Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Election Diary: T- 23: Damien's Debate

Attended the AGM of the Cherryfield Residents' Association in St Damien's School tonight.

Also there were my election rivals Cllr Seán Crowe (SF) and Pat Dunne (PBPA) along with latecomers Cllr Colm Brophy (FG), Cllr Joe Neville (FF) and FF's new candidate Eamonn Walsh.

I spent most of my early teenage years hanging around Cherryfield, kicking ball and being scared by girls! And I had an all-too-brief involvement with Cherryfield Utd FC a couple of years ago as a player-coach; I was delighted to meet some of the Cherryfield side on Saturday night, although their spirits were low after a 92nd minute defeat in a cup final.

Tonight, I felt that I was warmly received by local residents - many of whom I had spoken to on recent canvasses. Many of the issues raised - graffiti, underage drinking and youth facilities - sparked a good political debate which essentially broke on right-left lines. Colm Brophy's lengthy contributions basically boiled down to a "lock 'em up and throw away the key" attitude to young graffiti-ists. He dismissed the views of the two left candidates on encouraging art and graphic design in these kids and teens and talked macho about the full rigours of the law, and the usual guff one would expect from Ireland's answer to the Tory Party.

On the campaign trail we've taken to calling the new (Fianna Fáil) Eamonn Walsh "Eamonn Welsh" to distinguish him from our own outgoing Councillor of the same name. However his name is pronounced, the new FF candidate seems to have riled up plenty of residents in his own estate of Cherryfield, and I sensed real tension in the air - particularly when he tried to interrupt me on the one occasion I spoke.

To be honest, the politicians spoke too much and the community too little. This was the first AGM of the Association - who do fantastic work in the area, particularly with young people - in 2 years, but it ended up as a political football. I made clear that I was there to listen as well as briefly putting my involvement and experiences in the area out, along with some proposed solutions to the problems raised. But the anger felt by local residents towards establishment politics - on local as well as national issues - should mean for an interesting result in Cherryfield come June 5th.