Former Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell has alleged that a fake text message was circulated to several people on Wednesday evening which impersonated her or someone connected to her.
In a Twitter post on Wednesday, Ms O’Connell said she had “become aware” of a “fake message circulating to people, alleging to be from me, or from someone to do with me.”
Ms O’Connell said she was “shocked and disturbed” by the alleged messages.
Photos had circulated on social media of a text message which encouraged members of Fine Gael in Dublin Bay South and neighbouring areas, as well as “supporters and friends of Kate O’Connell” to give their vote to female candidates in the upcoming Dublin Bay South byelection.
The text message suggested an order in which constituents should vote for the female candidates standing in the byelection and told recipients that Dublin Bay South “needs a vibrant female voice”.
Ms O’Connell said she would be contacting Gardaí about the messages. “Whoever is behind it is clearly acting out of desperation,” her Twitter post said.
Ms O’Connell had announced in May that she would not seek her party’s nomination for the Dublin Bay South byelection, saying there was a faction in the party which did not want her to run.
“There has been a faction, I would feel, within the party since the leadership campaign which I thought had long gone out with the tide, who have long planned the exit of myself,” she told Today with Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio.
Earlier on Wednesday, candidates in Dublin Bay South were engaging in a final, frantic round of canvassing ahead of the opening of polls on Thursday morning.
Fine Gael’s director of elections Simon Harris called for party supporters to transfer to Fianna Fáil and the Greens in the hope of generating Government transfers for its candidate Cllr James Geoghegan.
“I respectfully ask the people of Dublin Bay South to vote number 1 James Geoghegan tomorrow and to transfer to candidates from Government parties,” he said.
“It is encouraging to see in the recent Irish Times poll that a significant majority of voters in Dublin Bay South approve of the Government’s work and I kindly ask them tomorrow to come out to vote so we can continue this work.”
However, neither Fianna Fáil nor the Greens have previously responded positively to the suggestion of Government pact and that was not changing on the last day of campaigning.
“We are looking for number one votes and after that it’s a matter for the voter,” said Fianna Fáil director of elections Jim O’Callaghan.
A Green Party spokesman said there was no “voting pact with any other parties or candidates” for the byelection.
“We encourage voters to give their number one vote to Claire Byrne for a progressive voice in Government and to give their subsequent preferences according to their own choice,” he said.
After a universal drenching in torrential rain on Tuesday, candidates and their teams have fanned out across the constituency in better weather in search of votes and plastered social media platforms with appeals to their supporters and undecided voters.
‘Urgency for real change’
Sinn Féin’s candidate Senator Lynn Boylan said that “change and housing are what people are talking about on the doorsteps”.
“There’s an urgency for real change. I hear it everywhere I go,” she said.
“Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have had their chance. Everyone knows from their 10 year record in government that Fine Gael will never deliver affordable homes. Places like the Glass Bottle site in Ringsend could have provided thousands of affordable homes, but a Fine Gael minister allowed it to be sold off to developers with prices now set to be totally out of the reach of workers and families.”
Ms Boylan added: “My message is that we can fix housing, and that we can build a fairer Ireland and a united Ireland. That is what a vote for me and for Sinn Féin is.”
Green candidate Claire Byrne also pledged to work to fix the housing crisis, warning that “renters cannot be left behind”.
Mr O’Callaghan said his party’s candidate, Cllr Deirdre Conroy, had run a “very visible and vibrant campaign that has received strong support from the whole Fianna Fáil parliamentary party and the Taoiseach”.
“We are appealing to people who want to support the government and who want a progressive candidate to come out and give Deirdre Conroy their number 1 vote,” he said.
“She has a strong record of campaigning and has done a huge amount of work for residents throughout the constituency since she was elected as a councillor,” he said.
The other candidates are Sarah Durcan (Social Democrats), Mairead Tóibín (Aontú), Brigid Purcell (People Before Profit), Justin Barrett (National Party), Jacqui Gilbourne (Renua) and Independents Mannix Flynn, Peter Dooley, Dolores Cahill, John Keigher and Colm O’Keeffe.
Privately sources in most parties acknowledge that the contest is likely to be a two-horse race between Mr Geoghegan and Labour’s Senator Ivana Bacik, with Ms Bacik the favourite.
Turnout, however, will have a strong bearing on the outcome, and with a low turnout a strong possibility, there is a strong unpredictability to the contest.
All parties are putting in place arrangements to encourage their supporters to come out and vote tomorrow. Polls are open from 7am until 10.30pm on Thursday.