Galway City West at the moment is a constituency where even angels (of the green variety) fear to tread. From a variety of sources I have heard of Fianna Fáil canvassers being chased from doors, signs saying ‘No Fianna Fáilers wanted here’ and houses where every approaching step is growled at from behind a firmly shut front door. Even Danté didn’t have to put up with that.
Funnily enough, this reaction seems to be confined to Galway City West, a hugely middle class, middle income constituency. From no other constituency are such widespread reports coming of candidates being almost mauled as they seek a vote.
18.3 per cent of those living in the constituency are managers or employers, with a further 14 per cent classed as higher professional. At the time of the census in 2006, there were just 137 unskilled workers in the area. Galway City West is a solidly well-off area. Or was, at least, until the recession began to bite; today’s results might be somewhat different.
And there lies the rub. Fianna Fáil canvassers are currently finding, as Danté did, that there are three types of beast: the self-indulgent, the violent, and the malicious. And all of them have an axe to grind, be it the general state of the economy, the pension levy, or job losses.
The irony of it all is that the area doesn’t currently have a Fianna Fáil councillor, so much of the ire is being misdirected. Voters showed the party, in the shape of Tom Cox and Val Hanley, the door, in 2004. Previously, businesswoman Margaret Cox topped the poll for the party, but did not seek re-election on a local level.
So the problems of Bearna, Knocknacarra, Salthill, Taylor’s Hill, Rockbarton, and the Claddagh are not attributable to Fianna Fáil – at least on a local level. Lack of infrastructure in the Knocknacarra area, in particular, is attributable both to the council and to central government, but on the council, at least, Fianna Fáil can’t really be blamed for it.
So what we are seeing in the area is the much-vaunted venting of anger against Government being manifested in the local elections. This can be productive, but, as a friend of mine on the opposing side remarked recently, “I think it’s a good plan to get crucified in local and European and win general elections myself…”
Punishing local candidates in mid-term local elections might come straight from Danté’s eighth circle, in which those guilty of “conscious fraud or treachery” are tortured, but in reality, it’s not the best way to go about things.
Because, once a voter’s lust for revenge is sated by condemning some local election candidate to the refuse bin of history, repeated elections have shown that said voter’s memory is wiped clean, and they remember that Eamon, or Frank, or whoever, was always good to Mammy. Leaving the country, like Danté’s pal Virgil, in Limbo. Abandon hope, indeed.