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GE2020 THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Rita McInerney in Cooraclare

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Final positions of the 2020 General Election are unknown but Rita McInerney (FF) will have the honour of being the first accompanied by The Clare Echo on the canvass.

There was an air of enthusiasm as her team of canvassers gathered in Cooraclare shortly after midday on Friday. The eagerness rubbed off on passers by with one woman sensing the excitement, she was a sharp lady indeed as she informed yours truly that The Clare Echo was a weekly part of her reading schedule.

Pat Considine orchestrated the directions in which canvassers headed off to, Cllr Bill Chambers the most high profile politician among the group with former Minister and Senator Brendan Daly being held in reserve until they reached the village. Two by two was the approach with Rita heading off with her niece and designated driver and The Clare Echo close behind.

Such is the distance between each house that it necessitates having to drive from one to the next. The first door results in no answer, a trend that fortunately isn’t repetitive. The second visit is to a woman who is not aware who Rita is and in truth does not appear to know there is an election looming, she highlights her concerns with water shortages in the area and health concerns of the pipes. “More money is needed in Irish Water,” Rita tells the woman, “People will pay” she responds on the desire to improve the network, it appears that the 2015 Right2Water protests are also unknown to the homeowner.

At the next stop, Rita outlines that she will be fighting to win a third seat for Fianna Fáil. “West Clare needs strong representation,” is the common line batted out by the Doonbeg woman at the doors and at this house it goes down a treat as she is promised all votes by this woman aged in her fifties.

During the canvass, Rita knows what to say to hit the right note, she is offered tea and also quips that she is interrupting another’s tea-break. This one can assume is from her time running her own shop and the small-talk that comes hand in hand with the particular business.

Water crops up as a key issue in Tullybrack and Cooraclare. A babysitter highlighted how she has had to inform parents at very short notice she was unable to work due to no supply of water, another individual flagged that the stretch of road has been without water “four times since Christmas”.

Donald Trump also makes the topic of conversation as an elderly woman greets Rita with the line, “We have to support our neighbour. Trump is keeping ye happy”. They agree on importance of coastal protection and say that Trump is “putting half of West Clare through college”. With a farmyard in the background and a regular flow of tractors it is little surprise that farming and the price of cattle is outlined as an issue that needs to be addressed.

“People want change” is the general agreement as we make our way into what I’m told is “a Fianna Fáil house”. The chat flows from topic to topic, the majority of which are not related to the campaign but it’s of little difference as it appears Rita will collect the number one votes in the ‘teach’.

Candidates have to be on their toes at the doorstep, one person to answer does so with a knife in hand. Thankfully it’s because she is peeling potatoes as opposed to making threats. The issues of broadband, technology and regional imbalance form the discussion, “Dublin is eating itself” Rita commented as she points out her admiration for a TED Talk by Scottish politician, Nicola Sturgeon.

Not wanting to take further risks on what knives in Cooraclare are used for, we decide it’s time to leave the rest of the canvass to Rita and her team.

“Strong representation for West Clare” is the key message pushed by Rita at the doors. Due to the amount of dogs she has come across throughout the campaign, she confessed her red coat was most likely to be binned when polling day comes. On February 8th, they will decide if Rita is the “strong representation” that they want.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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