Fine Gael favours summer byelection but no decision made on timing

FG candidate in Dublin Bay South James Geoghegan says housing is ‘crisis of the next decade’

Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar is expected to announce the move this morning at a press conference with the party’s candidate, Councillor James Geoghegan. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar is expected to announce the move this morning at a press conference with the party’s candidate, Councillor James Geoghegan. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said no final decision has been made on when the byelection in Dublin Bay South will take place but his party would “prefer a poll in the summer”.

Speaking at a press conference with the party’s candidate, Cllr James Geoghegan, on Monday Mr Varadkar said “we don’t like the schools having to be closed, but that’s actually not our call.

“We can move the writ in the Dáil, but there has to be a vote and the date is actually set by Minister Darragh O’Brien, so we’ll need to talk to the other party leaders and we’ll sort it out in the next few weeks”.

The byelection will see the seat recently occupied by former housing minister Eoghan Murphy filled in what is a keenly awaited contest that will see threats – and opportunities – for each of the main parties.

Mr Geoghegan was recently selected unopposed as the Fine Gael candidate after the former TD Kate O’Connell announced she would not seek the party’s nomination as she believed she was not wanted by the leadership.

Fianna Fáil is expected to run one of two local councillors Deirdre Conroy and Claire O’Connor, while the Labour Party has said it will run Senator Ivana Bacik.

Brigid Purcell will be the candidate for People Before Profit while Independent councillor Mannix Flynn has also said he will run.

Sinn Féin and the Social Democrats have yet to announce their candidates, while the Green Party will have a contest for the nomination between Dublin Lord Mayor Hazel Chu and Cllr Claire Byrne.

Fine Gael is seeking to capitalise on a “Covid bounce” in support for the Government party as the vaccination programme accelerates and the country reopens after the lengthy lockdown.

The party is favourite to win the seat in what is both one of the most affluent constituencies in the country and a traditionally strong base for the party.

Housing crisis

However, significant parts of the constituency are less affluent than the areas of Ballsbridge, Donnybrook, Ranelagh and Rathgar which are most associated with it, and the housing crisis is likely to be felt across the entire constituency.

Sinn Féin has said that it will seek to make the contest about housing.

Asked at the press conference if he had experienced the housing crisis in his own life, Mr Geoghegan said: “I’ve experienced it in my community. We experienced it yesterday in fact in Sandymount, we met a young solicitor who feels she’s paying too much rent and doesn’t see how she’s going to get on the property ladder. There’s lots of other people in the same situation, we see it all the time.... I know these are the big issues that are required to be dealt with.”

Pressed by reporters about his own personal circumstances, he said he had a mortgage on his family home and declined to be drawn on whether he had received help from the “bank of mum and dad”.

He said he and his wife are “self-employed working people” who had saved for their deposit.

“We were lucky enough to put a deposit together. Everyone who can get access to support benefits from that support and I’m not going to go into the specific circumstances of my own mortgage, but we’ve worked really hard all our lives, both myself and my wife, we got a mortgage, we got a home, but that doesn’t mean that I think there isn’t a huge generational problem with people getting access to home ownership, clearly in my opinion this is the crisis of the next decade in terms of how we’re going to ensure how everyone has access to home ownership.”