IT'S a dirty, May morning on the Sean O'Casey bridge in Dublin's city centre. Soft rain is bouncing off the Liffey's dark skin. Everybody is in a rush; to work in the nearby IFSC; to the Dart at the Westland Row station; or just to get out of the rain.
Caroline Simons is standing at the south side of the pedestrian bridge with her hand out. She is proferring her election leaflet. She is the Libertas candidate in the Dublin constituency for the European elections, and while she doesn't really have any chance of winning a seat, her performance will be closely monitored by the main parties.
"A new voice in politics," she says to each and every commuter. Most decline her offer. Some accept the leaflet on the run. Nobody appears to recognise her. There are at least five election workers also handing out leaflets. In their midst, a young woman is offering copies of a free newspaper. She is far more popular with the rushing public. One man approaches at pace, takes a leaflet from an election worker with his right hand, and without missing a pace, accepts the free paper with his left hand. He has reading material to burn for the morning.
Simons has a pleasant disposition. Nobody is rude to her. They either ignore her or just take the leaflet on the run. The first question inside the leaflet is: Who is Caroline?
The answer is: "Caroline is a mother of five children and a solicitor. She and her children were born in the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, and today
Caroline is a governor of the hospital."
That is all the information on the leaflet that promotes Caroline personally as being a suitable candidate for election to the European parliament. Elsewhere in the leaflet, she repeats that she is a mother of five. Nowhere in the script is there a mention of her other contribution to public life, which is her position as legal consultant to the pro-life campaign.
According to the nice woman who is organising the campaign, Libertas can call on up to 80 active volunteers in the Dublin area to come out and do their bit. "Obviously, we have much more in the west where Declan is running," she says. Still, 80 volunteers is good going for a new party that has no public representatives whatsoever.
Up on the bridge, there is a sight to behold. Somebody has actually stopped to talk to the candidate. A young woman asks Simons about Libertas's policies. She is told about tax and accountability and the waste in Brussels.
"Could you give me the quick version," the woman asks. Caroline tries. The woman intervenes. "So you're not against Europe?"
"Absolutely not," Caroline replies.
The woman rushes off with the Sunday Tribune in hot pursuit. Who is this exotic creature who has time to talk politics on a bridge in the rush hour? She declines to give her name, but what does she think of the candidate?
"I don't trust them," she says. "Declan Ganley in the other campaign [Lisbon], we don't know where his money came from. But I haven't decided who to vote for yet."
Simons and Libertas claim to be offering an alternative. She comes from a pro-life background. Are her campaign workers also old pro-life hands?
"They come from all sides, from all ends of the political and ethical issues," she says. Is Libertas claiming to be more definitive on so-called family-value issues than other parties?
"I don't know, you'll have to ask them," she says. "We respect the right of the Irish people to make a choice [on these issues]. You need to ask the other parties what they stand for."
Most parties run a mile from what is a highly divisive area. The suspicion is that Libertas is having its pro-life cake and eating it. It offers hints that its policies are more in line with the pro-life agenda, yet it plays it down so as not to alienate others, who might be attracted to an outfit claiming to espouse libertarian values, and neo-liberal economics.
A man of late middle age approaches Simons. This is only the second time in the last hour somebody has stopped to talk. He says something to her. She moves him by the arm beyond the hearing of the reporter and photographer. They have something of an animated chat. She finishes by giving him a peck on the cheek.
"Never met him before in my life," she says. "He's a barrister who said we should keep up the good work."