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17 April 1997 Edition

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Fighting talk

Rita O'Reilly reports that Séan Crowe is not the only one saying he can win Dublin South West for Sinn Féin.

Fighting talk is to be heard in Tallaght these days. Sinn Féin candidate Séan Crowe has thrown his hat in the ring for the general election. Tonight he'll host the first meeting of his campaign, and if talk is anything to go by, there'll be no shortage of supporters there to help.

Progressive Democrat leader Mary Harney is expected to top the poll, picking up most of her votes from the more affluent suburbs like Rathfarnham and Templeogue, but the retirement of Labour TD Mervyn Taylor means all bets are off in the five-seater constituency.

The electorate voted in Taylor's Labour colleague Eamon Walsh along with him in 1992 but he is widely seen as having failed them. The other TDs, Fianna Fáil's Chris Flood and Pat Rabbitte of Democratic Left have also not been seen on the ground and will have some convincing to do to pull out a strong vote.

``There's a Sinn Féin seat in Dublin South West,'' says Séan Crowe, ``and we're out to get it.''

It is the other parties' private polls that are backing up this confidence. They suggest that there are two seats going in the constituency and that Sinn Féin are in there for one of them.

The big challenge for Sinn Féin is not voter dissatisfaction but voter disaffection: the areas where the party's popularity is highest are also the areas where very few people vote.

The Fettercairn estate in Tallaght is typical of this. Out of its 800 houses, only 110 people voted in the November bail referendum.

The next election could change that. Sinn Féin is confident its political presence in the communities on the issues that have hit them hardest will translate into votes this time around. While drugs and joyriding are obvious local problems, the bigger issue behind them is how elected politicians have got away for so long with avoiding accountability to the local people on all the issues they face.

Fettercairn drugs activist Betty Caverley believes the drugs issue has ``opened a lot of people's eyes''. ``There's a lot of people I know who never voted but they'll vote now, `cause they see what the politicians have been up to.''

Her view of politicians as never being around except at election time is common in Tallaght. As if to prove it, local TDs Pat Rabbitte and Chris Flood appeared on RTE's Primetime on the night she spoke to An Phoblacht. Rabbitte put the current problems in the area down to ``a small number of gangsters who need to be weeded out'' and laid the blame for problem children solely on a claim of ``no parental control''.

Betty Caverley and her neighbours heard a car speed into their tiny close on Good Friday. It was three o'clock in the afternoon. Over 60 children gathered as the car, with four youngsters inside, sped around at over 80 miles per hour.

For over three years, Betty and her neighbours tried to get speed ramps installed at the entrances to Kilmartin estate. None were installed. After the Good Friday incident, Betty persuaded Cement Roadstone to erect bollards in two places. Local people's efforts have also persuaded South Dublin County Council to finally clean up a rat-infested wasteland behind their homes.

Séan Crowe believes one of the strongest things Tallaght has going for it is the amount of people like Betty Caverley who do voluntary work and daily fight battles on behalf of their community. ``It's where the state agencies aren't backing them and aren't stepping in to really support them that you get the big problems''.

He points out that the physical environment people live in affects their morale and their behaviour. Unemployment runs at 35% in Tallaght but is as high as 70% in some areas. Yet the neglect of estates like Fettercairn and Killinarden has continued despite the election of three left-of-centre TDs for the area.

The election of a Sinn Féin TD would put a focus on the issues in Tallaght no other candidate standing in the election can deliver, Séan Crowe argues. There is no denying that fact. In May, voters get a chance to deliver that focus themselves.

If you're not in, we can't win!

Sinn Féin is standing in 14 of the 41 constituencies in the 26 County general election. Check that you're on the register. It has already been published and is available at public libraries and post offices for you to check if you're on it. If you're not, get on the supplementary register now! You can do that by getting a green form, RFA2 from any local Corporation or Council office or main post office. You can vote if you're an Irish citizen and were at least 18 years old on 15 February 1997 and if you were living at the address you're registering from on 1 September 1996. You have until 12 days before polling to get this all sorted, but start now! If you need help, contact Sinn Féin in your local area.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1