Dáil debates

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Dublin Mid-West By-election: Issue of Writ

 

1:10 pm

Photo of Pearse DohertyPearse Doherty (Donegal, Sinn Fein)

Ten years ago, I was forced to take a Fianna Fáil Government to court, which included Deputy Micheál Martin, who is the party's present leader, to ensure that the people of Donegal South-West were afforded proper representation in the Dáil, which was denied to them for 17 months, the largest delay ever in the history of the State. The Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government of the day contended in the High Court that the court case and the court adjudicating on this matter would tear asunder the provisions of the Constitution. Thankfully, the High Court found in my favour and against the Government of the day, stating that it was the ongoing failure of the Government to move the writ for the Donegal South-West by-election that offended the terms and spirit of the Constitution and its framework for democratic representation. As you know, a Cheann Comhairle, I went on to win that by-election, and I can say that I like by-elections. They are something that I look forward to.

By-elections are an important part of our democracy. While it is high time that this Government was put out of office and a general election called, these by-elections are important. Sinn Féin will be fighting to win in all of these constituencies. We have an excellent slate of candidates that have already been selected. We have Councillor Thomas Gould in Cork North-Central, Councillor Mark Ward in Dublin Mid-West, a former mayor of South Dublin County Council, Councillor Ann Graves in Dublin Fingal, and Councillor Johnny Mythen in Wexford.

All four are top-class activists who work day in, day out to stand up for ordinary people and deliver for their local communities. They will, no doubt, provide first-class representation in the Dáil. I send them my best wishes and look forward to campaigning with them in the weeks ahead.

There is no substitute to talking to voters on the doorsteps. That is where we all get the real sense of where people are at. I am aware that far too many are struggling. There are families barely scraping by. They are burdened by out-of-control living costs, sky-high rents, excessive childcare costs and rip-off insurance premiums. These people have a voice here in the Dáil in that they have Sinn Féin, a party that wants to give workers and families a break. They have in Sinn Féin a party that stands up for ordinary people and delivers for local communities. That is the basis on which we will be seeking a mandate in the by-elections. It is to give people an alternative to the failed politics of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and the failed experiment that is the so-called new politics.

The past three and a half years have seen a housing and homelessness crisis spiral out of control. We have two parties that are wedded to failed policies and are doing nothing to improve circumstances for far too many ordinary workers and families. We need to get back into a position in which the State and local councils are building homes. Today we see again that the health service is in perpetual crisis. Crime is spiralling out of control in both urban and rural areas. Sinn Féin will take a fundamentally different approach to the conservative alliance of the two parties that control this place in tackling these issues, which affect ordinary people and communities. We want to give people, including workers and families, a break. To do so, it means helping renters and reducing rents by up to €1,500 per year. It means reducing the cost of childcare by an average of €100 per month per child. It means providing two free general practitioner visits for every person without a medical card so nobody will delay in going to a doctor because of worries about the cost. It means ending the rip-off that we see with insurance premiums. We would do all this along with tackling the serious issue of climate change. One of the measures we propose is the introduction of free travel on public transport for passengers aged between five and 18.

Sinn Féin is the only party seriously committed to Irish unity. While the other parties pay lip service to this issue, we want action. We want preparation for unity, and that preparation must begin now. An all-Ireland forum on Irish unity should be convened without delay to make the transition to a united Ireland a success for all who share this island, for our economy and for our public services. We want a referendum on Irish unity and we want to win it.

These by-elections are an opportunity for voters to vote for positive change. I will appeal, today and over the coming weeks, to the people of Cork North-Central, Dublin Mid-West, Dublin Fingal and Wexford to vote for Sinn Féin, to vote for strong candidates and to make their voices heard.

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