Flan Cleary

Flan Cleary

Flan Cleary is 75, a retired civil engineer born in Co Clare in Ireland who migrated to Australia with his family at 17. He does not like being photographed.
Flan Cleary

You can read A diary of emails to Ireland – Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here

14 May 2022 – One week to go 

Everyone on team Sophie is a bundle of nerves.  

I’m not feeling very confident; we’ll go close but we need a very big swing and the other side has called in all the heavy guns. Leaflets, posters, front page warnings against voting independent in Murdoch papers. I’ve volunteered for two shifts on election day but won’t scrutineer; it’s a night for being in front of the TV with Deirdre and hoping.  

Mind you, Jason is a bundle of nerves. He’s at the polling centre most days looking stressed. He got a bit upset yesterday when he went up to one prospective voter and the guy said “f**k off Jason”. It’s not easy being a politician and I’m starting to feel a bit sorry for him. Jason has very few helpers.

16 May 2022

Went out door knocking on Saturday (Forestville, very liberal voting) and Sunday (Beacon Hill, also very liberal voting). These two days were probably the best – on Saturday I converted four houses. Taking up preaching soon, that’s where the money is.  

I knocked at one already open door and a guy about my age was washing the floor while his wife was out for a coffee. Not sure about the voting as his wife was sorting that out. But boy could he talk. His chief issue was his wife’s snoring. She can be heard from one end of the house to the other. She has to sleep in a separate bedroom but that does not work. He was a good mimic and gave me a heartfelt rendition of the different sounds she makes as she snored. I felt for him. I recognised sleep apnea straight away. He said oh no, not sleep apnea. It only happens when she has milk or ice cream.  And she is off for coffee so she will have milk and the snoring will be on tonight. And this is the second wife he has had who had this condition. 

There was more but I tore myself away.

17 May 2022 – They must be worried

It’s the last week and the dirty tricks are full on. They must be worried.  There are a lot letters, letterbox drops, anti-independent brochures, including:

  • Independents Bingo, a scratchie card where all the answers attack the independents
  • False social media messages
  • Personally addressed letters from John Howard (ex PM and recently exhumed from the look of him) warning about the dangers of voting for independents
  • Personally addressed fliers warning as above

I looked at the odds for election day. Sophie is 2 to 1. Jason is still favourite. They say the bookies generally get it right. I hope not.

Two more events this week. More door knocking Wednesday and a massive banner waving morning Friday. 

Then two shifts on polling day

20 May 2022

D day is coming and dirty tricks keep coming too, but we rise above it and keep to the moral high ground (my natural location anyway). They go low and we go high.

Went banner waving at 6.30 this morning. Cold and raining. Hard to keep a smile on my face. But had to as TV cameras would be filming at some stage. Two fingers fell off with the cold.   

I got into conversation with a volunteer in charge of putting up all the corflutes (signs) on the posts and in people’s yards. Works with a gang of ten people and five ladders. English accent, introduced himself as Sean. From Ireland (Dundalk) originally with family from Clifden, but moved to London (Enfield) when he was four, then Australia in 1974. Told him I was in London in my teens, went to school in Stamford Hill. He said “Not St Ignatius?”. Yes. We went to the same school, he was a few years after me. He said he thought I looked too young to have been there around his era. He is 69 but looks younger. I was very flattered until he mentioned he had made a career in sales.  

The electricity people have stopped him putting up signs now. They say he will leave little holes in the poles where insects will congregate and rot the poles. I think the Liberals complained because we had more signs. It will take his team a full week to pull down all the signs, and he’s focused on getting signs down quickly.

Looking forward to the big day tomorrow, but with trepidation.

21 May 2022 – Election day

Went to Newport public school on Saturday morning. The approaches at Newport school were a sea of Sophie signs. Overkill is not a word in the Sophie team vocabulary. I got worried as there seemed to be more Liberals than Sophie supporters coming through my gate. I thought we were gone.

It also seemed to be an age thing. The younger they were, the more for us. But there were some oldies too. One couple, about 70, said to the liberal canvassers,

“I have voted Liberal all my life, but I can’t do it this time.”

And a 40ish man said, “I would vote for Saddam Hussein before I would vote for Sophie”. Mind you, he looked like a hard man.  

Early on election day our poll supervisor gave each of us a sticker for our Sophie t-shirts which said “unpaid volunteer”. The Liberals had been telling everyone we were being paid.  

Mid afternoon a number of people got texts saying,

“A Sri Lankan boat with refugees has been intersected on its way to Australia. Vote Liberal”. 

Stopping boat people is a key Liberal plank. Apparently, it was an organised stunt.  
We got on very well with the other workers over the day but the Liberal volunteers were less talkative. One Labor guy said quietly he’d vote Sophie 1, Labor 2 to beat the Liberals.  

Went home not confident and sat down to the ABC coverage, then got a message from Caroline in Ireland saying it was looking good – she was tracking the Mackellar website results. I was speechless when I saw the first booth count for Mackellar on TV, then Sophie was called the winner very quickly, the first independent to be called. I think I took a day to absorb it.  

Sophie got a 16 percent swing and pretty well matched Jason’s primary vote.   

Jason must have known. A few days before election day he announced a $500m grant to a local bushfire brigade, with no authority.  He could only round up a few helpers as against Sophie’s 1300 volunteers.  

Great night. Sophie won and the Coalition lost power. 

22 May 2022 – Just a wrap up of the election results. 

Some of the notable things:  

  • Sophie had a fairly comfortable win, about 52.4 percent of the final count
  • She also did well on the primary vote, 39 percent to Jason’s 42 percent
  • I think all the banner waving, getting the name out there, made a big difference
  • Door knocking and all the other talking to people was crucial
  • Sophie ended up with nearly 1300 volunteers, about 1.2 percent of all voters in Mackellar

Sophie’s team had a majority of women and most of the organisers were women. But they were nice to us men. None of the pundits expected her to win, but hers was the first seat to be called on the night.  Unbelievable really.

24 May 2022 – The bigger picture

  • Labor won the election with 77 seats, one over the minimum necessary for a majority. 
  • Libs lost 18 seats, six to female independents and three to the Greens.
  • One of the independents beat the Treasurer and heir apparent to the PM.  
  • The results showed that people wanted the government to do something about climate, corruption and treatment of women

So many people have described feelings of relief, elation and thanks that the albatross of the last government has been removed from our necks. There is now hope that things will improve.

It was Scott Morrison, the ex-PM, who, contrary to all conventions, authorized the release of the story about the migrant boat on election day. 

He left with his usual grace, quoted in The Australian saying, ‘Teals were vicious, brutal’.  We rejoiced in our viciousness and our brutality.

The final word from one of Scott Morrisons own MP’s, in The Saturday Paper:

‘He f**ked us and his fingerprints are absolutely f**kin’ everywhere on that. The bloke thinks he is a master strategist. He is a f**kwit’.

Flan Cleary riding the #MakellarVotes wave


You can read A diary of emails to Ireland – Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here


No Fibs #MackellarVotes coverage