulcahy from Waterfall says he’s “not particularly inclined to vote”, but if he does, it will be for “whoever could do best for us locally”. Having just met Mark for the first time, he finds him “open and honest and with a lot of ideas” but says the “only guy who made any sense” to him was Sinn Féin candidate Des O’Grady. “He impressed me with his social values, although he seemed like a guy who was totally overshadowed by the bigger government parties.”

It’s a major challenge for Mark in a conservative and traditional constituency where Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have a stranglehold.

John Ahern from Kanturk, a member of UCC Greens who is canvassing with Mark, believes people are “understandably angry” with the Government parties, but that many still have time for Green policies. This is certainly borne out on the doorsteps in relation to water charges. Just one voter said he’d have a difficulty with the introduction of water metering.

Tom McDonagh, a resident of the Cloisters housing estate in Ballincollig, congratulates Mark for his bravery in canvassing. “I don’t agree with all the Greens’ policies, but I do think they got a hospital pass by being part of a Fianna Fáil government. And I say fair play to anyone who goes out canvassing in this climate.”

One or two of those canvassed are angry about finding themselves in negative equity. Another couple is annoyed at the raw deal landlords are getting, with dropping rents and rising charges such as the second home property tax and fees to the Private Residential Tenancies Board.

Out of 100 to 150 houses visited on a cold Friday night in February, just one door is slammed at mention of the Green Party. There are promises of votes, but Mark knows he is up against it. With the retirement of Batt O’Keeffe, he is hoping to pick up some of the local vote. And as a previous participant in the World Speed Poker Open, he is used to taking a gamble.

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