TIMMY Dooley is wearing a pair of corduroy trousers as he hits the canvass in Ennis, on an unseasonably mild Wednesday afternoon. An essential part of the wardrobe of a seasoned campaigner, they’ve been bought specially over Christmas for occasions like this.
“I always wear a pair of corduroy trousers,” he reveals. “They’re a great guard against dogs. It gives them something to chew on and they don’t get through to your leg. Last time around, I got a right nick from a dog. He made a grab and got me, so I had to go off and get a tetanus shot.”
As a phenomenal vote-getter for 18 years now, the outgoing Fianna Fáil TD knows all of the other secrets of an effective canvass.
“The first time I canvassed was for my Seanad campaign in 2002, the Dáil was 2007, 2011, 2016 and 2020. So far, I’ve been successful. I like to think it’s hard work, but people make up their own minds and I’ve had a great team in the office and supporters canvassing for me.”
Navigating the challenges posed by winter weather and small dogs is second nature to the canvassing team, which could number anything from 20 to 80.
As we make our way around Hermitage in Ennis, Dooley shares more tips: “A good canvass is when you get meet people on the doors and to engage with them. It’s great if someone comes to the door and says they’ll vote for you. It’s almost better if you find someone who mighn’t have been planning to vote for you and you convert them.”
With two other Fianna Fáil candidates in the field in the shape of Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Councillor Cathal Crowe and Doonbeg business woman Rita McInerney, Dooley’s canvass is geographically limited.
“I’ll be staying out of the South East. That’s Cathal’s territory and we want to win two seats. I’m trying to concentrate my effort in Ennis and the East Clare area. The Killaloe area which is my base has a relatively low number of voters. My worry is I’ll get squeezed between Michael McNamara and Cathal Crowe in that area, so I really have to get votes in Ennis.”
The county town is fertile canvassing ground for those of every party and none. Martin and Maureen White from Hermitage, have been getting used to canvassers as election day approaches.
“You have to respect what people are doing,” Martin says. “I love listening to their views and I love giving them my own. Mostly, it’s on health. What’s going on in the hospitals is not right. You can’t have older people waiting on trolleys.”
Among the stalwarts staffing Dooley’s Ennis office is Parliamentary Assistant Martin O’Loghlen. The Ballyvaughan native got a taste of the campaign trail as a candidate himself in last year’s local elections and understands the intricacies of wooing voters. With a calm efficiency, Martin is quick to engage with passers-by as we make our way back down the Old Mill Road. Many of those we meet are regular visitors to the office and well known to the campaign team.
“To be fair, regardless of whether or not people agree with the party or support its views, they are prepared to engage,” Martin says, “and Timmy has a good way with people, that’s what it’s all about.”
After a whistle-stop in Ennis, Dooley is heading back to his East Clare heartland where there are more voters to meet – and to persuade – before darkness falls.