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Dublin Bay South by-election: Voters head to the polls today; opposition says result will “send a message” to government

DUBLIN: The Dublin Bay South constituency will vote in a by-election today to fill the Dáil seat vacated by former Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. The question before voters here is whether to elect a pro-government TD or strengthen the opposition.

The constituency, which extends from Terenure to Sandymount, includes Rathgar, Rathmines, Donnybrook, Ringsend, St. Vincent’s Hospital Area, and the South East Inner City. It is also home to a number of leading institutions, including Indian, Chinese, British and American embassies.

There are 15 candidates running in the first election in Ireland since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Candidates and political parties had been campaigning hard up until yesterday, making various pledges and making numerous arguments. Voting will take place today from 7 am to 10:30 pm.

According to last week’s opinion poll, Fine Gael’s James Geoghegan has the best chance of winning, followed by Labor’s Ivana Basic. But given the general nature of the constituency, neither Sinn Féin nor the Green Party is likely to win.

The opposition believes the election results will send a strong message to the government. But Green Party candidate Claire Byrne opposed this notion. “The opposition are saying we can send a signal to a government that they’re not happy, but signals won’t build houses, signals won’t take immediate climate action, signals won’t take us out of this pandemic and towards a green recovery and safeguard our children’s future,” Ms. Byrne said.  

“The Greens are in government now and we are implementing and delivering the policies that nearly every opposition member is calling for in this campaign.” She cited the planned construction of 300 cost rental homes in Shanganagh, Shankill as an example.

In the general election last year, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan topped the poll in Dublin Bay South. Mr. Ryan said his party will “surprise people” in the by-election.

Labour candidate Ivana Basic said the vote would not change the coalition’s comfortable majority but would “send a message” to the administration. “What we can do is use it as an opportunity to send a message to government about the need for change in particular policies,” she said.

“I think people do want change and we’re hearing a real appetite across the constituency for change, for the need to send a strong signal to the government on the need for change, particularly in housing but also in other public services around healthcare around childcare and elder care and around climate and community,” Ms. Basic added.

Fine Gael’s James Geoghegan said the election result would strengthen the government.

Sinn Féin said the election will be about home ownership and rent. The campaign was also centered on housing.

Dublin Bay South is one of the most diverse constituencies in the country with non-Irish nationals. According to the 2016 census, 75% of the population of the constituency is Irish, which is lower than the national average (87%).

Other nationalities represented slightly more than 20% of the constituency, including the British (2.2%), Polish (1.1%), Lithuanians (0.3%), people from another EU country (8.1%), and people from the rest of the world (8.6%).

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