Two women, sitting on the steps of a beautiful Victorian house, are just seconds from popping the cork on a bottle of cold rosé in the evening sun’s glow.
Fianna Fáil heavyweight Jim O’Callaghan shepherds the party’s Dublin Bay South byelection candidate Deirdre Conroy up the path, perhaps hopeful of an easy chat, maybe even a vote.
“I am voting for Ivana,” one of the women warns.
“But did you know I am a councillor in the area, a heritage specialist and environmentalist?” Conroy counters from the bottom step. “I have been doing all the work for the last two years, just to let you know. I know Ivana is lovely, but … ”
The response is lightning quick. “I am devastated by the current Government. I just can’t do it. The restrictions, the lockdown. It is like 1950s Catholic Ireland. We are going to do it longer, harder and more miserably than anyone else. It’s like self-flagellation. So, anyone who is not Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.”
Conroy says “the Greens are involved in it as well”, before adding “and I am not saying I support it. We don’t necessarily support it; it is the HSE and Nphet”.
A joke is cracked by one of the women about Nphet standing for “No pubs, hotels, entertainment or travel”. Everyone laughs.
Conroy says: “It is almost like the church taking over.”
Out of business
The reason for the anger of the woman sitting on the steps becomes clear: “It is heart-breaking what is happening. I have been out of business for 16 months. Business was due to start again on Monday, and now it is not.”
She is on the pandemic unemployment payment. “People who do not have skin in the game just do not understand it.”
The Government just days previously has agreed to delay reopening indoor hospitality.
“I understand, my business has gone right down as well,” says Conroy. “I am a councillor. There is no way you could actually live as a councillor.” There is somewhat muted agreement.
Conroy tells them she is the woman behind D vs Ireland, “the first woman to take a human rights case against Ireland. And now I am taking the housing crisis, with Fianna Fáil, to get it sorted.”
Promises are made to look at leaflets, and the canvass resumes.
Conroy, O’Callaghan, Minister of State Robert Troy and a diligent team of canvassers are now hustling for votes on the street where the former taoiseach Jack Lynch once lived.
Lynch has often been described as one of the most popular leaders in Fianna Fáil’s history, but the area now appears to lean heavily towards Fine Gael or Labour, with some Green votes evident too.
Conroy says she cannot understand Bacik’s poll ratings. In the recent Irish Times Ipsos/MRBI poll, Bacik was on 22 per cent to Ms Conroy’s 10 per cent.
“There was a man up there around the corner who said he is voting for Ivana Bacik. I know she’s a nice person but she was voted in by Trinity graduates. I wonder why all the work I have done in this area, does anyone know? It just doesn’t make sense. I am not saying anything against Ivana, but she is not working in the area.”
After being told by one man that he will be voting Green, she tells him: “I’m very green myself, I am an environmentalist and heritage specialist, I’m the one who has done all the work and reports on the Busconnects, for all of the area.”
“Okay,” he says, and shuts the door. Conroy keeps her disposition sunny.
She is an architectural historian, specialising in protected structures and campaigning for reform of planning applications needed to change older buildings.
O’Callaghan fears some view next week’s byelection as a two-horse race.
And what of those who say it is a test of his mettle as a future leadership contender?
“The byelection is not about me. I am doing my best on behalf of Fianna Fáil and Deirdre and I am really pleased with the support the whole parliamentary party has given. The Taoiseach has been out eight times with Deirdre, and I’m out every day.”
Later that night, Micheál Martin joins the effort for a ninth time, while Fine Gael canvassing teams filter through the same areas, looking decidedly more assured.
Orange warning in place for five counties on west coast
Violent storm force 11 winds are expected off the west coast as Storm Barra approaches on Tuesday morning.
A status orange warning is in place on land for the counties of Galway, Clare, Limerick, Kerry and Cork from 6am on Tuesday morning until the same time on Wednesday morning.
Counties included in orange warning could see damaging gusts of up to 130km/h which will head to high waves, high tides, heavy rain and storm surge.
The rest of the country will be under a status yellow warning for the same period with the possibility of localised flooding.
Met Éireann head of forecasting Evelyn Cusack told Newstalk Breakfast that the storm system is developing rapidly over the Atlantic at present and will hit Ireland’s western seaboard on Tuesday with strong gale force winds which will quickly extend across the country.
There will be heavy rain turning to sleet and snow on higher ground, she warned.
Met Éireann will meet with gardaí, local authorities and emergency services this morning to update the progress of the storm and provide advice on what precautionary measures should be taken.
“It will be a pretty horrid day,” added Ms Cusack who advised against cycling.
The high winds and heavy rain will continue throughout Wednesday but they will have moved on by Thursday.
On RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, senior meteorologist Liz Walsh warned that trees could be knocked down during the high winds. She also advised that outdoor street furniture should be taken in or tied down and cautioned that Christmas decorations could be damaged.
Coronavirus rules for driving tests spark complaints
Claims of rude testers, of not being allowed to cough and having to drive with windows open due to Covid-19 were among the complaints received from people who failed driving tests recently.
The Road Safety Authority (RSA), which oversees driving tests nationally, released a sample of the 1,505 complaints received since the start of last year under the Freedom of Information Act.
New figures show the driving test centre in Cork had the highest pass rate with 75 per cent of people passing, while the lowest was Charlestown in Dublin with a 42 per cent pass rate.
One person complained he had told his tester he had asthma and might need to cough because he had recently changed inhalers, causing irritation to his throat.
“I was advised that if I coughed at any stage, the test would be over immediately. This was difficult to control while under exam pressure and added a huge amount of unnecessary stress and pressure,” the individual complained.
Another individual complained their tester said if their face mask slipped “a little bit from my nose” while driving, the test would be ended.
“I’m in shock how he treated me that day,” said the complainant.
Another learner driver who failed said their car was hot and “very uncomfortable” because the tester said the hot air de-misters had to be kept on to prevent the windows fogging up because the back windows had to be kept open due to Covid-19.
One complainant said the tester seemed to have prejudged the test when they spotted a small stain on the driver’s seat as the car was supposed to be “spotless”.
“The tester was clearly taking it too far. I was complying with all Covid precautions as I had just Hoovered and sanitised the car and it was simply a mark on the seat.”
There were general complaints beyond Covid-19 issues. One person complained about feeling “anxious” because the tester was “sitting there shaking his head”.
Another said their tester repeatedly shook his head and sighed several times, and then made notes on the score sheet, which was “extremely off-putting and really unfair”.
Another driver said the tester was “extremely condescending and patronising” and mocked their answer to a signpost theory question about an “unguarded cliff edge”.
“We don’t drive along cliff edges in this country,” the tester was quoted as saying.
The RSA has been dealing with a backlog of driving tests due to the pandemic.
The test centres with the next lowest pass rates were Dublin’s Churchtown, since closed (44 per cent), Nenagh, Co Tipperary (44 per cent) and Mulhuddart (45 per cent) and Raheny (46 per cent), both in Dublin.
Former US presidential candidate Bob Dole dies aged 98
Bob Dole, the long-time Kansas senator who was the Republican nominee for president in 1996, has died from lung cancer. In a statement, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, founded by Dole’s wife, said: “It is with heavy hearts we announced that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died earlier this morning in his sleep. At his death at age 98 he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years.”
In late February, Dole announced that he had advanced lung cancer and would begin treatment. Visiting him, President Joe Biden called Dole his “close friend”.
On Sunday the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, like Biden a Democrat, ordered flags at the Capitol to be flown at half-staff.
Born in Russell, Kansas in 1923, Dole served in the US infantry in the second world war, suffering serious wounds in Italy and winning a medal for bravery.
His wounds cost him use of his right arm but he entered state politics and soon became a longtime Republican power-broker, representing Kansas in the US House of Representatives from 1961 to 1969 and in the Senate until 1996. He had spells as chairman of the Republican National Committee and as Senate minority and majority leader.
In 1976 he was the Republican nominee for vice-president to Gerald Ford, in an election the sitting president lost to Jimmy Carter. Two decades later, aged 73, Dole won the nod to take on Bill Clinton.
Against the backdrop of a booming economy, the Democrat won a second term with ease, by 379 – 159 in the electoral college and by nine points in the popular vote, the third-party candidate Ross Perot costing Dole support on the right.
Dole received both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest US civilian honours.
In the Trump years and after, Dole came widely to be seen as a figure from another time in Republican politics.
On Sunday, the political consultant Tara Setmeyer, a member of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, tweeted: “I cast my first ever vote for president for Bob Dole in 1996. A war hero with a sharp sense of humor ? another piece of a once respectable GOP gone.”
However, Dole remained a loyal Republican soldier, telling USA Today this summer that though Donald Trump “lost the election, and I regret that he did, but they did”, and though he himself was “sort of Trumped out”, he still considered himself “a Trumper”.
Dole called Biden “a great, kind, upstanding, decent person”, though he said he leaned too far left.
He also said: “I do believe [America has]lost something. I can’t get my hand on it, but we’re just not quite where we should be, as the greatest democracy in the world. And I don’t know how you correct it, but I keep hoping that there will be a change in my lifetime.”
On Sunday, Jaime Harrison, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, said: “Sending heartfelt condolences and prayers to the family of Senator Bob Dole. We honor his service and dedication to the nation. May he Rest In Peace.”
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