On the hustings in Kildare town with first-time candidate

Mary Donnelly, FG. Canidate Election Campain in Kildare, Majella Brady, Fionnuala Dukes, Photo. Jimmy Fullam.
It’s a chilly but pleasant evening on Tuesday April 8 in Kildare town.

It’s a chilly but pleasant evening on Tuesday April 8 in Kildare town.

However, with the pace of Mary Donnelly’s election team, it’s clear they don’t feel the cold as they purposely walk from house to house in Crockanure, leaflets tucked under arms, and voting registration forms in folders.

Life on the campaign trail is a new departure for Mary – a first time candidate standing for Fine Gael in the Kildare Municipal District.

“I really enjoy it,” she declares, “I love getting out there and listening to people and trying to solve their problems.”

She is out most evenings going door to door, as well as the Saturdays she is off work. It’s a gruelling few weeks for all the candidates, which will only get more intense once May dawns. With five fellow canvassers, including most notably former Minister Alan Dukes and former councillor Fionnuala Dukes (neither have lost their appetite for canvassing), they briskly move on to Oakland Grove, Meadow Court, Willow Grove and Ashfield. Mary’s daughter Jill has also volunteered to help, and as the election gets closer, the entire family will be busy.

A door bell rings, a head pops out and Mary steps up. “I’ve raised five children, I was on the GAA County Board for 18 years and I work in the National Stud,” she beams. “This is my first time to go into politics and it’s something I’d love to do,”

Overall the response is positive. There may be some who haven’t decided who to vote for, some who listen, nod politely and then go inside and pop the leaflet in the bin. Others declare Fine Gael is their party and pledge their support, while some residents know Mary through Ellistown GAA and offer their backing. In fact Mary meets one lady whom she hasn’t seen in 19 years.

Only one resident declines to listen. Some are not registered to vote.

One resident tells how his daughter has been on the housing list for eight years and is sleeping in his sitting room with her three children on a settee bed. He admits she may have been taken off the register at one point because she was renting, but he is angry her situation has still not been resolved. Mary asks him to email her the details so she can look into the matter.

She spies a few Ellistown players waiting for a lift to training, and enquires if they are registered to vote. She jokes; “Vote for me or else you won’t get your place on the team.” The boys grin back.

Even though Mary may be a new candidate, her family is steeped in politics. Her mum, Babs McLoughlin, a long time party supporter, is thrilled she is running. Mary also remarks her late father, Joe, would have loved to be alive to see his daughter take on this task.

When asked, how her campaign is going, Mary is positive. She knows not everyone will agree with her, but that’s part and parcel of politics.

“We’ve been getting a very good reaction so far. We were out in Bishopsland last night (Monday 7) and we got a great response. Fionnuala was with me and people were delighted to see her,” she explained.

So as the light fades, the canvassers head home to recharge the batteries for the next night.

The Leinster Leader will be on the election trail between now and Friday, May 23, with candidates of different political hues from across Kildare. Pick up your Leinster Leader for the most in-depth local elections 2014 coverage.