Irish citizens were reminded last month of the relegated stature of their nation state with the early resignation of Eoghan Murphy. A fading star in the Fine Gael parliamentary lineup, Murphy having drank from the poison chalice at Housing for some years departed for greener pastures in the opulent world of human rights advocacy.
In doing so he is not the first globalist social climber in the Oireachtas to do so, and certainly not the last, as the Dara Murphy fiasco of 2019 confirms. With the Shinners circling the electoral wagons in the 26 counties, many big names in Irish politics are looking to eject themselves into NGO land and corporations, especially with a post-covid crash on the horizon.
The parliamentary hole left to be filled in Dublin Bay South however, presents our regime with an unexpected stress test, albeit in the leafiest of constituencies. With a surprising working class demographic, Dublin 4 and its denizens are not the homogenised bunch of Irish Times readers conservative writers pin them as. In the shadow of the RTÉ antennae, Dublin Bay South is however an effective progressive stronghold, although one with some surprising socio-economic weaknesses.
With the election date being mooted as July 8th the list of announced candidates are as follows:
Ivana Bacik: Labour
A political revenant our electorate can never fully exorcise, Bacik looks committed to at least trying to crawl her way into the Lower House. A byproduct of the SU activist culture at Trinity, Bacik has led the charge on all manners of nation wrecking exploits, from abortion to birthright citizenship. In a constituency economically defined by its public sector vote and with enough disenfranchisement from centre-left Green voters, Bacik has a surprisingly decent fighting chance, and one that her political ego looks dedicated at least to capitalise on. A poor Bacik performance may undermine the current Labour leadership and strengthen calls for a SocDem merger, but by early indicators Bacik looks set for a respectable electoral showing.
Lynn Boylan: Sinn Féin
Another electoral zombie, Boylan is looking for a foot in the door after her 2019 Brussels washout. Hoping to use wider Sinn Féin buoyancy to her advantage, she benefits from her fellow party member Chris Andrews’ tried and tested party infrastructure. An outsider of sorts, a Sinn Féin win is not to be ruled out and would act as a litmus test for who will benefit from post-covid electoral disquiet. What will interest me is if the Shinners try to ride the wave on anti-lockdown populism a year into a policy of playing both sides. The Provos have form at the present time, and a triumph in Ranelagh is possible, though the fundamentally middle class nature of the constituency is the ultimate electoral roadblock.
Claire Byrne: Green Party
Already a victor from the internal dogfight with the party’s diversity talisman Hazel Chu, Byrne leads a rather battered party less than two years into coalition. A bog standard climate activist and party hack, she benefits from a preexisting base already being a councillor. While fighting in their electoral heartland, the Greens enter this race as a matter of damage control. Aiming to keep themselves in double digits an abysmal result could tighten the noose around Eamon Ryan.
Justin Barrett: The National Party
The suburbs of Terenure and Ranelagh may not appear to be a typical stomping ground for the veteran nationalist activist, but the late announcement of Barrett’s inclusion in the race adds a welcomed explosive dimension to the proceedings. Easily the only viable right-wing candidate in the field, Barrett has the real potential to give our regime a headache should anti-lockdown populism be monopolised by the radical right. You’d be wrong to typecast Dublin Bay South as solely liberal suburbia with a clear opening for nativism to be found in more impoverished wards, tapped into by Sinn Féin and Left parties already. For observers, Barrett’s performance will act as a litmus test to right-wing populism’s purchasing power post-covid.
Mannix Flynn: Independent
Earning himself plenty of well-deserved ire for his NIMBYist code of conduct, Flynn appears to this writer to be largely in the race as an ego trip. A former playwright and perennial sore for those wanting a functioning city, this is just the latest in a series of stabs at a seat since becoming a Councillor in 2009. Ideologically Flynn occupies a space above the right-left divide, with many mistaking him for a conservative despite his campaigning around clerical abuse. Flynn will pull in a decent tally, but is well in the periphery as to the race itself. One only wishes he’d slip away from council life in general.
Brigid Purcell: PBP/Solidarity
The art hoe to PBP pipeline is exemplified in the political personality of Bridgid Purcell looking to reign in the hard-left vote. With a savvy online marketing campaign and potential to ride the current wave of anti-Green disgust, Purcell may hold her own when the race is run. That being said, Dublin Bay South is a hard nut to crack, with voters preferring their socialists to be middle class and public sector, rather than the typical type of mutant put up by PBP. It has been my contention that the hard-left peaked in 2016, though rallying the student vote could grant the party gloating rights if they overtake an enfeebled Green Party.
Mairead Tóibín: Aontú
Sister of Peadar and long-time mental health advocate, Tóibín has a surprising amount of roots in the constituency. Treading water somewhat since failing to launch into the political stratosphere, Aontú is arguably still in a strong yet fragile state. How much of anti-lockdown disquiet can be mobilised awaits to be seen, similar to how much anti-lockdown rhetoric will be indulged in by a party hoping to keep away from the extremes. There is a respectable pro-life Christian demographic to be tapped into by Aontú, whether they try to steal the clothes of the populist Right awaits to be seen.
James Geoghegan: Fine Gael
Browsing Twitter the past month would leave one thinking that a cross between Tucker Carlson and Oliver Flanagan had been chosen by Fine Gael to raise the party standard in Dublin Bay. Leading a so-far disastrous campaign, defined by his disavowals of past involvement in Renua, and the party’s housing record, Geoghan could very well be down to the middle class core of 20% Fine Gael is normally guaranteed. Despite all that, it is his seat to lose, a feat he very well could perform on current trends.
Peter Dooley: Independent
Occupying an ideological space of Left populism, Dooley, to his credit, can claim to be one of the few socialists to take a somewhat anti-lockdown stance. One of the many political splinters of the populist Left, Dooley has a decent personal vote, albeit in the much contested pool of progressive candidates.
Deirdre Conroy: Fianna Fáil
The walking wounded of the campaign trail, Conroy embodies the institutionalised decline plaguing the Soldiers of Destiny. Parodied for her tell-all blog from the point of view of a landlady in a zeitgeist defined by the housing crisis, Conroy will bear the brunt of anti-establishment venom. As a local councillor, Conroy helped deepen her political grave with accusations of deceit over an insurance claim following a skiing mishap. Fianna Fáil’s aim is to save face in Dublin Bay South, but regardless, Conroy’s humiliation could foreshadow a wider political collapse on the horizon.
Michael McGrath: Independent
It’s not everyday a former member of the National Socialist Movement runs for high office in a South Dublin constituency, but an occurrence which has duly transpired for this by election. McGrath has earned himself the reputation of a well meaning crank around rightist circles following on from his photojournalism career in the Midlands. Apparently disavowing right-wing extremism, the practicing druid will likely earn himself last position for the race.
Sarah Durcan: Social Democrats
If SocDem activists were ordered in bulk they would come in the form of Sarah Durcan. A World Economic Forum member and bigwig at TCD Science Gallery, Durcan is a fairly standard placeholder for the party. Aiming to outmaneuver Labour and the Greens, her run will be a bellwether for the future viability of the party in securing its position as the State’s premier middle class globo-homo catch-all party.
Like the Presidental or Seanad elections, by-elections boil off more steam than they are actually worth. There are plenty of spanners to be thrown in the works, but overall what occurs in Dublin Bay will act as a political stress test for the choppy waters ahead.