“Ardclough aren’t going great now. We’re looking at going to Junior B.” The Labour Party’s Shane Griffin is taking a momentary break from canvassing around Callenders Mills in Celbridge.
“We’re devastated by emigration. But then of course hurling is very popular there as well.”
Ten years ago we thought a young man in his 20s would never know the pain of the hole left in a community by emigration, but alas, here we are again.
Griffin is tall and handsome with one of those fashionable beards. He has an easy and engaging way about him, like somebody who has a skill at making small talk.
He - and his canvassing assistant Ciara Galvin - have shoes that are falling apart, a testament to the miles they’ve pounded around Celbridge’s vast estates.
“I keep meaning to get a new pair,” Shane says as he walks briskly to the next door. “But it’s way down the list of priorities at the moment.”
Griffin is from the top of Boston hill in Ardclough, and works for Labour MEP Emer Costello. For two and a half years he worked in her Brussels office, but now he’s based in Dublin.
Conscious that he, just like herself, is facing an election day in May, she’s given him five and a half weeks off to devote himself full time to getting elected.
Himself and Galvin, who also worked for a time in Brussels (with Nessa Childers while she was in the Labour party) are a slick canvassing operation.
Before their worn shoe leather hits anybody’s front driveway, they know who is in the house, whether they’re on the voters’ register, what issues they’ve raised in the past and what issues are general current in the area.
This is their second canvass of the area. The last time, a controversial application to build a creche on the edge of green space at the entrance to the estate was causing concern - as was a general lack of schools for a growing and young population in the area.
In each case he is well up on the facts and has a hand out to give anyone who asks on the current situation and what he’s been doing about it.
Cleverly he has said that his three main priorities are new schools, tackling crime in the area and generally speaking, improved facilities like playgrounds, swimming pools etc.
“People have been fine on the door. I’ve met nobody who was totally irrational. Some people are angry, but once you seem willing to talk to them, they calm down and we get into a good chat,” he explained.
“When I was canvassing in Dublin with Emer you’d get pockets of people who were totally irrationally extreme. They wanted to obliterate democracy. But here in Celbridge, people are more reasonable.”
On the door steps he’s quite practiced. He apologises for taking up their time, makes a point of saying several times what his name is, and that he hopes for their support on May 23rd, a date he repeats a couple of times. He’s reinforcing the date so that they’ll remember to come out and vote and his name, so that when faced with a ballot paper, they’ll remember the Shane Griffin fella.
If he senses people are friendly and open to a bit of a chat he’ll inquire gently if they’ve decided which way they’re thinking of voting. Sometimes people say they don’t know yet, which is probably a polite way of say “yes, and it won’t be for you”. One man said Shane would be getting his number one.
“Yessss!” said Ciara, when they were out of ear shot.
It being Easter Saturday, and the first day of a three day weekend, more than half of the doors knocked on didn’t answer. But a lot of times, there were cars in the driveway, the windows were closed and the curtains were down. They simply weren’t there.
At one house, this reporter, by virtue of being further away from the front door, heard a woman out the back of the house instructing her children not to “open that bloody door”. “Well I totally understand that, it’s the bank holiday weekend,” Shane remarked happily enough when I mentioned it to him,
Perhaps because of his political experience, he’s conscious of the way the wind is blowing. “The tide is going out a bit for Labour,” he admits, “but I’m a new fresh face, and if people are looking for change, that might swing it my way.”