‘The anger seems to run a little deeper this time’: On the canvass with Green and FG candidates in Dublin’s south inner city

The subject of migration is coming up on doorsteps with a prominence it previously did not have, say candidates

Immigration and housing are two issues that keep coming up on the doors for candidates in Dublin's Ringsend. Video: Enda O'Dowd

Green Party councillor Claire Byrne says Ireland is one of few countries where politicians “actually knock on doors” seeking votes before elections as we are “really democratic here”.

“I’ve had raised voices and leaflets torn up ... but they are very few and far between,” says Byrne, who is seeking to be reelected to Dublin City Council on June 7th.

Asked about recent attacks on and abuse directed at candidates, she recalls the 2009 and 2011 campaigns which were “incredibly difficult” for the Green Party, then in coalition with Fianna Fáil as the Irish economy collapsed, “but it was different”.

“The anger seems to run a little bit deeper this time and they are different issues, they’re very polarised issues ... That’s definitely a bit of a challenge,” she says.


“I think it’s a concern in terms of it’s a very orchestrated attempt to erode democracy in this country. It’s not just here, we’re seeing it all across Europe and that really concerns me but it also really motivates me.”

The issue Byrne is referencing is migration, which is brought up almost immediately as she sets out on a canvass at St Patrick’s Villas, Ringsend, on a Monday afternoon. The former Shipwright pub in Ringsend went on fire early on New Year’s Eve at a time when false claims circulated about it being converted into asylum seeker accommodation. A man has been charged in relation to the incident.

Patricia Daly, who is sitting outside her home with her grandchildren, says she would like to see a coeducational national school in the community and is also critical of the Government’s approach to immigration.

“Down here, they’re not racist, all you have to do is go to the school at 1.30pm or 2.30pm and every nationality is coming out of the school, and they all get on great,” she says. “If they just tell the local people who is coming into the area there wouldn’t be an issue.

“They’re not racist, or against people coming in, because a lot of ours are going off to Australia, New Zealand,” Daly adds. “You have to think of it that way, that’s how I look at it anyway ... They’re only coming in here to get safe.”

Green Party Councillor Claire Byrne is running for re-election in the Inner City South East ward in Dublin. Photograph: Enda O'Dowd

Byrne promises there will be “more of a robust approach” to migration across Government and says there was a “good healthy discussion” the previous Friday about plans for the former Shipwright pub, which is to be used to accommodate homeless families from August.

“Change is difficult, and I think people have concerns,” Byrne says later. “We’re also in an era of disinformation as well, so it’s just trying to keep ahead of that and as an elected representative you’re presenting people with the facts.”

Byrne, who works as a political assistant to Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, has been a councillor for 10 years and is the only female representative in the five-seat southeast inner city ward. It runs from Wood Quay to Poolbeg across to Portobello and down to Clanbrassil Street. It had the lowest turnout out of all the Dublin City Council electoral areas in 2019 at just over 33 per cent.

Byrne topped the poll back then, ahead of Sinn Féin’s Chris Andrews (now a TD), Danny Byrne of Fine Gael, Kevin Donoghue of Labour (who is not standing this time) and Independent Mannix Flynn. A variety of issues are raised as she canvasses including cycle lanes, parking, public transport and the VAT rate for businesses.

Síle Reeves, a resident of Ringsend Park, asks what can be done about the water quality in Dublin Bay. She says is a loyal Green Party supporter and will “definitely” vote for Byrne.

“They’re the only party who are 100 per cent for the environment, and climate is the biggest problem in our society ... climate breakdown is everywhere and we have to sort it,” Reeves says.

The ward has traditionally been a stronghold for Labour, home to former leader and minister Ruairí Quinn and current leader Ivana Bacik, who won the Dublin Bay South byelection in 2021.

Labour is running Eddie McGuinness and Carol Reynolds. The party conducted an investigation over remarks made last year by Reynolds in an interview with an anti-immigration activist in which she said Ireland had “too many immigrants”. Reynolds later apologised.

Sinn Féin is running Daniel Céitinn, co-opted to replace Andrews after his election to the Dáil, Kourtney Kenny and Ryan Mooney.

Meanwhile, on Bath Avenue in Sandymount, Fine Gael councillor Danny Byrne is on the election trail.

“Migration, for sure, is an issue now that wouldn’t have heretofore been an issue,” says Byrne, an estate agent originally from Co Donegal.

Immigration and housing are two issues that keep coming up on the doors for candidates in Dublin's Ringsend. Video: Enda O'Dowd

“Particularly since the new Taoiseach [started], there’s an impetus now to really work on it and to have a long-term plan. It’s very fast-changing ... But I think Irish people are more accepting than what’s being portrayed.”

A middle-aged woman, who asks not to be named, says she is keen to hear what the long-term plan is as a “sustainable” solution is needed. “These people are fellow human beings but something has to be done,” she says.

A young man, who moved to Sandymount in recent years with his family, says he has “concerns” about asylum seekers living in tents along the Grand Canal.

Byrne says housing remains the major topic on the doors, with parking and traffic congestion also consistently mentioned.

John Byrne, a Sandymount resident for almost 20 years, says he would like to see more Dublin Bikes and overhead charging arms for electric vehicles. While indicating that he plans to vote for the Fine Gael man, he adds: “There’s still a green agenda that we want to achieve.”

Cllr Danny Byrne says housing remains the major topic on the doors, with parking and traffic congestion also consistently mentioned. Photograph: Enda O'Dowd

Nicky Scaramuzzi, originally from Australia and living in Ireland for 27 years, tells Cllr Byrne she is “quite trusting” of politics in Ireland and has “great candidates” running in her area.

“I think we’re actually in relatively good shape,” she says. “I know we have massive issues with housing and healthcare, but at the same time it’s not all bad. I think we’re doing okay.

“Our issues here [in Sandymount] are very first world. I don’t think there’s anything major, it’s more what are the long-term plans for the area, cycle paths and really making it more better. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could cycle all the way from here to Howth?”

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