By-elections 2019: A three-way battle in Dublin Fingal, our youngest constituency

The growing pains of this vibrant and bustling constituency are clear for all to see.

By-elections 2019: A three-way battle in Dublin Fingal, our youngest constituency

The growing pains of this vibrant and bustling constituency are clear for all to see.

Take a walk down the main street of towns such as Skerries, Swords, or Malahide — the vibrancy is tangible, but so too are the tensions that come with such expansion from the once small rural towns they previously were.

Long denied the much-promised Metro-North, the areas have developed in spite of, rather than because of, decent infrastructure by way of public transport or decent planning.

The youngest constituency in the country, which also boasts the most college graduates, the story of Dublin Fingal is one of frustrated optimism.

Things are good here, but could be so much better if the proper supports were put in place.

The by-election here has been caused by the departure of Independents4Change TD, Clare Daly, who, along with her comrade-in-arms, Mick Wallace, has departed for the more lucrative and rarified air of Brussels.

Daly, a highly impressive TD by way of a national legislator, was seen by some if not by all as a passable local TD.

Swords-based, she swept up votes from all over the vast constituency in recognition of her powers as a orator in the Dáil, her work on supporting whistleblowers, and her leadership on social issues like abortion.

Since the local and European elections in May, much has been spoken about the rise of the Green party in light of the domination of environmental issues in 2019 on the political agenda across the western world.

In this light, despite his relatively low profile and understated personal style, the Skerries-based Green Party candidate Joe O’Brien, a local county councillor, is well positioned to benefit from this wave.

O’Brien, as a Green, is likely to be highly transfer-friendly, which could be vital at the business end of counting next weekend.

Cllr Joe O’Brien, pictured with Green Party leader Eamon Ryan TD, is likely to be highly transfer-friendly. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Cllr Joe O’Brien, pictured with Green Party leader Eamon Ryan TD, is likely to be highly transfer-friendly. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Labour’s Duncan Smith, a Swords-based councillor since 2014, is another with realistic ambitions to take the seat.

Smith, a married father of a young family, is presenting himself as the candidate for struggling working families beset with the problems of house affordability, childcare, and inadequate transport links.

Dublin Fingal is one of the last remaining old Labour strongholds and Smith, a councillor since 2014, has lived and survived through some dark days.

“I think we have a chance here. I think that if the Labour Party’s to come back, they’re going to need a new generation of people to get elected. And I think I’m part of that, having been elected in 2014 against the head,” he says.

“As a party we pull votes from all over the county. So we’ll be looking at leveraging those votes. And there’s plenty of them,” he adds.

The other main contender is Fianna Fáil’s Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee, who has been the focus of some unwanted attention during the campaign over tweets posted nine years ago about Travellers and foreigners.

She has repeatedly apologised, and her party leader has backed her heavily, repeatedly canvassing with her in recent days to shore up her support. Clifford-Lee has been assured in her apologies, and has done well to put a lid on the controversy despite the best efforts by some to flog her repeatedly.

As she has said, it is now up for the people to decide whether her tweets are enough of a reason to keep her out of the Dáil.

For Clifford-Lee, a decent performance is crucial if she wants to remain on the ticket ahead of the General Election. One wonders, however, whether the Fianna Fáil party machine loyal to her constituency colleague Darragh O’Brien will deliver for her.

But she is well-placed and could even top the poll — but the big question is whether she can secure enough number two and three votes to keep her ahead of the pack.

The one certainty is that Fine Gael’s candidate, Dr James Reilly, is struggling to connect with the voters and will not be in the mix for the seat once boxes are open.

His decision to make the delivery of a private hospital in Swords one of his top priorities has also drawn criticism from opponents, and many of his own party have been slow to canvass with him — a clear sign the party expects not to win.

So bad are things for Fine Gael here, there is now mounting concern about their sitting TD Alan Farrell’s chances of keeping his seat at the next General Election in light of his own personal injuries legal case, in which his evidence about the extent of the damage done to him was not accepted by the judge.

With Sinn Féin in retreat after bruising local and European elections in May, their candidate, Ann Graves, appears to have too much to do to be in contention.

Former journalist-turned-conservative agitator, Gemma O’Doherty, has been a less noisy candidate compared to her previous election outings and likewise is not likely to make any serious impact on the final outcome.

Ultimately, while there are 12 candidates in total standing, there are currently only three candidates who stand a chance of being elected: Clifford-Lee, Smith, and O’Brien.

As the other candidates are eliminated, where transfers go will determine who will have the staying power to get over the line. With four days to go, that is all to play for.

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From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

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