| 14°C Dublin

Socialist by-election candidate holds on to her teaching post

THE Socialist candidate in an upcoming by-election is holding on to her teaching job on a 'wait-and-see' basis while working for party leader Joe Higgins in Leinster House.

Fingal councillor Ruth Coppinger is in contention for the seat formerly held by the late Brian Lenihan in Dublin West.

She left her teaching post after the general election in February to work as a parliamentary assistant

Ms Coppinger took a year-long career break to do so, but could not say whether she would give up the school job -- only saying she will look at it again in a year's time.

"I'll see how it goes. You have to apply for a career break on a case-by-case basis."

She will receive pension entitlements for the teaching and parliamentary assistant positions. Her school, in Killinarden, Tallaght, would have had to hire temporary replacements.

Ms Coppinger, a councillor for the Mulhuddart ward, pointed out that she was taking a pay cut of almost €10,000 by going to work for Mr Higgins, the Socialist TD for Dublin West, and Dublin North Socialist TD Clare Daly in a staff sharing arrangement.

Her teaching salary came in around €50,000-- and her salary for working as a parliamentary assistant is around €42,000. She said she was earning just enough so she wouldn't have to give up her "affordable home in Mulhuddart".

In 2009, the most recent year for which figures are available, Ms Coppinger received €26,000 in payments and allowances for her work as a councillor. She said that she donates substantial sums to the Socialist Party.

The fact that she is working as a parliamentary assistant while on career break, as well as working as a councillor, is likely to be used by opponents in the upcoming by-election.

Blanchardstown Labour councillor Patrick Nulty is the frontrunner to take the Dublin West seat and he has already begun canvassing.

Fine Gael, expected to run Kieran Dennison, is also in with a chance.

Irish Independent