Rathmines - a name synonymous with 'flatland' - was perhaps the obvious location for Peter Dooley (Independent) to take The Irish Times along on a morning canvass.
Having forged his political activism in the housing crisis and as co-founder of the Dublin Renters Union in 2017, he says tenants in the private-rented sector "continue to be treated like second-class citizens".
He is running in Thursday’s byelection “to be a strong, real voice for real people who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, with threatened evictions, sky-high rents”.
Census data from 2016 shows over 44 per cent of households in Dublin Bay South are renting.
The father of two, who is also a full-time carer for his mother, has successfully organised tenants’ campaigns against threatened mass evictions in nearby Clanbrassil Street, Rosedale Terrace and Richmond Street, as well as advocating for individuals tenants on numerous occasions at the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).
In a constituency described in many reports as affluent and “satisfied”, Dooley says his work is among those in precarious housing, precarious work and reaping the impact of “failed Government policies”.
Winding road of large, redbrick houses
Knocking on doors on Grove Park, a winding road of large, redbrick houses (many subdivided into flats) off the Lower Rathmines Road, we meet several Dooley has supported.
Judith Deery (60), was in her flat with her daughter for 18 years when she got a notice to quit three years ago on the grounds that her landlady wanted it back for her son - "even though he wasn't yet 18 at the time". There were three other vacant flats in the house.
“So I was dealing with the RTB, thanks to Peter helping me. It was a battle, horrendous. My daughter has since left - couldn’t take it anymore, moved in with friends. So it broke up my family.”
She won at the RTB but has since been allocated social housing. “I had to fight hard to get that. I am not the only one. There are so many on this road have been through it. It’s all flatland around here so it’s a whole community problem.”
A few doors up Carole Gannon (59), a health-care worker, and her partner, have been given two weeks' notice "to get out by this Friday". There are seven other flats in the house.
“Obviously we are not going,” says Ms Gannon. “We are going into dispute with the RTB. We have been here 17 years. The new owners, they said it was a fire hazard and uninhabitable but they just want us all out to do it up and re-let it…I am absolutely angry, at this stage in life to have this. I never thought I would be I this situation. I pay my rent, I work. It’s really, really annoying and insulting. It’s intimidating, stressful.”
‘A social good’
Dooley interjects: "To clarify - these families won't be going anywhere. We will support them. It's their home and we have to start seeing homes as a social good in society. This Government and all the main political parties are all complicit in this crisis- Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Labour Party, the Green Party."
Seven years into the housing crisis he says these parties have “failed”, while rents have spiralled and homelessness increased.
Among the “housing solutions” he puts forward are an evictions ban and rent-freeze until the end of the pandemic, a vacant-homes tax, public housing on public land, long-term leases, and a land value tax.
Back on Rathmines Road, we meet Tony Greene, who has run his barber shop, Greene's for 24 years. He has Dooley's poster in his window, having supported him since Dooley helped one of his barbers stay in his rented accommodation. "I appreciate all the work he does in the community," says Mr Greene. "I love supporting him."
Dooley, commenting how hard the lockdowns have been on small businesses, describes them as “the lifeblood of all the villages in Dublin Bay South”.
A former member of People Before Profit, Dooley left in 2019. Polling at just one per cent he nonetheless believes he can be more true to his political vision as an independent.
“We don’t have the access to the resources or the party machine that other candidates do, so obviously we are up against it. But we have our principles, and one of those is to give a voice to ordinary people. I think that’s important.”