The Longford Leader this week went out on its own canvass to gauge public opinion across Co Longford.
First port of call on an overcast Wednesday morning last week was Clough Dillons in the heart of Kenagh village.
“There just doesn’t seem to be any transparency,” Gary Lawlor said, as he leaned against his front door. “People are getting kicked out of their houses. I was in the mortgage business and I know for a fact that there are thousands of people out there who have mortgages of €400,000 to €500,000 and just can’t afford them.”
Neighbour Jo Smith was equally dispondent in her analysis of the political arena. Directing her fury at the credit driven boom of the late nineties and early noughties, she said more and more people have steadily slipped into “mental paralysis” in the face of incessant budgetary cuts.
“There were huge mistakes made in the Celtic Tiger time and mistakes were made from a very grassroots level. I would say to anyone coming into power for Christ’s sake will you sort out the basics because with all the financial cuts you have to ask is there enough money in the pot to sort out anything?
“Of course I am angry. It’s actually got to the stage where it’s like being in counselling and you get to the stage where you are actually quite numb and don’t know which way to think any more.”
A few miles down the road in Ballymahon pensioner Ann Flanagan was one of the few who revealed just where her number one preference would be heading come February 25.
“I am thinking along the lines of Sinn Fein,” she stated. “The thing that makes me really angry is the corruption, the lies, the deceit and the nepotism within Fianna Fail. As regards Fine Gael, I don’t know very much about them but I am afraid that it might be a case of same old, same old. Sinn Fein are up and coming and enthusiastic. I have to say they have their heart in the right place and I would love to see them get a chance maybe with Labour.”
The Leader also stopped off at Ronnie Nally’s in Ballymahon to gauge the mood there.
“We are killed here trying to keep doors open,” explained landlady, Mary Nally. “Everyone is drinking at home as well. I mean it started with the smoking ban, then it was the random breath testing and after that there was the cuts to wages and social welfare so where is the money going to come from? Everyone is affected and the self employed have been very badly treated. If I get sick in the morning even though we have paid up for the last 30 years we wouldn’t get a penny.”
Sitting across the bar life-long Fianna Fail supporter Sean Connell cut a frustrated figure. Asked what he would do if a Fianna Fail candidate knocked on his door, the Tubberclair man replied: “I wouldn’t be angry, but if a Fianna Fail candidate came to my door I either wouldn’t open the door or I would run them from the gate. My family voted Fianna Fail all their lives but we have changed to Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran (Independent). I still wouldn’t vote for Fianna Fail, no way.”
Down the road, business man Sean McCoubry said he was “leaning towards” Sinn Fein. “I am self employed and run a small scaffolding company. All you are doing is trying to keep working and under-cutting your own prices just to keep your head above water. Two years ago we had 33 men on the books, now we have five,” he admitted.
Over in Granard, one local resident said she was so “fed up” with politics, she opted to fasten a ‘no canvassers’ sign on her front door. Polish natives Daniel Doblowolsky and Raphael Masiulanic, both of whom work in factories in Granard and Loch Gowna were both worried bythe introduction of the universal social charge.
“My wages have gone down and I am getting a wage €8.60 an hour. Before New Year I was paying around €30 to €40, now I am paying €50 a week in tax,” said Daniel.
Local man Brendan Leahy would only go as far as to say he “probably would” stick with his family’s tradition and give Fine Gael the thumbs up, but he had a caustic words for Dail hopefuls.
“Two years ago I was cut off the dole completely and I was told then that they (political representatives) would look into it. I hadn’t a red cent to my name and they are still looking into it. I think all these politicians are in it for themselves, they don’t give a fiddlers about me, you or anyone else.