Fianna Fáil and Socialists launch Dublin West campaigns

Government parties yet to pick candidates to contest byelection expected on May 23rd

Sitting Fingal councillor Ruth Coppinger (Socialist Party) is expected to lead the race for the seat vacated due to the resignation last month of Independent TD Patrick Nulty. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times

Sitting Fingal councillor Ruth Coppinger (Socialist Party) is expected to lead the race for the seat vacated due to the resignation last month of Independent TD Patrick Nulty. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times

Tue, Apr 29, 2014, 19:57

Fianna Fáil and the Socialist Party have launched their Dublin West byelection campaigns, while the Government parties are yet to announce their candidates.

Sitting Fingal councillors David McGuinness (Fianna Fáil) and Ruth Coppinger (Socialist Party) are expected to lead the race for the seat vacated due to the resignation last month of Independent TD Patrick Nulty.

Ms Coppinger yesterday began her campaign by criticising Government policies for putting undue stress on working class people. She singled out Labour in particular, saying the party had “betrayed” its voters.

Speaking at the party’s European and byelection campaign launch, she said the cost of living is now “really bearing down” on people, that the new water tax will “rise relentlessly” and that the Government’s proposals for universal health insurance amounted to a “pay or die system”.

She said the housing crisis was “by far and away one of the biggest problems” facing families in Dublin West. She blamed rent levels, the state of social housing and mortgage distress for contributing to a situation where more than “6,000 families in Fingal” are on housing waiting lists.

She called on voters to send a “shockwave” through the Government by voting Socialist. “The message we’ll be saying is, ‘Don’t waste your vote, use your vote to send the Government a message, use it to send a shockwave through them’,” she said.

Ms Coppinger’s main opponent for the seat is likely to be Mr McGuinness, a music teacher at Blanchardstown’s Riversdale Community College. He finished second in the 2011 Dublin West byelection, receiving 21.7 per cent of the first preference votes to Ms Coppinger’s 21.1 per cent.

Fianna Fáil chose Mr McGuinness as candidate at a selection convention on Monday night. He was picked on the first round, seeing off rival bids from Anita Lenihan (sister of late former minister for finance Brian Lenihan) and Edward McManus. Mr McGuinness said he received a “resounding vote” because party members “know that I am the one doing the work on the ground”.

Speaking to The Irish Times yesterday, he said he has spent the past two years canvassing in the Dublin West constituency. “I want this seat more than anyone else wants this seat,” he said.

Asked about voter resentment over Fianna Fáil’s handling of the economy while in Government, the 27-year-old said, “I’m not here to rewrite history… I can’t change the past”, but claimed Mr Lenihan left an “extremely positive legacy” in Dublin West.

Sinn Féin members selected Paul Donnelly as their candidate on Monday. Mr Donnelly, a youth worker from Clonsilla, said voters were “disillusioned with Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party”. He claimed that internal research showed Sinn Féin was “the leading party on the left” in the constituency. “To that end, we will vigorously contest this byelection to win,” he said.

Irish Mortgage Holders’ Organisation founder David Hall has also confirmed his intention to contest the byelection as an Independent candidate on a platform of jobs, debt management and improved healthcare services.

Neither Fine Gael nor their Coalition partners Labour have announced candidates yet. A Fine Gael spokeswoman yesterday dismissed as “media speculation” reports that former athlete Senator Eamon Coghlan would represent the party. A Labour spokesman said there would probably be more clarity on that party’s position “by the end of the week”.

Although the writ has yet to be moved, it is widely expected the byelection will take place on May 23rd - the same day as the local and European elections.