Green Party Councillor Claire Byrne has acquired over 17 years of experience in Irish politics. She has worked with Eamon Ryan since 2004 during his first term as an elected TD for the Green Party.
From 2007-2011, Byrne was parliamentary advisor to Eamon Ryan during the financial crisis when Ryan served as a cabinet minister as Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. At this point, Claire Byrne did not yet run for political office.
Byrne has professional experience working as an environmental education specialist and sustainability consultant for the events industry, including the Body & Soul festival. Following the decimation of the Green Party in the 2011 general election, Eamon Ryan took over leadership of the party and Claire Byrne decided to run for the 2014 local elections for the then Pembroke South Dock area of Dublin.
In the 2014 local elections, Byrne won the fifth seat out of a possible eight seats with 7.75% of first preference votes, and made the quota on the eleventh count. This was the beginning of the recovery for the Green Party, as it won 12 seats in the local elections, compared to just 3 seats in the 2009 local elections.
In her first term as councillor, (and as described on her website) Byrne ‘introduced a ban on single-use plastics in council offices, cafes in parks and public events’. She also ‘delivered the new climate action plan for Dublin city’ and ‘introduced measures to address the on-going problem of litter and dog waste in the city’ and ‘monitored the activity of the Poolbeg Waste to Energy facility through the Environment SPC’.
In terms of arts and culture, Byrne ‘set up sub-committees for artist studios and street art, secured funding for a cultural programme for Dublin City Velo Conference, advocated for a night czar for the city and strengthened the cultural provision in the city development plan’.
Byrne also helped to reintroduce a ‘cycling and walking officer for Dublin city, progressed the delivery of the Sutton 2 Sandycove from Sean Moore Road to Merrion Gates, Dodder Greenway and Liffey cycle routes, delivered pedestrian crossings at the junction of Kevin Street/Bride Street, Leonards Corner and Harolds Cross’. Meanwhile, she ‘proposed the pedestrianisation of Suffolk Street, South William Street and Drury Street’.
According to her website, Byrne ‘secured agreement for 900 social and affordable homes and increased the number of 3-beds in the new Poolbeg West SDZ’. She ‘proposed motions to introduce rent controls, and to restrict the building of hotels and short term rentals to prioritise building homes and worked with Eamon Ryan TD, on cost rental models for public and vacant lands in the city’. One of the main issues that Claire Byrne campaigned on as a councillor was for the repeal of the eighth amendment.
Based on her achievements on these areas, Claire Byrne ran for re-election to Dublin City Council for Inner City Southeast LEA. Claire Byrne almost quadrupled her first-preference vote total compared to the 2014 local elections, as she was elected in the first count with 1,961 votes (or 28.59% of first preference votes).
This was part of the so-called green wave for the Green Party in the 2019 local and European parliamentary elections as the Green Party won 49 council seats, an increase of the 37 seats the party won in 2014.
After Eoghan Murphy’s resignation as TD, Claire Byrne decided to seek nomination for the Green Party for the upcoming Dublin Bay South by-election on the 5th of May. Having faced Dublin Lord Mayor Hazel Chu, Byrne won the selection convention for the Green Party on the 4th of June.
She began canvassing last week and has canvassed the areas of Sandymount, Ranelagh and Rathgar, with help from senior figures within the Green Party such as party leader, Eamon Ryan and Senators Róisín Garvey and Pippa Hackett.
Since being selected for the by-election, Cllr Byrne has focused on several main issues. One of the main issues that she has focused on so far is over the lack of women that are currently elected in Dáil Éireann.
She has talked about the need for a progressive green voice to be elected to Dáil Éireann as highlighting the lack of supports for women in politics, citing the lack of maternity leave for women in local and central government, as well as the lack of supports for women to breastfeed their young children.
Another issue that Cllr Claire Byrne has been focusing on is the need for cost rental housing to deliver social and affordable housing. She said ‘cost rental housing, a core Green policy, means affordable, secure, public housing. This model is key to building affordable homes across Dublin Bay South including Poolbeg West’.
The Green Party placed a focus on the need for cost rental housing in the general election last year and promised that it would be a priority if it were in government. Meanwhile, cost rental housing has operated successfully in Austria and has been dubbed the ‘Vienna Model’.
Byrne has also sought to provide alternative travel methods to get around Dublin. She has said that she has spent ‘seven years as a councillor fighting for walking, wheeling and cycling to give families better options to get around the city.
In addition, Byrne has said that she believes that Dublin should be a city to grow up in and grow old in, and that she has ‘worked hard as a councillor to make Dublin a city for living. It’s time to bring that message to Dáil Éireann’.
In response to homophobic graffiti being written next to the Panti Bar in Dublin, Byrne supported a cross-party motion to organise Rainbow Walks in Dublin on the 26th of June to celebrate Pride. She said, ‘it is the perfect response to isolated acts of vandalism, which shows why Pride is still so necessary’.
In summary, the Dublin Bay South by-election is likely to be a shootout between Fine Gael’s James Geoghegan and Sinn Féin’s Lynn Boylan, but one cannot rule out the possibility of Claire Byrne putting in a solid performance in the by-election. We are in for an interesting by-election result; be sure to tune into the campaign ahead in the coming weeks until the 8th of July when the by-election is held.