The recent Dublin Bay South by-election, which was triggered by the resignation of Eoghan Murphy as Fine Gael TD for the constituency, brought about some interesting results. Ivana Bacik for the Labour Party won the by-election with 13,382 votes on the ninth count, ahead of James Geoghegan for Fine Gael who earned 9,235 votes overall.
Meanwhile, Lynn Boylan of Sinn Féin was eliminated in the eighth count after winning a total of 5,237 votes as did Claire Byrne of the Green Party, who won 2,985 votes. The biggest disappointment of the campaign must be for Fianna Fáil, whose candidate, Deirdre Conroy, won a total of 1,402 votes. She was eliminated on the seventh count. In relation to independents and the smaller parties, the top independent was Mannix Flynn who won a total of 1,181 votes.
The Social Democrats had another disappointing campaign in a by-election as Sarah Durcan, was eliminated on the sixth count with a total of 1,111 votes. Aontú did not make a big impression either on the bigger parties. Its candidate, Mairead Tóibín, won a total of 958 votes and was eliminated on the fifth count. People Before Profit had a solid campaign, which could have been better as its candidate, Brigid Purcell was eliminated on the fourth count as she won 818 votes.
All of these results raises a question: who are the biggest winners and losers of the campaign?
Inevitably, the main winner of the Dublin Bay South by-election, is Ivana Bacik of the Labour Party. When Eoghan Murphy announced his resignation as TD at the end of April, Bacik was highly favoured to be selected for the Labour Party. Immediately, she was selected as their candidate for the by-election. To her credit, she and Labour ran a solid campaign that was united and from the start, and it appeared that Bacik could spring a surprise.
Bacik was also able to take advantage of the framing of the election to be between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin. As a result, with the releasing of the Ipsos/MRBI poll on Monday last week, Bacik’s campaign was going extremely well.
At this point, that poll showed that Geoghegan was in front with 27% of the vote, while Bacik was on 22%, Boylan was on 13%, Byrne on 11% and Conroy on 10%. Many predicted that Bacik would be well placed to win the seat on election day as transfers would favour her. However, her campaign was not without its controversies as her record on recognition of sex work was controversial as she did not view prostitution as work.
Despite these controversies, once tallying began, it became apparent that Bacik would win the seat and earned a grand total of 8,131 votes on the first count, well ahead of Geoghegan with 7,052. This was 30.2% of the first preference vote, a massive increase on their total from the constituency in 2020, when Kevin Humphreys won 7.9% of the total first preference vote.
Moving onwards, due to Sarah Durcan’s transfers on her elimination, Bacik’s lead grew ever larger and was on 8,851 votes after the seventh count, compared to Geoghegan who was on 7,400. Transfers from the eliminations of Claire Byrne and Lynn Boylan sealed it for her as she finished on 13,382 votes.
While this might come as a surprise, this campaign was also a solid campaign for Sinn Féin. Whilst they did not win the by-election, their candidate, Lynn Boylan ran a strong campaign focusing particularly on issues such as housing.
Not long ago, as acknowledged by Sinn Féin president, Mary Lou MacDonald, it would be unimaginable for Sinn Féin to contend for a seat in Dublin Bay South, traditionally seen as a Fine Gael stronghold and a weak point for Sinn Féin.
After the first count, Lynn Boylan had a total of 4,245 first preference votes. This was 15.8% of the total vote and was only 0.3% less than the total first preference vote for its sitting TD, Chris Andrews, in last year’s general election. However, in the strong working class areas of Dublin Bay South, Boylan’s vote was very high. This is something positive that Sinn Féin can take from this campaign.
In the end, Boylan was eliminated on the eighth count with a total of 5,237 votes. It remains to be seen whether she will run in the constituency in future elections or whether she opts to run elsewhere. In any case, there are positive signs for Chris Andrews, who will likely retain his seat in the next general election.
The main loser of this campaign has to be James Geoghegan. He came into this by-election as the hot favourite to win the seat for Fine Gael after Eoghan Murphy’s resignation. However, controversies about his political past have cropped up, such as his part in the foundation of the RENUA party as parliamentary advisor to Lucinda Creighton.
Controversies also emerged within Fine Gael as his selection for the by-election was personally favoured by Leo Varadkar. Despite Kate O’Connell being a former TD for the area, Geoghegan was selected by Fine Gael and this raised questions about Fine Gael’s divisions. Meanwhile, it was found that he was a lobbyist for the tobacco industry and he was a board member of the National Maternity Hospital.
While he performed solidly in the debates, and had a solid percentage of 27% on the Ipsos/MRBI poll, it was clear that Geoghegan would not win when the results came through in Dublin Bay South,
In the end, he finished with a total of 7,052 first preference votes in the first count, which is 1.5% down on Fine Gael’s total in the constituency last year. In the ninth count, he finished on 9,235 votes which was not enough to defeat Ivana Bacik. In the next general election, it is likely that he will run again for Fine Gael alongside Kate O’Connell. Whether he will be successful in future elections remains to be seen.
The main losers of this campaign are undoubtedly Fianna Fáil. From their selection of Deirdre Conroy as the party’s candidate, they did not stand a chance in the by-election. They ran a poor campaign on social media, which at times, was laughable and had a minimal impact on the overall election results.
Conroy performed poorly in the debates and never was able to convince voters to vote for her on any particular issue. Despite this, the Ipsos/MRBI poll was slightly generous: she polled 10%, nowhere near challenging for the seat, but at least a respectable percentage considering the campaign.
However, this poll was as good as it got for Conroy. On the first count, she won a total of 1,247 votes. This was 4.6% of first preference votes, which was 9.2% down on Fianna Fáil’s total from the 2020 general election.
Conroy was eliminated on the seventh count with 1,402 votes. Questions have immediately been raised of Jim O’Callaghan’s campaign as director of elections and Micheál Martin’s future as Fianna Fáil leader as the party continues to struggle in the capital. It will certainly be an interesting few years ahead for Fianna Fáil, as it is now at a crossroads politically.