#EUREF: Heart saying ‘no’; but will the head say otherwise?

Right, you cannot put much store by one trip out with a couple of canvassing groups, in two very different parts of north side Dublin; Ballymun with Sinn Fein and Sutton Park (on the Dart line to Howth) with Fianna Fail… Harry McGee makes a very interesting observation:

Party leader Micheál Martin has joined Senator Averil Power on the hustings. Compared to the Lisbon and Nice treaties – where indifference was the predominant mood on the doorsteps – there is a huge level of engagement. Even those who aren’t sure what it’s all about give clear signals that that knowledge gap will be remedied by polling day.

It makes for long chats at doorsteps, with Power’s trademark jolly laugh never wavering even through the most tedious and crankish of engagements. She ends up sprinting between houses to try and finish the canvass by dark. It’s evident the vitriol against Fianna Fáil has died down too. There are only three rebuffs in 200 houses but one is very dramatic.

“Get lost,” a woman tells Power. “You were in power and destroyed the country.” The Senator quickly obliges.

Over in Belclare, in Ballymun, a smaller Sinn Féin team headed by Dublin North West TD Dessie Ellis encounters no such hostility. Indeed, in an hour and a half of door-knocking, not even one householder says they are voting Yes. It’s No all the way.

This is the kind of thing that intrigues political parties. What does it mean? Well, Harry goes on to make a fairly nuanced observation:

there is a problem inherent there for No campaigners. You can see it in the level of engagement, which is minimal. Indeed, most of the conversations are one-way as Ellis sets out his objections. While people are saying No, many of them may also be too apathetic to actually vote.

The minority who explain their reasoning have certainly thought about it. One man says: “I just do not believe the banks. We need to do what Iceland did. They are in a much better position.” He turns to Ellis and adds. “I’ve turned more left in the last couple of years. I’m voting No, de-fin-ite-lee.”

In Sutton Park, Fianna Fáil focuses its argument on the bailout fund, the ESM. Martin and Power also point out the uncertainty of a No vote, especially its effect on foreign direct investment.

“I hope that we do not need a second bailout but if we do, there is the certainty of having this. Yes will be better for investment such as the jobs in Mylan [a pharma company that recently recruited] down the road,” says Power.

“If you go No,” Martin tells a couple who are wavering, “there are no guarantees at all. Guaranteed funding in 2014 is the key issue. The bottom line is that it opens the door to the ESM. If you vote No, there will be uncertainty. It’s as stark as that.”

But the two politicians receive as much as they give. A woman and her adult daughter complain that Irish governments have been pushovers. “Things cannot be any worse. We are being screwed. I am very angry,” says the woman.

Her daughter pipes in: “Would a Yes really change anything?” The mother is blunt. “The Government needs to kick ass. They need to have the balls to say No to Europe.”

A great line. But, if we set aside for a moment the one thing Micheal Martin’s insistence yesterday that this referendum is not about who gets to run the country, the one thing that should encourage Fianna Fail is that people are still talking to them…

As Noel Whelan noted back in 2005 (for the election where David Trimble was finally cashiered) at a Slugger live event in Belfast, landslides are silent because the people have decided to stop talking to you. That may be of some hope to the Yes campaign (and, dare I say it, the old sinners of Fianna Fail).

As for the No campaign…

Sinn Féin’s Seán Marlowe, out with Ellis tonight, also articulates how that phenomenon translated into a concern for them. “There is too much apathy. People are angry but when you meet them on the doorsteps they don’t really convince you they will vote. Getting the vote out is our main worry.”

Given the sentiment in the country, you have to expect this to be closer than the polls are now calling it. Keep an eye out tonight for an early release of a Red C poll that may have some encouraging news for the No camp.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty