Micheál Martin and James Lawless meet a voter in Naas
The SuperValu store in Sallins offers three hours of free parking to its customers. In a town where car parking spaces are as hard to find as teeth in a hen, it’s not an inconsiderable concession.
Micheál Martin came to call on the Kildare North constituency last Wednesday — and the overused term of ‘whistle-stop tour’ doesn’t begin to describe what unfolded.
Neither SuperValu nor the clamping company which enforces the parking rules in the area were getting any twine out of the Fianna Fáil leader.
His stay in Sallins fell comfortably within three hours. In fact a mere 46 minutes elapsed from the time he bounded out of the Lock 13 gastro pub to meet and greet to when he was driven away to Naas.
Martin is tall — at least six feet — and has the frame of a cross country runner on the cusp of retirement. Or maybe it’s a legacy of his diet, which is said to be heavy on herbal teas and salads.
He moved purposefully and at a fair old lick through Sallins, striding across the canal bridge like a man in a hurry to address a grievous wrong.
His party of helpers were left in his wake and only James Lawless, local resident and sitting TD, could keep up with the pace. Lawless was probably thankful he has a few marathons behind him.
In Cafe Grange the man who would be Taoiseach met a woman from Cork who asked if he played golf.
“I don’t play golf. I walk the dog,” he replied.
He also met Ann O’Connor who works there and whose husband is from Waterville, County Kerry, and related to recently appointed Kildare football team manager Jack O’Connor. Before we knew it, we were out again.
With Martin, literally, leading from the front the entourage headed towards the community centre and over the pedestrian bridge straddling the station, where party workers had canvassed earlier as a commuters departed for Dublin.
At Supervalu he met manager Laura Maher who said Lawless has been a great support to business in the town and is also involved with many community events.
She also said he had put in an amount of work to get additional car park spaces open at The Waterways complex. And as if the FF candidate wasn’t sweet enough as far as most of the electorate in Sallins are concerned, staff had prepared a box of cup cakes, complete with little flags urging a number one vote for the man himself.
The party leader said the main issues affecting people in the constituency are whether there will be adequate school places and enough room on the trains and buses leaving the towns for Dublin every day.
And, he added, while retaining jobs is important it’s crucial that local employment is cultivated.
It’s some years since Intel and Hewlett Packard opened and while the Kerry Group has a major operation in Naas, not enough has been done to bring new industry to the area.
“New industries need to be created so people don’t have to travel to Dublin. But not enough is being done to make this happen ,” said Martin.
“The number of site visits to Kildare to investigate the possibility of setting up new industry was less than 10 — and this itself is less than many other counties,” he said.
And with that he was gone.