Thursday, 7 November 2019
Dublin Mid-West By-election: Issue of Writ
Brendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
I welcome the moving of the four by-election writs today. The Labour Party has four excellent candidates in the by-elections: Councillor John Maher in Cork North-Central; Councillor Duncan Smith in Dublin Fingal; Councillor Joanna Tuffy, a former Member of this House, in Dublin Mid-West; and the current Mayor of Wexford, Councillor George Lawlor, in my constituency, Wexford.
The four by-elections move us one step closer to getting rid of the current Government and allowing for real change. I have said before that I do not have confidence in the current arrangements. The Government has failed to deliver on affordable housing. It presided over a shocking waste of public money on the national children's hospital and the national broadband plan. It plans to give €3 billion of the public's money to a private company rather than keep the broadband network in public ownership. It has failed to address the shocking way in which women were treated by successive medics and officials in the CervicalCheck scandal. It allowed State enterprises such as Bord na Móna to wither rather than invest in them and give them a new lease of life in the era of climate change. Now it has failed to support the national broadcaster, RTÉ, despite the Labour Party's proposal six years ago to fix the television licence system to sustain public broadcasting at the heart of our democracy.
The Government has failed. It has no plan on poverty and no plan to reduce the cost of living, and it still finds money to give tax cuts to top earners. Fianna Fáil has supported the Government so I have no confidence in its being any different. The four by-elections are not a choice between a Fianna Fáil candidate and a Fine Gael candidate, as will be said by some. That is no choice at all. In the general election we last held, fewer than half of the voters opted for Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. In these four by-elections, the real choice will be between progressive candidates who will bring about real change and conservative candidates who will maintain the status quo. If one looks at the 2016 election results in detail, one sees an interesting pattern. In Cork North-Central, the combined vote for Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Identity Ireland and Renua Ireland was 24,694. The remainder was 26,480. In Dublin Fingal, the combined conservative vote was 28,456 while the remainder was 31,932. In Dublin Mid-West, the conservative vote was 18,366 while the remainder was 24,768. In my constituency, Wexford, the combined conservative vote was 35,814, compared with 35,847 for the remainder. In all these constituencies, the votes for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael combined were less than the alternative. Therefore, the conservative parties do not have an automatic right to win these by-elections.
The Labour Party is significantly different from the other parties. I would like to reach out to all who want to build an alternative, including the progressives and the independents. This will be the first step in an historic choice. I sincerely hope that the opportunity will be grasped by the electorates in the four constituencies. I know all the constituencies well. I know all of the four candidates the Labour Party will have fighting in each constituency very well indeed. I know my constituency, Wexford, best of all. I am confident that in each of these battlegrounds, there will be a significant vote for change. It will be the mark of a change of Government in the future. I look forward in the coming weeks to facing the challenge with vigour.