Election 2020: Two retiring TDs raise hopes of candidates in Dublin Bay North

‘Number one votes crucial’ Heney tells voters as she makes third attempt to win Dáil seat

There’s nothing more likely to gladden the hearts of aspiring candidates than the news that not one but two sitting TDs are standing down.

And so it is in five-seater Dublin Bay North with the retirement of Independent Alliance Minister of State Finian McGrath and Independent Tommy Broughan.

Fianna Fáil Cllr Deirdre Heney believes this gives her a good chance of getting the fifth seat and on the canvass in Clontarf she tells voter after potential voter that "number ones are crucial" and that this is her third attempt to get elected to the Dáil after four terms as a Dublin City councillor.

In the Vernon Avenue area, the candidate asks everyone she meets: “Have I chance of your number one?”. She says, “I’m getting very positive vibes, a very good chance I think of taking the last seat”.


The perceived wisdom is that Labour’s Aodhán Ó Riordáin will benefit most from McGrath’s votes but Heney says she will get a lot as she is in the same area and has worked hard for the locality. Many of Broughan’s votes might go to Social Democrats Cllr Cian O’Callaghan, a former Labour member and to Independent Cllr John Lyons.

This is Fine Gael Minister Richard Bruton’s heartland and home to Fianna Fáil TD Sean Haughey. Green Party Cllr David Healy is seen as likely to take a seat, while previously vulnerable Sinn Féin TD Denise Mitchell can take comfort from the polls.

A strong voting strategy dividing up the constituency between the two Fianna Fáil candidates will be crucial in a highly competitive constituency. Is there one in place? “I’ve asked Sean [Haughey] and I’m hopeful he will agree to it,” Heney says.

John Wright is in his garden when the candidate calls. He says builders developing a nursing home into apartments are turning their vehicles on the footpath and the weight of the trucks is affecting the wall and he fears it will fall in. “You’re the first person to call,” he says. “If you can fix my wall you’ll get my number one vote.”

“I can’t tell you I’ll get the wall fixed, but there are enforcement procedures [about developers’ obligations to remove mud from the road]”, she says.

She asks to see the Jack Russell looking out the front window. Elizabeth Wright brings out the rescue dog and Heney hugs the family pet. She has three Jack Russells herself. “I had to leave my dogs in to be minded and I really miss them,” she says.

Just then a passing jogger recognises her and stops, leaning over the gate. “Deirdre Heney, you voted against abortion,” he says, telling her he is 39 with a young family.

“There are so many properly pro-life people who see through all the rubbish and they want someone who will say I am pro-life, but I’m properly pro-life,” he says.

A fan of Charlie Haughey who was a “good man despite what people say”, he says: “I emailed Micheál Martin before the repeal of the Eighth and he never responded to me. And he has to go.”

He adds that Martin went against the parliamentary party.

“No he didn’t,” Heney responds. “In fairness, he gave a free vote. He changed his mind. We’re a group of individuals who make up a party. There’s a lot of different people with a lot of different views.”

The jogger tells her: “I’ve been reading up on you for 20 years. You were a new face then. It’s time for you to get in.”

At another house around the corner Haughey name is not popular. The householder praises the candidate, but says, “I don’t want to see the Haughey name here any more.” The candidate neatly deflects. “I want to ensure the Heney name is here.”

Over on Vernon Rise, Claire Brady highlights her concerns about the proposed development of 650 apartments on former playing fields near St Anne’s Park. The candidate gives a detailed update, and references a presentation on her Facebook page.

She then takes notes when asked whether a copse of very high trees between two estates can be pruned. “They have grown too tall,” the householder says. “When it’s very windy it’s worrying – are they secure?” Heney promises to see to it.

And when one of her canvassers tells her a resident wants to talk to her, things take a musical turn. Heney recognises Ann Denham who quips, “she knows me from years of complaining”.

She is brought inside where a sing-song is under way with friends in the kitchen. Ann’s husband John is playing the banjo as they sing My Oklahoma Home. The candidate doesn’t miss the opportunity of five potential voters and asks where the friends are from. None are in her constituency, but one, Mary Smith is from Ranelagh, Dublin Bay South.

“So you’ll be voting Jim O’Callaghan number one,” she says, party loyalty shinging through. The voter smiles.