there is a recipe for election canvass events when the media is invited along: Pick an area where you know your support base is strong, try to limit any potential for embarrassing exchanges and look for positive headlines from those you meet.

This came to plan on a wet Thursday afternoon in Home Farm Park in Dublin's Drumcondra for councillor Maurice Ahern. It helps, of course, when you have a little bit of celebrity gold dust to sprinkle. In political terms, they don't come much bigger than the brudder, aka Bertie, who came along for the ride last Thursday. In truth, Maurice Ahern makes for a personable and engaging interviewee. The septuagenarian runs up to seven miles a day, and said he has completed 12 marathons. Fridays, he said, are "doss days" and he doesn't run so much.

By comparison, his "bro" admited he has found it tough at times, as he is still recovering from a broken leg after a fall down a stairs last autumn. "I'm still managing to hit four or five hours a day, but that's kinda probably half of what I would normally do," he said.

"I like campaigning anyway, so it's nice to be just campaigning in my home area. Unfortunately, the body is willing but the leg isn't. It's suffering a bit."

So how does he fancy his brother's chances?

"If you were to go strictly on figures, and the history of by-elections, it's not good. But I mean every election we've ever fought, we give it everything."

There seemed little doubt the fabled Drumcondra mafia had rolled out the big guns for 'Operation Maurice.' His constituency colleague Cyprian Brady, as well as other well known members of Fianna Fáil's constituency organisation, were also present on Thursday. Strangely, one of the most striking things about the Home Farm Park location was a lack of Maurice Ahern posters.

Ahern claimed that 800 have gone up, and has ordered 300 more to go up in the coming days. The councillor has a team of 200 people helping him in his campaign.

At times, he could barely disguise his contempt for the photo opportunities which the canvass event provided. It is from Bertie that he takes his lead.

"Bertie says they are a waste of time, and don't do them... he believes you should use every available moment to knock on doors," he said. "This wasn't stage managed. We did stay in Drumcondra. But we're not going to go up to Phibsborough, which is Pas­chal Donohoe's area for this. He too invited the press to Phibsborough shopping centre, not here, for example."

Like his brother, Maurice does not shirk when it comes to putting the proverbial boot into his opponents. When asked about Donohoe's calls for him to choose between campaigning for a council or a Dáil seat (Ahern is pursuing both), he immediately went on the attack.

"If he wants me to stand alone for the by-election, I can presume then that he'll be resigning from the Senate, perhaps tonight... you can't be a Senator and a TD either. To be honest, it's cheap politics. But seeing that it came from him, will I read seriously in the next hours that he will be resigning from the Senate?"

Eilis Branagan had kisses on the cheek and hugs for Bertie and his brother. She and her family have always supported Bertie Ahern.

A dog ran out from another house, and Bertie said hello to it. "Howya Bertie," its owner, Tim Collins, said. "You're not going to get a lot of people around here at this time of day."

"You have to respect the greatest parish pump politician I've ever seen," said Collins. "His people skills are incredible". But he won't be voting Fianna Fáil, as he does not agree with their policies.

"I don't know about the reaction to Maurice. There is the whole nepotism thing – being seen as being passed on through the family. His age might come against him, too."

The people of Home Farm Park appear to be polite souls. By and large they accept the literature they are given by canvassers with little or no comment. No one shouts obscenities or abuses the Fianna Fáil team.

Instead, schoolgirls called out Bertie's name and housewives were only too glad to be seen with the man himself, and his brother. In Drumcondra at least, you could be forgiven for thinking that the party is riding high in the polls.

The issues locals discuss with Maurice range from parking restrictions on local roads to difficulties accessing public services. There was little mention of the economy, although Maurice confided he has had to spend time explaining the difference between the levy and the bailout of the banks.

Later, when Bertie had gone, the change in atmosphere was noticeable. Maurice and his team proceeded to knock on doors. There were not many people home, and few came out onto the street to see what the fuss was about.

"If this works out right, then this election is going to be all about transfers," Ahern said. He expects he will "probably" get some from every candidate.

He also expects it will be a three-way fight between himself, Fine Gael's Paschal Donohoe, and one of the various candidates from the left, such as Labour's Ivana Bacik, Sinn Féin's Christy Burke, and Maureen O'Sullivan, a long-time supporter of the late TD Tony Gregory.

When asked if he thinks he would stand as good a chance if he was not Bertie's brother, Maurice was straight-up. "In my own (county council) constituency, yes. In the other half, no." But, he said, Fianna Fáil's record and particularly Bertie's record will win him votes in the inner city, meaning you have to "counterbalance the two".

It is a revealing comment, for it shows who is still the boss in Dublin Central. At one stage earlier in the afternoon, a woman appeared at a door, asking for Bertie.

"Maurice, you do that one, I'll do this one," Bertie directed his older brother, before strolling up the garden path to the woman. Maurice complied.

"I think Bertie will win the election", she proclaimed.

It is not Bertie who is standing, though.