Fianna Fáil general election candidate Cllr Joe Flaherty
Joe Flaherty is a man very much with the political bit between his teeth.
Opinion polls or no opinion polls, Longford’s Fianna Fáil general election candidate is all too aware of the spoils on offer in a little over a week’s time.
Arm outstretched, he shakes the hand of a passer by while out on the canvass trail in Longford town last Thursday.
“It’s very important we get a TD elected to Longford,” came the warm greeting, whilst clutching a deluge of election paraphernalia in his other hand.
It’s a far cry from the heady days of September 2017 when the father of three made his entrance onto the political stage after his landslide victory at Fianna Fáil’s Longford convention.
A little over two years on, the Lanesboro native is fully focused on reinstating his party’s presence on the national stage and ending a near decade long barren spell without a Fianna Fáil TD in Longford.
Shadowed by a couple of party supporters and an entourage from The Irish Times, Flaherty soon claps eyes on a figure making his way up Killashee Street.
“This is Brendan Ward, affectionately known as happy because he is always known as happy,” he tells the assembled media present.
In pausing to reveal how he had also acted as a judge on a past Strictly Come Dancing fundraiser, Brendan caused more than a stir when asked to give the Fianna Fáil candidate his number one.
“Thanks for the one point you gave me,” he told the Longford councillor.
“I didn’t, I gave you ten points,” replied a smiling Cllr Flaherty.
“Ah ha, you cheated,” interjected Brendan for a second time.
A short stroll down to Brigid’s Terrace sees the Fianna Fáil group leader knock on his first batch of doors.
One of those to answer was grandmother of nine, Ina Reilly.
“Look at you,” Flaherty grins somewhat impishly.
“Sure you have your hair and all done.
“She’s waiting here for two days for the media to come.”
Fighting back a combination of mild embarrassment and nervous laughter, you got the impression it was an exchange which certainly won over the Wexford born woman.
“One hundred per cent,” she said, when asked as to the importance of a Longford based TD. “We need somebody to fight for us. Yes, I think he is very honest and straight and he (Flaherty) tells you how it is.”
Being a general election candidate and very much in the glare of the public eye is a political cross not everyone is willing to bear.
You get the impression it’s an undertaking the Fianna Fáil hopeful is very much relishing.
And he’s not afraid either to deal with the pressing issues of health and homelessness when the situation presents itself.
With the almost incessant ring tone of his mobile phone going off in his pocket, a mother of two challenges him about the need to move to a bigger house to cater for her school-going children.
Pen in hand, Flaherty scribbles down a couple of key contacts for the woman to contact before telling her to call into his office should those lines of approach come up short.
Moments later, the Iconic Newspapers managing director makes a bee-line for a member of staff inside a local pharmacist’s.
“Imagine, she is going to China instead of voting for me,” he laughs. “And if I happen to lose by one vote, she’s not to feel too bad, sure she’s not.”
Politics is a game of fine margins and one vote or 1,000 votes, none of that matters.
For Cllr Flaherty the only outcome that matters is that of February 8 and the tantalising prospect of ending nine sterile years of Fianna Fáil marginalisation in Longford.