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Dublin: 5 °C Thursday 14 November, 2019
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'Election posters at the ready': Minister gives go-ahead for four by-elections

The constituencies will going to the polls at the end of the month.

Image: Sam Boal

THE WRIT FOR the four by-elections on 29 November was moved in the Dáil today.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said the polling orders would be signed after the writ was moved to allow political parties “get their poster teams at the ready”. 

He called on the elections to be “fair and respectful”, stating that there will be “stiff competition” as there is an array of talented candidates.

The upcoming by-elections are happening as a result of the four TDs who vacated their seats after being elected to the European Parliament in May

The four seats vacated that now have to be filled are:

  • Frances Fitzgerald (FG) – Dublin Mid-West
  • Clare Daly (I4G) – Dublin Fingal
  • Billy Kelleher (FF) – Cork North-Central
  • Mick Wallace (I4C) – Wexford 

Moving the writ for the Dublin Mid-West by-election, the housing minister paid tribute to his colleague Frances Fitzgerald,  stating that she will be “an enormous loss to Dáil Eireann”.

Speaking in the Dáil today, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said he was pleased the by-elections will be held so soon after the European elections. He highlighted that 10 years previously he had to go to the High Court to force a by-election in Donegal.

On that occasion, the court ruled that a 17-month delay was unreasonable. Doherty won the resulting by-election after Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher’s election to the European Parliament in June 2009.

Current legislation now means that by-elections must be held within six months of a Dáil seat being vacated. 

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said today that these four by-elections bring us “one step closer to getting rid of this government”.

The Taoiseach has already admitted to his party members that the party has a fight on its hand as it is not usual for a sitting government party to have much success in by-elections. 

At a recent Fine Gael fundraiser he said: 

“Winning by-elections is very difficult for Government parties. It has only happened three times in 35 years. But it can be done. 

“There are four by-elections and only one of the seats was held by Fine Gael.  We have selected strong candidates and we have a strong message to bring – James Reilly, Colm Burke, Emer Higgins, Verona Murphy.”

Braving the weather this evening, the Taoiseach officially began canvassing in the Dublin Mid-West constituency, for what is expected to be the party’s best hope in terms of winning a seat.

Fine Gael Councillor Emer Higgins has a large support base in the area and the backing of former TD for the area, and now MEP, Frances Fitzgerald.

However, also running in that constituency is former Green Party TD Paul Gogarty. He could be tipped for success due to his recognisable name (and who can forget that music video as well as his ‘F**k you Deputy Stagg’ moment).

Speaking in Clondalkin today, he said what the results of the by-election will have on the Dáil arithmetic depends if Dublin-Fingal and Wexford, which were held by Clare Daly and Mick Wallace go to someone else other than Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

File (1) Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Cllr Emer Higgins in Clondalkin this evening.

Fine Gael will be looking to retain the seat, with Fianna Fáil pushing hard to retain the Cork North-Central seat and also possibly gain another. 

Win or lose, what all parties will be looking at in these four by-elections is the transfer of votes.

With the general election just a few months out, all eyes will be on where votes are transferred – where the public are putting their votes, and where they are putting their number two votes on the ballot paper.

While it is obviously not an exact science, political anoraks will see this mini-election of sorts as an indicator of what might be to come at Easter, or Varadkar’s preferred date on May 2020. 

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