A WEEK before Senator David Norris announced his withdrawal from the presidential election, Liam McCabe, the Campaign co-ordinator from the Kells Road in Kilkenny, sat looking at six independent polls.
The polls all indicated that Senator David Norris was set to be the ninth president of Ireland. Mr McCabe thought to himself at the time “It’s our election to lose.”
A week is a long time in politics, and that was all it took for a fourteen month campaign involving over 300 people to grind to a halt . Senator Norris’s final words “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better,” marked the end of a journey for Mr McCabe and fellow Kilkenny resident Stephen Boyle who had both worked at the heart of the Norris Campaign.
When asked what their feelings are in the wake of Senator Norris’s withdrawal both men agree that the biggest feeling is what could have been. Mr McCabe said “I look back at what could have been... I do believe that Senator Norris could have been an exceptional president, but it wasn’t to be and the Senator would accept full responsibility for that himself.”
Mr McCabe said that there is no animosity amongst the Senators campaign team. The whole team was committed to a single goal of getting the president elected. Mr McCabe pointed out that even when people felt that they could no longer be involved in the campaign didn’t take from it after they had resigned. “You got a whole pile of no comments across the media. I’m quite proud of that because the team had the commitment to each other. This was a team that kept its head well below the radar and supported the senator to win the presidency. On the other hand I can point to the achievements of this team... polling had us at 25% of first preference votes and a further 19% on transfers and that is what this team had achieved.”
Based largely on volunteerism Mr McCabe had put together a team of almost 300 volunteers that had managed and executed one of the slickest presidential campaigns in Ireland. They had achieved the largest social media following of any political organisation in Ireland with a reach of 50,000 individuals. A series of fund raising events with high-profile names were set to take place including a “Thank Norris its Friday” campaign. Regional campaign teams had been organised and trained. They were to be used in the last phase of the campaign but have now all been disbanded. The Director of Elections had secured the support of 19 members of the Oireachtas. They had turned an independent candidate into a viable threat to established political candidates and attracted support from across the political spectrum.
Both Mr Boyle and Mr McCabe have fond memories of the campaign trail. The reaction that they got from members of the public was the highlight. Mr Boyle talks of people coming out to meet Senator Norris in Roscommon. Mr McCabe recalls throngs of people on shop street in Galway greeting Senator Norris in front of a shocked Guardian journalist.
Despite this both men are adamant that they are retiring from politics for the moment.