It's a hard old station: MEP Eoin Ryan tries to engage commuters at Tara Street, Dublin

THE Great White Hope is standing in the rain with his hand out. All around him, people are rushing home, trying to escape the doom and the gloom, the swine flu, the enveloping darkness. They regard the Great White Hope as if he wants to relieve them of the few possessions they have left. But all he's looking for is to be loved. He wants to serve.

Eoin Ryan is canvassing for re-election to the European parliament. He is Fianna Fáil's only Euro MP in Dublin. In normal times, his party affiliation would be enough to propel him into the winner's enclosure on 5 June.

This time around, the party is a serious drag on his candidacy. And if Ryan fails to get re-elected, the shock waves will vibrate through Brian Cowen's office, and beyond. Fianna Fáil without a European elected representative in the metropolis would herald the end of an epoch in Irish politics. The party of power would be en route down the Swanee, exercising a stiff pull on Cowen's career. All that stands between such a fate and survival is the Great White Hope. And on Wednesday, outside Tara Street Dart station, he was looking like nothing as much as a poor beast in the rain.

The rush hour is in full swing, commuters pacing madly towards the trains in waves. Ryan stands near the entrance, handing out his newsletter. It is a glossy production, full of pictures and headlines. The Fianna Fáil name on the front cover is smaller than any of the many headlines. The front-page photograph is of Eoin and Little Nicky Sarkozy.

Four other election workers are also handing out the newsletter, prowling the entrance, to ensure that the masses don't go unnourished by the contents.

Around half of the people Ryan approaches take the offering. The odd person presents with a light of recognition. Some smile the smile of the weary. Others nod. Others just automatically reach out as if the glossy production will offer escapism on the journey home.

Angela Farrelly from Raheny accepts the offering as she goes past, but when asked, says she merely did so to avoid being rude. She says she wasn't focused when she took possession of the offending document.

"I'm not impressed with Fianna Fáil," she says. "I don't agree with the government, but Enda Kenny isn't up to it either. Right now, I wouldn't be voting for any of them, they don't impress me."

"Eoin Ryan, Dublin," the candidate says to another woman, his newsletter extended. She looks at him. If her look could talk, it might explode in expletives. She shakes her head.

Ryan says that he isn't yet asking for votes. That will start next week.

Waiting for the run-in to actually pitch for a vote is regarded as good strategy, but in the case of Fianna Fáil candidates, it has the air of putting off the inevitable. An opinion poll in February put the party's support in Dublin at 13%.

In the '04 election, when Ryan ran for the first time, he polled at 16.6%, garnering 61,681 first-preference votes. Gay Mitchell topped the poll with 90,749 and Proinsias De Rossa and Mary Lou McDonald were close behind Ryan on 54,344 and 60,395 respectively.

Ryan was the second elected of the four MEPs. This time around, there are only three seats up for grabs. Most pundits see Mitchell as a shoo in, and De Rossa not far behind. That leaves Ryan, McDonald, the Socialists' Joe Higgins, Green senator Deirdre de Burca and Caroline Simons of Libertas all scrambling for the final seat. Bar a complete collapse, the final shakedown should be between Eoin and Mary Lou.

A well-dressed man accepts the newsletter, glances at it, looks up and sees a pile, and places it back on top. "I wouldn't want to read anything from Fianna Fáil, to be honest with you," he says.

Eileen Murphy pauses and accepts the document. "It looks like an expensive production," she says. "But I'm less likely to vote now the way things are. This won't influence me one way or the other."

The song remains the same with any of the other half dozen commuters quizzed by the Sunday Tribune. They are not in love with Fianna Fáil right now. A few say they recognise Ryan, but their reference point is the party, rather than the candidate.

Ryan is concentrating on the issues. "Dublin must fight like the farmers" is his catchy election slogan. He knows his own fight won't be easy.

"If it was easy everybody would be doing it," he says. "There is anger there, of course, frustration, a fear about jobs. But there is also a realisation that the problems we have are global." Expect the global defence wherever soldiers of destiny canvass in the coming month.

Ryan's running mate is lord mayor Eibhlin Byrne, who is expected to hoover up transfers. Last time around, his mate was Royston Brady, whose campaign turned into an opera of self destruction. There will no drama this time, although the result might see blood on the floor.

The hour of the rush is nearly passed, but they keep coming. Another woman takes the newsletter, glances at it, and deposits it in a nearby rubbish bin. She declines to share her thoughts on the matter.

A Dart man approaches Ryan and asks him to move on. A Dart station is no place to be carrying on like that, scaring the daylights out of innocent commuters with photographs of Little Nicky.

They move outside the station gates, out where the voters float past, largely unaware that the chance to exercise their franchise is nearly upon them again. The Great White Hope keeps on keepin' on with the newsletter. He is of an affable disposition, but he may need to acquire a metal-plated hide in the weeks to come.

Apart from anything else, 5 June arrives five days after May's pay packet is lightened of the latest income levies. Great bravery and fidelity to the cause will be required in spades to face the wrath ahead of election day. Nobody said it would be easy.