Last week, the Social Democrats announced two new candidates who will be running for seats in Dublin at the next general election.
Dublin City Councillor Gary Gannon and Anne-Marie McNally, TD Catherine Murphy’s head of communications, will be contesting in Dublin Central and Dublin Mid-West respectively, along with current Social Democrats TD for Dublin North-West Róisin Shortall.
But what are their prospects?
Some Tricky Races
“It’s a hard one to call really. It’s still a new party,” says Dr Adrian Kavanagh, a lecturer at NUI Maynooth who specialises in the geography of elections.
Kavanagh believes that Shortall is well placed; she won 28.5 percent of first preference votes in her last election.
But Gannon’s Dublin Central area is much trickier, he says. “There’s a lot of big hitters,” says Kavanagh.
To wit: Mary Lou McDonald (Sinn Féin), Christy Burke (independent), Paschal Donohoe (Fine Gael Minister), Joe Costello (Labour Party) and Maureen O’Sullivan (independent), who are all contesting for one of the four seats available.
Dublin Mid-West, where McNally is stepping forward, “is an interesting one”, says Kavanagh. “It’s more open than Dublin Central.”
The Labour Party have two seats in the area but are unlikely to hold both, he said. And Sinn Féin will be fighting to take back a seat too, he says.
“This will be [McNally’s] first election so it’s always hard to make a call,” says Kavanagh.
Room for More Candidates?
With one socialist TD and four prominent Labour TDs not running for re-election in other Dublin constituencies, it would seem wise for the Social Democrats to put forward more candidates in Dublin.
And it’s looking like they will.
The party plans to announce more candidates for Dublin and the rest of Ireland in the next week or so, according to McNally.
“We can’t comment on specific numbers at this stage as conversations for some areas have yet to be finalised,” she said. And as she tells it, the party is focusing on quality, rather than quantity.
Gannon says there will definitely be more candidates for Dublin, but he didn’t know who they might be. Lots of people want to get involved, he says, but “they would have to share our vision”.
So far, our attempt to sniff out who might join the Social Democrats has failed.
All of Dublin’s independent TDs – Peter Mathews, Finian McGrath, Shane Ross and Tommy Broughan – say they’re not planning to join the party.
We couldn’t reach independent Councillor Vincent Jackson. But four of Dublin’s other local independent councillors – Paul Hand, Mannix Flynn, Ruairí McGinley and Damian O’Farrell – say they plan to remain non-party politicians.
“I’m with a member of the Legion of Mary,” joked Flynn on Tuesday.
“I believe in every group of elected politicians, it’s a good idea to have some independents,” said O’Farrell, the councillor for Clontarf.
O’Farrell – who works with TDs Finian McGrath and Shane Ross as part of the Independent Alliance – says a group of independents working together is different, as “they discuss things and come to a decision through consensus, rather than voting”. So, as he tells it, they won’t be joining the Social Democrats any time soon.
Councillor for the constituency of Beaumont-Donaghmede, Paddy Bourke, says he doesn’t plan to join the Social Democrats either, as he is already a part of the similarly named independent group the Social Democratic Union, with Dublin TD Tommy Broughan.
Though Bourke says he would consider joining if Broughan did, this looks like it’s unlikely to happen.
Broughan says that despite having a largely shared ethos with the Social Democrats, he will be running as an independent in the next election.
We also contacted David Hall – director of the not-for-profit Irish Mortgage Holders organisation – who has been rumoured to be planning a run in Dublin-West for the party.
Hall ran in Dublin-West in the 2014 by-election as an independent and got 13 percent of the first-preference votes. He hasn’t ruled out running for the Social Democrats yet, he says. But “no formal talks have taken place; it’s all very much up in the air.”
Which all raises the question of whether any candidates for Dublin that the party might announce will be new to the world of politics.
“If starting a new candidate there, it becomes a much bigger ask. On the other hand there’s no harm in it,” said Kavanagh of NUI Maynooth.
As he sees it, the first thing a new party wants to do is gain 2 percent of the national vote so they get state funding. Next, the group should aim to have seven TDs, so that the party will have speaking rights in the Dáil.
“I think they should run in as many [constituencies] as possible,” he said. Candidates – new to politics or already experienced – who are not elected next year will be well placed for local elections, and therefore well placed to challenge Dáil seats in the future.
“I think they’re sensible enough,” says Kavanagh. “They’re looking at the long term.”