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FG candidate in Dublin Bay South wants to be 'voice for generation locked out of housing market'

Barrister James Geoghegan sought to move past the controversy over the selection process.

James Geoghegan in Sandymount yesterday.
James Geoghegan in Sandymount yesterday.
Image: Naoise Culhane

FINE GAEL’S CANDIDATE for the Dublin Bay South by-election has said he wants to be a “voice for the generation” of people who are “locked out of the housing market”. 

Councillor James Geoghegan was selected by local party members to contest the by-election following the decision by former Eoghan Murphy TD to step down from the Dáil

The 35-year-old’s campaign was launched today in a virtual press conference with journalists alongside party leader Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. 

Varadkar signalled a preference for a by-election this summer but stressed that this must first be discussed with other party leaders. 

Geoghegan sought to move past the controversy over the selection process, after former Dublin Bay South TD Kate O’Connell had claimed that her path to the nomination was effectively blocked. 

Geoghegan said that “Kate decided not to run” and it was “her decision” but he believes he has the support of “all the members” in the constituency. 

Much of the focus of the press conference was on the housing crisis and the problems faced by people buying homes, something Geoghegan said was the “crisis of the next decade”. 

“It’s obvious to everybody that my generation and younger have been locked out of the housing market in ways that were previously unimaginable. And I want to be a voice for that generation in delivering the supply of new homes,” he said. 

The councillor mentioned the O’Devaney Gardens’ redevelopment as an example of the housing initiatives he has supported.  

With two parents and two grandparents as Supreme Court judges, the barrister was asked whether his background prevented him from being able to identify with the issues some people may face in getting on the property ladder. 

Geoghegan said he believes voters “don’t look at the opportunities a candidate has had in life, but look at how they use those opportunities.”

Geoghegan said that he and his wife have a mortgage and “were lucky enough to get a deposit together” but that he realises “there is a huge generational problem for people getting access to home ownership”.

“Clearly this is in my opinion the crisis of the next decade, how we are going to ensure that everyone has access to home ownership,” he said. 

He added that he has seen this in his local constituency: 

We experienced this yesterday in fact, we were in Sandymount and met a young solicitor who feels she’s paying too much rent, too high a rent and doesn’t see how she’s going get on the property ladder. There are lots of other people in lots of different walks of life who are in the same situation, we see it all the time.

In a clear deviation from former minister Eoghan Murphy, whose seat he’s trying to fill, Geoghegan said that he “is not a fan of co-living”. 

“I don’t think it’s suitable for my generation or younger,” he said. 

Varadkar added that he feels the government “would benefit from having more people from James’ generation, more people with a young family” involved in politics. 

“We have an enormous problem, an enormous challenge, on the issue of home ownership. People in their 20s and 30s and even older who can get mortgage approval but can’t find the property they can buy for that mortgage,” the Tánaiste said. 

Gender balance

Candidates for the constituency are not yet finalised but Geoghegan will likely face from female candidates from a number of parties including Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and People Before Profit

There are currently no female TDs in Dublin Bay South and Geoghegan was asked by The Journal whether this represented a problem. 

“I put myself forward for nomination, no other person put themselves forward for nomination. I made my case to the members who were are broad demographic of gender and everything else. I was successful and they’ve supported me,” he said.

A year a year ago my constituency voted to have a Fine Gael voice in Dublin Bay South. And I think we should retain that Fine Gael voice and that’s why I’m putting myself forward.

Varadkar also defended the party’s choice to run a male candidate in the constituency, saying that his party was in power when gender quota were introduced. 

He also pledged that when there is a general election there would be a gender balanced ticket of Fine Gael candidates in the constituency. 

Geoghegan was also asked about his background as a supporter of Lucinda Creighton, the former Fine Gael TD who left the party over its stance on abortion and founded the Renua party. 

It was recently pointed out that Geoghegan was listed as an official with Renua in 2015

He described his work with Creighton as a “personal thing” that ceased when she left the Dáil.  Creighton lost he seat in 2016 when O’Connell was elected. 

“I was employed by Lucinda Creighton as her parliamentary assistant when she was still a member of Fine Gael,” he said.

During my time as her employee and when I was in my mid to late 20s she established this new party and I stayed along on until she was no longer a TD. After that I was fully sort of re-engaged with Fine Gael and I ran as a councillor in 2019. 

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“I was 19 years old. I’ve known her for 15 years and it was really a personal thing. I don’t agree with her social views on on abortion, I voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment myself and I certainly don’t share any of the social views that I suppose that party subsequently became associated with.”

He added that he has “voted what you might describe as liberally in every single referendum that I’ve had an opportunity to vote in, including the citizenship referendum in 2004. I voted against it”. 

Deadline

Due to new legislation brought in as a result of a 2010 High Court ruling, there is now a deadline within which a vacant Dáil seat must be filled. Current legislation now means that by-elections must be held within six months of a Dáil seat being vacated.

Murphy resigned his seat at the end of last month, meaning the clock is ticking on the holding of the vote, with Varadkar saying today that the options are “July or October”. 

“The way it works is the writ has to be moved in the Dáil, and the writ can’t moved during recess obviously. So it does have to be either option A June/July or option B in October, and we’ll make a decision on that quite soon,” Varadkar said. 

The Tánaiste added that he has to speak to the other party leaders about this but that “we’d definitely prefer a poll in the summer”. 

“That’s actually not our call, we can move the writ in the Dáil but there has to be a vote and the date is set by Minister Darragh O’Brien, so we have to talk to the other party leaders about that and we’ll sort that out in the next couple of weeks.”

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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