Socialist Party’s Ruth Coppinger wins Dublin West byelection

Seat was vacated by Patrick Nulty

Ruth Coppinger of the Socialist Party who won the Dublin West byelection. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ruth Coppinger of the Socialist Party who won the Dublin West byelection. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Socialist Party candidate Cllr Ruth Coppinger has taken the byelection seat in Dublin West.

Fianna Fáil candidate Cllr David McGuinness earlier moved into second place in the Dublin West byelection ahead of Sinn Féin’s Paul Donnelly after he received significant Fine Gael transfers. (DUBLIN WEST RESULTS PAGE)

In the dramatic contest Ms Coppinger won on the last count with a total of 12,334 votes to Mr McGuinness’s 9,237.

To sustained applause and cheering Ms Coppinger was announced winner of the second byelection in the constituency since the 2011 general election. She said she was delighted to retain the seat for the left.

She said it was a warning to the Government against water charges. “They are not a foregone conclusions,” she insisted.

Ms Coppinger led with 553 votes between her and Mr McGuinness after the third count.

Following the elimination of Fine Gael candidate Senator Eamonn Coghlan, the largest slice of his transfers - 1,098 - went to the Fianna Fáil candidate, bringing him to 6,789 votes.

Independent David Hall who has worked on behalf of homeowners with distressed mortgages, got almost as many Fine Gael transfers - 1,063 votes - giving him a total of 5,846 but insufficient to keep him in the race.

But he was far from despondent. Mr Hall of the Irish Mortgage Holders Association, said he was very proud of the vote he received. “For a first time out for an independent candidate I think it’s the highest an independent has ever achieved in Dublin West.”

He believed the electorate “see me as a watchdog as someone who’s not going to be afraid to challenge Government or anybody else, who’s going to firmly question what’s being done without fear or favour to any of the established parties or any of the establishments.

“I have a track record of taking on banks, taking on Government, taking on the HSE on behalf of people and that’s what they see. They want someone who’s going to be able to fight their corner.”

With a campaign team of 100 volunteers, he said “we walked over 3,400 km, knocked on 24,500 doors and so in a three-week period we are now in fourth place. So overall I’m very, very happy” and he hoped to run at the next general election in Dublin West.

His transfers may favour Mr McGuinness ahead of Ms Coppinger in a tight contest.

Mr Donnelly is in third place with 6,516 votes. The Sinn Féin candidate, who is also standing in the local elections, said the vote he received was a fantastic results and was a manifestation of the work Sinn Féin had put in in the constituency over the last four years.

He said “austerity is killing people, it’s literally killing people” and told reporters that water charges was one of the main issues raised by people on the doorstep along with housing.

Ms Coppinger said “there’s just no way of knowing what’s going to happen. Nobody can predict with the transfers”. She said the Socialist Party and the Anti-Austerity Alliance were “very pleased that we’ve maintained a massive vote in Dublin West despite what is clearly a surge to Sinn Féin”.

Ms Coppinger said that surge was “somewhat inevitable when you consider the level of anger, disillusionment with the establishment parties over the broken promises made by Labour in particular, but Fine Gael as well”.

She said the electorate was seeking ways to oppose the austerity agenda. Sinn Féin had a much bigger apparatus in the Dáil and was a vehicle to express a protest.

“There is a huge statement being sent out to the Government and to the ruling class if you like, that ordinary people have taken the hits for six years. We’re told this is a recovery but clearly it’s a recovery for the rich at a time when homelessness is growing, when people can’t find a place to live and are put to the pin of their collar.”

She added that “there needs to be a new direction and austerity needs to be lifted if there’s to be any hope of a real recovery in this country. We need to tax progressively wealth in this country. We see the top 250 people have more than one third of the entire population.

He told reporters just before the count was called that he wasn’t disappointed with the result. “The analogy I use is you don’t get on the starting line of an Olympic final either in the 100metres or the marathon with three weeks’ preparation.”

He described the campaign as a “wonderful life experience”. He said he would dwell on the election over the next few weeks and “whenever the next general election is...I’ll be giving it some serious thought” about running.

Minister for Transport said the election was “an opportunity for the electorate to send the Government a message, that they’re hurting and they’re not happy with a lot of things the Government has done.

“At the same time it does look as though Fine Gael are still going to emerge as the largest party in terms of votes and seats across the country and that does show that people do recognise the fact that we’ve brought stability to the country, repaired the public finances and got more people back to work.”

Mr Coghlan told reporters just before the count was called that he wasn’t disappointed with the result. “The analogy I use is you don’t get on the starting line of an Olympic final either in the 100metres or the marathon with three weeks’ preparation.”

He described the campaign as a “wonderful life experience”. He said he would dwell on the election over the next few weeks and “whenever the next general election is...I’ll be giving it some serious thought” about running.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said the election was “an opportunity for the electorate to send the Government a message, that they’re hurting and they’re not happy with a lot of things the Government has done.

“At the same time it does look as though Fine Gael are still going to emerge as the largest party in terms of votes and seats across the country and that does show that people do recognise the fact that we’ve brought stability to the country, repaired the public finances and got more people back to work.”

Labour deputy leader and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton described the election as “a difficult day for the Labour party”.

She said “Loraine came in at extremely short notice and in that period of time has worked tremendously hard and I’m certainly very confident as someone who is the national chair of the party that she will be able to use this experience.”

Asked if it was time to consider a “heave” in the leadership Ms Burton said “Eamon Gilmore is the elected leader of the Labour party. Of course I have confidence in Eamon Gilmore. But it is much wider than that. I have to actually look and everyone who is a member of this Government has to look - regardless of the party they are in - has to sit down and listen to what people said.”

She added: “the people have spoken. We have to think about what the people said, examine it and address those issues that people genuinely raised.”

The Labour candidate who was selected to run in Dublin West just three weeks ago said it was a very important learning experience. “People feel the progress made has been too slow.”

Ms Mulligan, national chairwoman of the party will chair the “various reflections” the party would have after the counts were completed.

Asked if it was time for a new leader Ms Mulligan said “Eamon Gilmore is the party leader and as such he has my full support. The results are not fully in. We have to make sure we support their efforts and review in a very calm and rational and analytical way the results that are coming and take stock and that will take some time.

“As chairperson I will be involved in that and we are all interested in representing the people in the country who are suffering, who are vulnerable and that will be the focus of our discussions.”

Labour’s poor showing in the Dublin West byelection is “not unexpected” Minister of State Joe Costello said but the seat “is still up for grabs”.

Speaking at the Citywest count centre in Co Dublin Mr Costello said that while Labour had won the 2011 byelection for the seat, outgoing TD Patrick Nulty had left the party.

Will all the circumstances in which he left Labour and resigned his seat it was “not unexpected that we wouldn’t do well”. But he added that “it’s still up for grabs” and they were nowhere near a decision as to who would win the seat.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said it was “certainly it looks Ms Coppinger is doing really well and we hope she will win”.

He described the vote as “pretty extraordinary result for her and it echoes a pattern right across the city of a move to the left”.

He predicted a “new political force of the left that is here for the long-term”. Mr Boyd Barrett believed the overall vote “is left, anti-austerity, anti-the political establishment”.

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins said the Labour party had ceased to be a party of the left a long time ago and was now firmly in the camp of the “right wing neoliberal market austerity policies”.

He said there was a huge vacuum which was reflected in increasing support for Sinn Féin but also independent candidates and the Socialist Party. “What’s clear is that a new movement for working class people in the widest sense.....is needed. A principled left movement has to be constructed in the years ahead and that’s what we’re committed to.”