Dublin Bay South: Hospitality closure until September ‘outrageous’

James Geoghegan calls for antigen testing to be allocated key role in society’s reopening

A Fine Gael candidate in the Dublin Bay South byelection has said keeping pubs and restaurants closed until September would be “outrageous”.

James Geoghegan, who is contesting the July 8th poll, said on Sunday that antigen testing must play a part in reopening society.

He was responding to suggestions that a vaccine pass based only on vaccinated people or those who already had Covid-19 would result in continuing the shutdown of indoor dining and drinking until September. “The idea that we are shut to September is an outrageous suggestion,” he said during a candidates’ debate on RTÉ’s Week in Politics.

While Mr Geoghegan insisted that affordable houses on the former Glass Bottle site in Poolbeg could be delivered for €300,000 or less, other candidates harshly criticised his claim.

Labour’s Ivana Bacik, who opinion polls put as the Fine Gael candidate’s closest challenger, said the country needed the State to build homes on public land. The current developer-led model has “patently failed”, she said.

Poolbeg site

Lynn Boylan of Sinn Féin said the previous government had missed the opportunity to acquire the Poolbeg site from Nama and deliver public housing on public land. She challenged Mr Geoghegan’s estimates of house prices, saying they would cost closer to €500,000.

Brigid Purcell of People Before Profit said rents of €2,000 were forcing young people to emigrate from the constituency. She said that while the constituency was portrayed as affluent, there were also areas where there was great deprivation.

However, Deirdre Conroy of Fianna Fáil said there would be a total of 850 affordable and social houses on the Poolbeg site.

Meanwhile, Social Democrats candidate Sarah Durcan argued it was “absolutely essential” that the National Maternity Hospital be public and secular, once it is relocated to a new site. “We have to fix the ownership and the governance. This Government has kicked the can down the road again and again,” she said.

Corporation tax

Claire Byrne of the Green Party was asked about her colleague Neasa Hourigan’s objection to corporation tax remaining at 12.5 per cent, rather than increasing it to a 15 per cent global figure, which may be finalised at the summit of the G20 in Venice next month. “Ireland is an island on the periphery of Europe so therefore we need a level of peripherality on corporate tax,” Ms Byrne said.

Ms Boylan, when pressed, said she supported the Special Criminal Court and all courts. However, she said the “40 year-old legislation” was not fit for purpose.

“We called for a review and were very glad that [Minister for Justice] Helen McEntee accepted our call and that is under way.”

On transfers, Ms Boylan said her party’s position was to transfer to candidates of the left. Ms Byrne said she would personally transfer to Ms Bacik but it was up to voters to make their own decisions. Ms Purcell said People Before Profit was the only party that guaranteed it would never go into government with Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times