No beating about the bush as Kate O'Connell and Lucinda Creighton do battle for a seat

Eamon Ryan and Eoghan Murphy mix-up could see interesting poll results, writes Caroline O’Doherty

No beating about the bush as Kate O'Connell and Lucinda Creighton do battle for a seat

The bare-legged man appears at the door on the kind of night when the daffodils regret their early arrival, his frosty glare matching conditions outside.

“You got me out of bed and you walked away,” he scolds the candidate crunching the gravel halfway down his driveway.

Actually, she is halfway up his driveway, heading for his very door where a campaign helper has rung the bell moments earlier before heading to the next house, saving the candidate precious time waiting for someone to answer.

But the man with the shortie pyjamas and shorter patience doesn’t look like he’d appreciate a lesson in canvassing choreography.

“No, no, we’re here. We weren’t leaving,” the candidate replies brightly, bounding up the handsome Georgian steps in the hope of dispelling the notion that she is some kind of knick-knacking tormentor.

“Well I don’t want you here,” the man says with controlled anger. “You politicians are cretins. Get away from my door.”

Kate O’Connell doesn’t argue. Well, you can’t with a shut door. And whatever has so soured this man’s experience with politics isn’t going to get fixed tonight.

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Besides, this Fine Gael candidate for Dublin Bay South can’t object to a bit of plain speaking, having recently slated Lucinda Creighton for “lacking interface with reality”.

“She is incredibly sanctimonious and she needs to get off her high horse,” said Ms O’Connell said, adding that Enda Kenny would be “mad” to let the Renua leader join in any coalition.

O’Connell still stands over her remarks. “I don’t see why I should be beating about the bush about things,” she says. “That’s how I feel. Why would I sugar-coat it? That’s the way I am.”

Lucinda vs Kate might be expected to be the outstanding feature of the election contest in this four-seater constituency, formerly Dublin South East but newly renamed and modestly expanded westwards.

Born 17 days apart in January 1980 (Kate came first), they both hail from beyond the Pale, Kate from Westmeath and Lucinda from Mayo, and are both professionals, Kate a pharmacist and Lucinda a laywer.

Both have made their home in the largely leafy Dublin 4-Dublin 6 area with their young families (Kate has three children to Lucinda’s one), and both — it’s hard to ignore — are very photogenic. They even share the curse of a dodgy knee.

But whereas Creighton is a career politician, starting with a seat on Dublin City Council 12 years ago, a Dáil seat three years later, and a junior ministry in 2011, O’Connell has two pharmacies and has been a Dublin City Councillor for just two years, having decided to run because she didn’t feel any of the career politicians represented people like her.

And both hold wildly different views on abortion, O’Connell having come through the ordeal of considering terminating a pregnancy abroad when the odds were stacked against her first-born surviving to birth. He beat the odds and is now a healthy five-year-old but O’Connell hasn’t forgotten how it felt to have to consider fleeing overseas if she had made a different choice.

It could be said Creighton handed her a gift when her stance on abortion forced her out of Fine Gael. Creighton’s was one of the party’s two seats here and her defection shakes things up nicely for an ambitious newcomer.

But the battle of the bobs hasn’t caught imaginations on the doorsteps.

“She comes up maybe once in five days,” says O’Connell of her rival, who has been declining media requests to be accompanied on the canvass because she is, her spokesman says, “very protective of her constituents”.

“And then it tends to be a very definitive ‘I’m voting for Lucinda’, so they don’t get into discussion about it. But it’s not a big issue.”

That’s probably because this is an interesting constituency for other reasons. The other two seats are Labour’s but Ruairi Quinn — posh Labour — is not running and Kevin Humphreys — working-class Labour — will be hurt by his base’s dissatisfaction with the party’s performance in coalition, so the race is an open one.

The constituency is not all Georgian terraces and even where they predominate, they are a mix of sumptuous residences, monuments to fading grandeur, and rentals sub-divided into multiple, sometimes grubby, flats.

The occupants are prosperous D6 lifers, immigrant workers, recently installed couples with DIY ambitions and, given it’s Friday night, babysitters, and the burning issues range from the need for all-weather playing field to the cost of childcare.

Kate O’Connell is running for Fine Gael in Dublin Bay South, and has said Ms Creighton ‘lacks interface with reality’.
Kate O’Connell is running for Fine Gael in Dublin Bay South, and has said Ms Creighton ‘lacks interface with reality’.

The couple at the first house are Spanish and the second house is home to a rival’s campaign worker, but the third door is one of numerous opened by women who know O’Connell’s name and face and are swift to voice their support.

On this night, the name of Sinn Féin’s Chris Andrews crops up once at the doors, as does Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan, but the candidate who comes up most is Eamon Ryan, or more inaccurately Eoghan Ryan, the locals merging sitting FG TD Eoghan Murphy and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan.

“It happens a lot,” says O’Connell after helpfully correcting the latest culprit. “I don’t know what it’s going to mean at the ballot box for either of them.”

If it means mutual transfers, it would be a bizarre victory of spelling ambivalance over political allegiance and O’Connell could suffer, but she is very upbeat about her chances.

She and Murphy have a good relationship, she says of her 33-year-old running mate, who’s seat looks safe, but they’re not above mutual slagging, a focal point being Murphy’s campaign aide, a scruffy terrior who tweets as Murfi Dog, or hashtag #D4dog, casting a canine eye on proceedings.

“I was giving Eoghan a hard time this morning, saying ‘look, I have a baby’,” laughs O’Connell, who predictably ended up in all the press photos and TV news segments that day by bringing her adorable 17-week-old daughter to a breakfast event with Enda Kenny. “The dog wasn’t going to beat that.”

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