Sunday 8 December 2019

Coppinger secures dramatic win in Dublin West

Niall O'Connor in City West

THE Socialist Party has doubled its representation in Dáil Éireann following an impressive victory by Ruth Coppinger in the Dublin West by-election.

It was a contest in which transfers proved crucial as large chunks of voters switched their support to left wing candidates.

But Ms Coppinger topped the poll in the key Swords and Mulhuddart electoral areas and defeated Fianna Fail's David McGuinness by just over 3,000 votes.

Both front runners were strongly challenged by Sinn Fein's Paul Donnelly, who was also elected to Fingal County Council five years after losing his seat.

Mr Donnelly finished in third position after running an effective campaign which focussed on tapping into a strong feeling of disenchantment with the government parties.

The Dublin West by-election proved difficult for Fine Gael and dismal for Labour.

The party's candidate Loraine Mulligan suffered a humiliating 7th place finish, behind the Green Party and Fine Gael senator Eamonn Coghlan.

Mr Coghlan's celebrity status did not wash with voters and his campaign was dubbed "very disappointing" by party sources.

The former Olympian said he believed his vote was affected by a anti-government sentiment nationwide.

"That has been obviously noticeable over the last number of months. There have been a lot of negative sound bites out there. People certainly were concerned about the water charges, medical cards and the local Property taxes. The soundbites out there were really turning people to anti government sentiments," he said.

Independent candidate David Hall was seen as the dark horse in the election and the strong transfers he picked up in the latter stages leave him well placed for a run at the next general election.

Mr Hall has previously expressed a desire to form a new political party with "like minded people" such as former European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton and Independent TD Stephen Donnelly.

"In regards to my future in politics, I'm not ruling anything out," the New Beginning founder said.

At one point, just eight votes separated the Sinn Fein and Socialist candidates, followed by Mr McGuinness in third.

But despite topping the poll on first preferences, Sinn Fein's Paul Donnelly did not attract the transfers required to keep him neck-and-neck with Ms Coppinger and Mr McGuinness.

It is a case of de ja vu for Mr McGuinness, who was beaten into second by Patrick Nulty at the 2011 by-election, sparked by the death of former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan.

But despite another by-election as a result of Mr Nulty's resignation, it was a case of second time lucky for Mr McGuinness.

Meanwhile, Ms Coppinger will now join Joe Higgins in the Dail on her second attempt.

She said that she will not be "disappearing into the backbenches.

"That would would have happened if the second placed candidate (David McGuinness) had been elected. My voice will be heard," she said.

Joe Higgins said voters had delivered a clear message to the government parties, particularly Labour.

"The overwhelming message is that the austerity agenda, and those pushing it - Fine Gael and Labour, have got an unmerciable hammering," he said.

"More is expected of Labour as a party that was supposedly in the interest of working class people and instead it's stabbed them in the back," he added.

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