Thursday 17 October 2019

Ruth Coppinger's victory doubles Socialist Party's voice in Dail

Niall O'Connor

THE Socialist Party has doubled its representation in Dail Eireann following an impressive victory by Ruth Coppinger in the Dublin West by-election. The by-election proved difficult for Fine Gael and dismal for Labour.

The Labour candidate Loraine Mulligan suffered a humiliating seventh place finish, behind the Green Party and Fine Gael senator Eamonn Coghlan.

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 anti-government sentiment nationwide.

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. Donnelly finished third after running an effective campaign which focused on tapping into a strong feeling of disenchantment with the Government parties.

"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.

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 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 Coppinger and McGuinness.

It is a case of deja vu for 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 Nulty's resignation, it was a case of second time lucky for McGuinness.

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

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

"My voice will be heard," she said.

Sunday Independent

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