Labour leader put to test as students have say on fees


HE got pledges to be poked, but it was votes Eamon Gilmore was after yesterday.

Facebook and fees — these were the topics on the agenda for the secondary-school students who ambushed the Labour leader at every turn in north Munster.

They were determined to be seen and heard and they waited for Mr Gilmore and lobbed questions at every corner he turned while canvassing in Nenagh, Killaloe and Ennis.

Arriving in Nenagh, Eamon was greeted by the eight-month-old daughter of North Tipperary candidate Alan Kelly.

Clearly already tired of this year’s campaign, little Aoibhe was fast asleep less than five minutes later as her mother, Regina, pushed her stroller up Kenyon Street with her dad leading Mr Gilmore through shops, cafes and newsagents.

Plenty of Nenagh’s young citizens were not afraid to ask questions. Enjoying his lunchbreak with friends, Niall Kenny (18), of Nenagh Vocational School, asked Mr Kelly and Mr Gilmore what they had to offer.

Mr Kelly spoke of a unique €1m investment programme which been initiated in the constituency, and told Niall if he had a good business idea on leaving school they might be able to get him “some money to start his enterprise”.

Interested by the proposal, Niall offered to provide his mobile number to the politicians, but Mr Kelly told him it would be easier to contact him on Facebook. Drawing the biggest cheer of the day, Niall quipped: “I’ll give you an auld poke so.”

Both Kelly and Gilmore strolled away laughing, hoping they have secured votes as well as a poke.

Amanda Flannery (17), from St Mary’s Secondary School, was waiting on the opposite side of the street. She asked Mr Gilmore would he be reintroducing third-level fees. He assured her he would not.

Waiting on the Killaloe-Ballina bridge to welcome the entourage to the western side of the Shannon River was Clare candidate Michael McNamara.

Onwards they went to Ennis and still there was no escaping the students.

Having just finished in Colaiste Muire for the day, Dearbhla Fanning (18) stopped Mr McNamara and Mr Gilmore on O’Connell Street. She informed them she had just registered and was weighing up her options. Third-level fees were again her concern and both men told her there was “no plans” to bring fees back.

“Will you vote Labour?” Mr Gilmore asked. “I’m not sure. I need to do my research first,” Dearbhla replied. An intelligent reply and nine days left to decide.

Irish Independent – February 16 2011

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