A by-election in the constituency of Dublin Bay South has been won by Labour’s Ivana Bacik in a vote which saw Fianna Fáil suffer its worst ever election result and saw Fine Gael shut out of the constituency for the first time in its history.
Sinn Féin’s Lynn Boylan came third behind Fine Gael’s James Geoghegan as voters flocked to Bacik, a high profile Labour Senator, to register their frustration with the coalition government.
Ms Bacik (pictured, centre) said Labour had emphasised its core message on the need to change housing policy, eldercare and childcare provision, community services and climate justice.
She said she was “overwhelmed and over the moon” to have won election on the ninth count after topping the poll.
The result is a blow for Tánaiste Leo Varadkar as his party had expectations of holding on to the seat left vacant after the resignation of former Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy. One official admitted the party had “thrown the kitchen sink” at the election.
It was an undoubted triumph for the centre-left Labour Party, whose support had fallen to 3% in national polls after becoming tainted by its record of propping up the state’s main right-wing parties.
Labour director of elections Duncan Smith said voters in the constituency had recognised the work Senator Bacik had done over the years on social justice campaigning and activism.
“People in this constituency like their TDs to step on to the national stage and make a difference,” he said.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the Dublin Bay South byelection result had made it very clear that voters now wanted a general election.
The party performed well in its strongholds in established working-class areas but struggled to make sought-after gains in the constituency's wealthier suburbs or in the transient communities of the city centre.
Responding to the result in which the party consolidated its vote at 16% percent of first preferences, Ms McDonald said it demonstrated the party’s huge gains in the last general election were solid.
“It is now clear that we have a government living on borrowed time. It is very clear that government support in the constituency has collapsed,” she said.
“They have been found out. Nowhere more so than in the whole area of housing policy.”
She added: “This was a byelection but it was very clear to us on the campaign trail that what people want now is a general election.”
For her part, Lynn Boylan thanked people who came out for her who did not know her as well as the sitting party TD Chris Andrews.
“They came out for me in huge numbers,” she said.
Ms McDonald said a lot of people thought the party’s big gains in February 2020 was a “flash in the pan”.
“It was not. Change is happening,” she said.
Aontú took 3% of the vote, matching other small parties such as People before Profit and the Social Democrats, which it noted had been included in broadcast debates while it had been excluded.
The party said it had “built a significant vote” for the next local election. Candidate Mairead Tóibín said she thanked her voters and “looked forward to working on the issues raised”.
Fianna Fáil lost its deposit in the election after winning less than 5% of the vote, a disaster for Taoiseach Micheál Martin and a result which immediately raised question marks over his leadership of the party.
Martin said that he was not concerned about his position following the disappointing performance of Fianna Fáil in the byelection.
When asked if he was angry about remarks made by party TDs who refused to say that he should remain as leader into the next election, Mr Martin said “no”.
“I have made it very clear from the outset when I was elected Taoiseach what I intend to do – I do intend to lead this government.”
The following is the full result of the by-election:
Bacik, Ivana (Labour) 8,134 (30.2%) Elected
Geoghegan, James (FG) 7,052 (26.2%) Eliminated Count 9
Boylan, Lynn (SF) 4,245 (15.8%) Eliminated Count 8
Byrne, Claire (Green) 2,157 (8.0%) Eliminated Count 8
Conroy, Deirdre (FF) 1,247 (4.6%) Eliminated Count 7
Flynn, Mannix (Ind.) 879 (3.3%) Eliminated Count 7
Durcan, Sarah (Soc. Dem.) 849 (3.2%) Eliminated Count 6
Purcell, Brigid (PBP) 759 (2.8%) Eliminated Count 4
Tóibín, Mairéad (Aontú) 740 (2.8%) Eliminated Count 5
Dooley, Peter (Ind.) 261 (1.0%) Eliminated Count 3
Barrett, Justin (NP) 183 (0.7%) Eliminated Count 3
Cahill, Dolores (Ind.) 169 (0.6%) Eliminated Count 3
Gilbourne, Jacqui (Renua) 164 (0.6%) Eliminated Count 2
Keigher, John (Ind.) 23 (0.1%) Eliminated Count 1
O’Keeffe, Colm (Ind.) 23 (0.1%) Eliminated Count 1