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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 9 April, 2020
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From Tallaght to Rathfarnham, the fight is on in one of Dublin's most unpredictable battlegrounds

There are five sitting TDs running but we went canvassing with two hopefuls.

The constituency covers a wide area to the Dublin Mountains in the south.
The constituency covers a wide area to the Dublin Mountains in the south.
Image: Shutterstock/AleksandrsG

CAMPAIGNING IN ANY constituency is no easy feat but in Dublin South West the geography makes things very tricky indeed.

The constituency covers a large and diverse area from Tallaght to Ballyboden in the northern part, to Rathfarnham and even the Dublin Mountains in the south. 

There are 16 people running for the five seats, with all of the current TDs seeking re-election.

Two who are looking to get elected for the first time are Independent Mick Duff and Labour’s Ciarán Ahern.

The two candidates come from different perspectives but TheJournal.ie went out canvassing with both of them to see what issues constituents wanted to raise.

Duff is a councillor for Tallaght-Central who is formerly of the Labour party but who is now running as an independent, something he says he “probably should have done a long time ago”. 

“After the 2016 election, I felt that we were not humble enough and didn’t acknowledge the harm that was done in the five years (in government),” he says of his departure from Labour.

I could understand austerity, and we knew we had to have that. But this wasn’t a race, we didn’t have to clear up, get our sovereignty back within five years, clear the deck and I think we went at it with gusto and it hurt so many people. 

When TheJournal.ie met with Duff on a weekday afternoon he was canvassing in the Kilnamanagh area beside Tallaght. Essentially, he was performing the dual role of campaigning while fielding council queries. 

The issues raised were varied but included things like fly-tipping, the lack of visible policing and even one man who’s been pushing for a statue to famed former minister for health Noel Browne.  

Duff says that latter request might be tricky to pull off but added that there’s talk of naming a local roundabout after Browne instead.

20200128_150357 Duff with his team in Kilnamanagh. Source: TheJournal.ie/Rónán Duffy

The time of the canvass meant many people weren’t answering doors and they instead got a signed flyer to let them know he’d called.

Of those who were around, many were young mothers looking after children. 

One mother-of-two invited us inside to tell us of the problems she’s been having in accessing supports for her four-old-son who’s likely on the autistic spectrum.

The lack of clarity around his condition is because, after two years of waiting for a diagnosis, the family have received nothing official but only a verbal assessment.

“We were just given a verbal over the phone,” the woman tells us.

I can’t go into the school as I mightn’t get the reports, it’s going to take up to four weeks. So we’re heading to the second week now and we haven’t heard anything, we don’t even know what to do with the child to help him.

Duff took the woman’s details and said he’d do the best to help before reassuring her that things should hopefully improve when he begins attending school.

It was an optimistic assessment that even he acknowledged will more likely be “another battle” when the time comes.

Another constituent brought up rumours that a local school would be taking in 260 students from another nearby school while it waited on a permanent building.

Duff assured her that he had heard “through local political connections” that this was not happening and the students would instead be moving to a temporary site. 

20200128_150410 Independent election candidate Mick Duff. Source: TheJournal.ie/Rónán Duffy

The same woman also raised the issue of anti-social behaviour, saying that one neighbour was sitting eating dinner with her family when “four young fellas” jumped over her back wall.  

They didn’t do anything, she said, but that added similar incidents have happened before. 

Asked whether she knew the phone number of the local community garda, a service raised numerous times during electoral debates, the woman said she did not. 

“I remember seeing a post on the residents association page that we were getting a guard that was going to be on a bike,” she said. “But I haven’t seen him once.”

Crime

After we left the woman, I asked Duff about his involvement with anti-drug projects in the area.

The election comes as places like Drogheda, Darndale and Coolock have been making national news for the wrong reasons and I put it to him that Tallaght has similarly been labelled in the same manner. 

He talks in detail about the problem of intimidation. 

The problems that are affecting us here are the same problems that are countrywide: Cocaine in its powder form or as crack cocaine, cannabis is also widespread now. And because of the value of the market, the criminality associated with is absolutely out of hand, it has gone beyond and we don’t have enough resources.  

Duff says that only this morning he had been speaking to a woman who was struggling to pay off a debt incurred on behalf of her son. He says he is working with the St. Vincent de Paul about the best way to raise the money.  

He says that although paying such money isn’t what you’d expect to be a solution, sometimes it’s the most practical thing to do. Simply moving people out of an area isn’t possible due to the housing shortage, he says.

He suggests a loan scheme that would allow families pay a debt and repay the money at a reasonable rate while their child is moved into treatment. 

“The one thing we cannot do is deal effectively with the intimidation and the debt,” he says.

If we could find some credible way that you could get young people, when they get into this situation and draw this awful debt down on their family, if there was a way that we could deal with that, have the debt taken.

“It’s not what you would expect in the mainstream, but in all honesty, it’s actually what we need. That’s the type of solution we need, real solutions.”

Who’s in the running

The TDs seeking re-election in Dublin South West are Colm Brophy (Fine Gael), Seán Crowe (Sinn Féin), John Lahart (Fianna Fáil), Paul Murphy (Solidarity – People Before Profit) and Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone (Independent).

Fianna Fáil previously held two seats during the Bertie Ahern-era when the constituency was a four-seater and the party is targeting a second seat this time out by running three candidates. 

Former Fianna Fáil TD and current councillor Charlie O’Connor is seeking a return to the Dáil after nine years and councillor Deirdre O’Donovan is also running for the party. 

Fine Gael is also running a second candidate in the form of Ellen O’Malley Dunlop, the former CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, but a second seat is seen as less likely for the party.

Murphy won a seat in a by-election in 2014 after Brian Hayes was elected to the European Parliament and retained his seat two years later.

Just weeks after he was first elected the Dáil, Murphy was involved in the November 2014 Jobstown protest that ultimately saw him charged and then acquitted of falsely imprisoning then táinaiste Joan Burton

Jobstown is in Dublin South West and the water charges movement is still mentioned by people and politicians about the issues constituents vote on. By looking at Murphy’s vote on Saturday, we can perhaps make a judgement on the extent to which this is the case. 

The turnover of TDs in the area has also been rapid over the past couple of elections, with Crowe the only TD who won a seat in 2011 to hold it in 2016.  

Labour was the biggest casualty, winning two seats in 2011 and none five years later. 

The party does have a long history in the constituency going back decades, with Mervyn Taylor and Pat Rabbitte being the main representatives. 

Duff ran for the party in 2016 alongside Pamela Kearns but the party is now looking towards youth in an effort to re-establish a foothold once more.

Employment lawyer at A&L Goodbody Ciarán Ahern is a first-time candidate in the area after being selected to run only a few weeks ago.

He’s best-known over the past week for perhaps the best election video of the campaign so far that saw him take the mick out of is party and his surname. 

Ahern was married on 4 January and had to put his honeymoon on hold to start campaigning. 

His recent nuptials were mentioned on the doorsteps as he canvassed in the Boden Wood estate in Rathfarnham, around the corner from where he grew up. 

Several people who recognised a familiar face on his posters congratulated him on his recent wedding and indeed his newfound political career.  

“I’m only starting out so I need as many number ones as possible,” he told those who wished him well. 

People are very nice. Everyone’s like ‘this is great having someone new and we want something new’. But you don’t know if that’s going to translate into votes. Loads of people will be nice to you at the door and then just won’t vote for you.

Ahern says he has been “working quietly in the background” of Labour for the past 10 years or so, campaigning as part of the marriage equality and repeal referendums before he was approached to put his name forward this time around. 

He says his day job means he has a specific interest in the ongoing State pension debate. An issue which was raised a number of times on the doorsteps. 

“I’m an employment lawyer and what we deal with a lot of the time are people who want to actually work longer and feel they’re being discriminated by being forced to retire,” he says.

But on the other side, there are people who do want to give up and don’t want to, like it’s quite degrading to have to go on the dole for a year, but you don’t even get it for a year, it’s nine months until you’re 66.

“Labour are part of the Stop 67 campaign. And we were one the first ones actually talking about that,” he tells one constituent.

ahern A poster of Ahern in Rathfarnham. Source: Rónán Duffy/TheJournal.ie

Ahern called to another door to what he says is the family home of one of his close friends. They’re delighted to see him and congratulate him on his campaign. 

The candidate is assured of number ones in this house but he also uses it as a chance to speak about housing. His friend’s sister has moved home with her two children and husband to save for a mortgage. 

She explains she’s been there since last April and can’t say exactly when they’ll be able to move out again. 

“I was paying two grand just up the road, and I know that’s probably good now but it’s not when you’re trying to save,” she says.

We’re thinking of staying just a year but I don’t know because we’re hoping to stay in Rathfarnham because of the kids and we have to find something like an apartment.

Ahern then speaks about Labour’s housing plans. 

“We want to bring in rent freezes and we think it can be done,” he says.

“Like, what I didn’t even consider is that last since the last general election, four years ago, rents have gone up 40% in Dublin South West.”

20200128_165135 Source: Rónán Duffy/TheJournal.ie

Other houses on the canvass are a little more difficult but everyone remains polite. One woman says ‘it’s a Lahart house’ before promising to give Ahern a lower consideration.

“All I’ll say to you is don’t go into coalition with Fianna Fáil, ” another man tells the Labour hopeful. 

“Look, I think they wrecked the country,” Ahern responds.

All they care about is power, and what we’re about is trying to actually implement policies. That’s why I’m in the party, so look I’ve zero interest in doing that (going into coalition with FF).

Aside from the dominant topics of health and housing, Ahern is passionate about cycling infrastructure, arguing it makes sense on both an environmental and practical level.

“My view is that we need to be getting people out of cars and onto bikes where possible or into public transport because, from an emissions perspective, we have to do something very quickly,” he says. 

And this being a commuter area the main way to do that is to try and give people better options to leave their cars at home, such as safe segregated cycle lanes and not painted lines in the road.

Asked about Labour’s rebuild process following its difficult time in government, Ahern says there are “people who were let down” by the party but that “there’s nothing I can do about that”.

“All I can say is that mistakes were made and I’m a new generation and I’m trying to rebuild.”

Full list of candidates in Dublin South-West: Ciarán Ahern (Labour), Carly Bailey (Social Democrats), Colm Brophy (Fine Gael), Anne Marie Condren (Renua), Sean Crowe (Sinn Féin), Mick Duff (Independent), Francis Noel Duffy (Green Party), Philip Dwyer (The National Party), Sandra Fay (Solidarity-People Before Profit), John Lahart (Fianna Fáil), Paul Murphy (Solidarity-People Before Profit), Charlie O’Connor (Fianna Fáil), Deirdre O’Donovan (Fianna Fáil), Colm O’Keeffe (Independent), Ellen O’Malley Dunlop (Fine Gael), Katherine Zappone (Independent).

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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