Claire Byrne confident Green votes will sprout in Dublin Bay South

Candidate believes party’s strong base in constituency will show in Thursday’s vote

Green party candidate Claire Byrne is hopeful of taking the seat in the Dublin Bay South byelection. Video: Enda O'Dowd

 

“If I vote for the Green Party I might close down. They’re trying to get rid of cars,” says a garage owner as Cllr Claire Byrne’s team canvass Rathgar ahead of Thursday’s Dublin Bay South byelection.

“We just want a different kind of car. A low-carbon car,” the party’s candidate responds.

But the man, who doesn’t share his name, dismisses switching to electric cars, claiming it just “won’t work”.

It’s not the most auspicious start to Tuesday afternoon’s canvass, but the man says he doesn’t have a vote in the constituency as he walks off, so no harm done.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan topped the poll in Dublin Bay South last year and Ms Byrne should be one of the frontrunners to fill the seat vacated by Fine Gael’s Eoghan Murphy. However, last week’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll had the councillor on 11 per cent, trailing Labour’s Ivana Bacik (22 per cent) and Fine Gael’s James Geoghegan (27 per cent) by some distance.

Ms Byrne believes her support exceeds the poll finding. There’s “stiff opposition” but she points to the poll-topping performances by Mr Ryan and herself in recent elections as evidence of a “very strong Green vote” in the constituency.

In a rallying call to a 20-strong canvassing group, Ms Byrne says it’s the “final push” for number one votes. “We are in with a really good shot.”

Her message is that it takes someone in Government to deliver on three key issues – housing, the climate crisis and recovering from the pandemic – a “Green” recovery, of course. This is the message she seeks to hammer home to voters, as she also argues for “another strong, female, green voice” in the Dáil.

Eyebrows were raised when Ms Byrne revealed her second-preference vote would go to Ms Bacik rather than a member of another party in the coalition Government.

Consider

“I don’t see it as a difficulty,” she says of the stance. “I’m not asking anyone to vote for anyone – that was my personal opinion.”

Most householders who engage with Ms Byrne are positive, but in most cases say they’re still making up their minds. One man says he is undecided though would “of course” consider voting Green.

He raises concern about a mooted apartment development that locals fear could be five or six storeys high and might overlook their properties.

Ms Byrne says the city needs density and height in housing but that a strategy on this is needed. “We do do need this type of development but we’re missing balance at the moment.”

A woman explains she is concerned about changes linked to the BusConnects system potentially turning her neighbourhood into a “rat run” for vehicles seeking to avoid tailbacks, and also cycling safety.

“We’re snookered. It’s just going to be so dangerous,” she says.

The woman is informed about plans for camera-based enforcement being part of BusConnects and an already announced initiative, the Safe Routes to School Scheme.

Ms Byrne also mentions the €1 million a day the Green Party has secured for cycling and walking which, she says, will help make the city “calmer” and “safer” for pedestrians and cyclists.

Another woman says her household has been supportive of the Green agenda. Ms Byrne emphasises the need for climate action and the goal of making Ireland carbon neutral by 2050. The woman agrees that action needs to take place now.

Ms Byrne points to the heatwave bringing record temperatures and wildfires to parts of Canada and the United States, noting that “Howth was also on fire there again last week”.

“So we really don’t have time to wait and our time in Government is now,” she says.

The woman says she will definitely think about voting Green – “if not, number one, maybe number two”.

“I need the number one to keep me in the race, to get me over the line,” replies Ms Byrne, who believes she should not be written off when voters go to the polls on Thursday.