Thursday, 7 November 2019
Dublin Mid-West By-election: Issue of Writ
I welcome the moving of the writs for these by-elections, of which the Social Democrats will contest three, with Sinéad Halpin in Cork North-West, Tracey Carey in Fingal and Anne-Marie McNally in Dublin Mid-West. We have no problem getting women candidates to run, as the Government can see. They are three excellent candidates. I have already been on the doorsteps in Dublin Mid-West. The issues being raised are issues that people will not want to give this Government a vote of confidence in, including health, traffic and housing. It goes across the spectrum, including people being embarrassed about having to ask their parents to help, people having to stay at home for a long time and hidden homelessness. The question of whether water is safe to drink came up, understandably in the current context. The cost of living is something that people are acutely concerned about. Those are the issues that I heard about on the doorsteps.
Governments tend not to win by-elections except in very specific circumstances because the public view them as a second string election that give people a great deal of freedom to express the discontent that they feel, which so manifestly exists. There tends to be low turnout in by-elections and we all need to encourage people to get out and vote. I won a by-election in 2005 when Charlie McCreevy went off or was packed off to Europe, however one wants to look at it. There were two by-elections on that day, with the other being in Meath. The result came as a significant surprise to the political establishment. Childcare was an issue for many young families in the commuter belt. As a result, €1,000 was allocated in respect of children under the age of five. That was followed by the early childhood care and education, ECCE, year, which has been expanded to have a second year, which is a good initiative. The public put that issue on the agenda.
These by-elections represent a unique opportunity for people to have a say and to put items on the agenda that are not coming to the fore to the extent that they need to. There will be a short period between the by-elections and the next general election, which we expect will be held between now and late spring. This will be the marker that will determine the kind of agenda that will be set for the general election. These four constituencies have a unique opportunity to return people who can make that point. We are looking for support for our three wonderful candidates on 29 November.