“Where’s the red carpet?” Kenny joked, as he locked up his bike outside the Fettercairn community centre.
A review by the Electoral Commission published last month recommended moving the electoral division of Tallaght-Fettercairn, with a population of 11,335, from Murphy’s constituency of Dublin South-West to Kenny’s constituency of Dublin Mid-West for the next general election.
The commission’s changes have left parties and TDs mulling the implications for the country’s electoral map as the Dáil returned this week and general election preparations began in earnest.
Both TDs agree that the move was “unusual” and “unexpected”, as the electoral division, which includes the Glenshane, Rossfield and Brookfield housing estates, is the only part of Tallaght that will move out of Dublin South-West.
“You’re breaking up a town,” says Murphy. “Down the country, you wouldn’t break up a town and give an eighth of it to a different constituency.
This isn’t the case, but if the Electoral Commission’s job was to move 11,000 people out of Dublin South-West and make it as difficult as possible for Paul Murphy to get re-elected, this is what you would do— Paul Murphy, People Before Profit TD
“There is a danger that people in Fettercairn are a bit forgotten about. They’re in Tallaght, and the centres of Dublin Mid-West are Clondalkin, Lucan, Palmerstown and now, all of sudden, this bit.
“The people here have the same local issues as those of the people in Killinarden, Jobstown and the rest of Tallaght, as opposed to the issues in Clondalkin. It’s not great for the people here.”
Fettercairn is described as “disadvantaged” by Pobal’s Deprivation Index, with 40.7 per cent of the population living in the area classified as lone-parent families while just 16.3 per cent have a third-level education. The unemployment rate stands at 32 per cent for males and 26 per cent for females.
The people of Fettercairn have long been campaigning for its own GP surgery, while the region of west Tallaght has one of the highest levels of adults living with their parents in the State. Sinn Féin and People Before Profit polled strongly in the area in the general election of 2020, and Murphy admits it will be “a challenge” to retain his seat in the five-seat constituency.
Sinn Féin’s Seán Crowe secured close to 30 per cent of first preference votes in Dublin South-West and confirmed the party would be running a second candidate next time round, with Colm Brophy (FG), John Lahart (FF) and Francis Noel Duffy (Green Party) also vying to be re-elected.
“This isn’t the case, but if the Electoral Commission’s job was to move 11,000 people out of Dublin South-West and make it as difficult as possible for Paul Murphy to get re-elected, this is what you would do,” Murphy says of the changes.
Kenny points out that Dublin Mid-West already covers “a vast area”, including Lucan, Clondalkin, Rathcoole, Palmerstown, Newcastle and Brittas.
The constituency will gain an additional seat following the commission’s review, making it a five-seater at the next election. Sinn Féin is seen as likely to return sitting TDs Eoin Ó Broin and Mark Ward with many expecting them to run a third candidate, which could affect Kenny’s chances.
“The extra seat is welcome, it makes things slightly easier, slightly, but it’s always a challenge,” Kenny says. “You saw the Sinn Féin surge in 2020. In some ways that’s a good thing, that movement to the left, but it is a challenge for the radical left.
“A lot of people said if Sinn Féin got two seats in the 2020 election, I wouldn’t get elected, but I did.”
‘You don’t split Tallaght’
Across the road from the community centre, Frank McLean, who has lived in Fettercairn for more than 40 years, instantly recognises Murphy and recalls his role in the water charges protests in 2014.
“Why are we moving to Mid-West?” he asks the TD. “I don’t agree with that, that’s not right. You don’t split Tallaght.”
The Luas was one of the most exciting projects I had felt in my time, coming to Tallaght and Fettercairn... but now I’m saying I’m not so sure I’m happy about the Luas line... I think it is now the drug train coming in, it’s a good way to get the drugs in— Mary Keegan, Fettercairn estate management worker
McLean adds that he would like to see an initiative against antisocial behaviour and drugs in the area.
“I don’t go anywhere at night. If I’m going anywhere to do anything, I’ll do it in the morning. I don’t go out at night – it’s not safe,” he says.
Mary Keegan, Fettercairn estate management worker, agrees that drugs are “one of the biggest problems” affecting the community.
“I’m seeing it all the time,” she says. “We’re also seeing at the back of the community centre, down where the Luas line is, there are people in tents there now.
“The Luas was one of the most exciting projects I had felt in my time, coming to Tallaght and Fettercairn... but now I’m saying I’m not so sure I’m happy about the Luas line... I think it is now the drug train coming in, it’s a good way to get the drugs in.”
Crowe says he has concerns that moving Tallaght-Fettercairn out of Dublin South-West will have an impact on local supports and services.
“There doesn’t seem to be any logic to what they’ve done,” the Sinn Féin TD says. “There was no demand for it either, no one in Fettercairn was asking to be moved into Mid-West.
“It is a marginalised community and you’re further marginalising them and latching them on to another constituency which it doesn’t really have anything in common with.
“It’s probably something that’s going to have to be changed in the future. The population in that area, in previous elections, probably had some of the lowest voter turnouts in the State. The fact they’re changing it again, I think that will have an impact as well. People probably won’t know many of the candidates running.”
Fianna Fáil’s Lahart says he takes “a more sanguine” view and points out that the area will still remain part of South Dublin County Council.
“They will still have TDs who want to work for them... this is not the first time boundaries have changed there, different things have happened... People adapt,” he says.
Teresa Brady, who has lived in Fettercairn since 1979, says that she recognises Murphy but not Kenny, though later discovers her sister lives in the same estate as him.
While Brady says litter and street maintenance have disimproved over recent years, her main gripe is a tree located outside her house, whose roots are coming up through her front garden.
“If you can get this tree sorted for me, you will get my vote,” she tells Kenny.