The surprise Socialist victory in the Dublin by-election should act as a springboard for a national boycott of water charges in the New Year, Joe Higgins has insisted.
Mr Higgins described the victory of Paul Murphy in Dublin South West as a political “earthquake” as the former MEP, fighting under the Anti-Austerity Alliance banner, came from behind to snatch the seat from Sinn Féin on the eighth count.
Tipped as an easy victory for Sinn Féin, the race turned into a knife-edge political thriller as Mr Murphy crept to triumph on the back of transfers.
Mr Murphy said the vote marked the beginning of a national “revolt” against water bills, which are due to hit homes in January.
His unambiguous ‘Don’t Pay’ message was seen as being key to the victory, but Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams dismissed Mr Murphy as “campaigning on a slogan”.
Mr Murphy, who effectively turned the by-election into a referendum on how to combat water pricing, said the result sent a blunt message to the Government. “Axe the water charges. Axe the tax or watch your vote collapse in the next general election,” he announced after being declared the victor.
The outcome is a blow to Sinn Féin following recent breakthroughs in the opinion polls, and a confused message on water charges appeared to have lost the party support.
As victory was declared for Mr Murphy in Tallaght, supporters roared: “No way! We won’t pay!” as the new TD linked the vote to the huge march in Dublin City Centre taking place at the same time, in which up to 100,000 protested against the levy.
Mr Murphy brushed aside suggestions the “Don’t Pay” campaign was irresponsible, as it could lead to people having their water supply reduced to a trickle. He said it was an unjust tax and a national boycott would force the Government to abandon it. The result comes on the back of the victory of Socialist, Ruth Coppinger in the Dublin West by-election in May and brings the party’s tally of Dáil deputies to three.
Mr Adams denied Sinn Féin lost support after senior figures said they would pay the levy, while their by-election candidate said he would not.
While the Socialists called for the abolition of Irish Water, Sinn Féin said they would keep the utility, but end water charges and pay via general taxation. Mr Adams pointed to the fact the party’s share of first-preference votes surged from 17% to 30% since the general election, saying the fact that candidates opposed to water charges took nearly 70% of the vote represented “a very clear message to Government that they have no mandate to do the type of things they are doing”.
Public anger against water charging is expected to prompt concessionary measures in this week’s budget. Sinn Féin’s Cathal King topped the first count with 7,288 first-preference votes to Mr Murphy’s 6,540, but, after the seventh count, the Anti-Austerity Alliance candidate closed the gap to 291 votes, before winning on the final count with 9,565 votes to Mr King’s 8,999.
Former minister Brian Hayes, whose election to the European Parliament created the vacancy, put the poor showing by Coalition parties down to a low turn-out of 35.5%. Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and Labour scored almost identical results of between 8%-9% of the vote.
-Burke, Declan (Ind), 681
-Coules, Nicky (PBP), 530
-Noel Duffy, Francis (Green), 447
-Keane, Cáit (FG), 2,110
-Kearns, Pamela (Lab), 2,043
-King, Cathal (SF), 7,288
-Lahart, John (FF), 2,077
-McMahon, Ronan (Ind), 2,142
-Murphy, Paul (Anti-Austerity), 6,540
-O’Keeffe, Colm (Ind), 74
-Rochford, Tony (Ind), 92
-Total poll 24,280
-Total valid poll 24,024
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