NEWSfour’s guide to General Election Local candidates

Sarah Durcan – Social Democrats

Sarah is the Associate Director of Science Gallery International, bringing science, art, technology and design together to deliver a world-class educational and cultural experience for young people. Her background is in theatre, having served on the board of the Abbey Theatre, and she was a lead organiser of #WakingTheFeminists campaign to achieve gender equality in Irish theatre.  She was a candidate in last year’s local elections.  

The Social Democrats are a relatively new party, launched in 2015 by three independent TDs, Roisin Shortall, Catherine Murphy, and Stephen Donnelly. Donnelly later defected to Fianna Fail. The party adopted the Nordic model of social democracy. Their core tenets are for a more inclusive society, transparency in government, and support for SMEs

Sláintecare is the original brainchild of the Social Democrats, now widely adopted by all parties. It is a fully costed plan for a universal, single-tier public health service that would join up health and social care. It aims to promote homecare and reduce prescription charges, improved funding for mental health, including counselling, community programmes, and adult mental health teams. It was developed as the result of a cross-Party Oireachtas Committee chaired by Roisin Shortall.

The Social Democrats have made universal access to affordable housing a priority. In May 2017 the party published the Urban Regeneration and Housing Bill to eliminate loopholes to the vacant site levy and increase penalties for developers engaged in land hoarding. In January 2018 they called for a nationwide rent freeze.

Sarah believes it’s time for a new era of grown-up politics that deliver a better quality of life for all citizens. One where we can re-imagine politics as true public service, service for inclusive progress and prosperity, that respects everyone’s dignity and right to thrive throughout their life.

Jim O’Callaghan – Fianna Fáil

Jim has been a TD since 2016 and is currently Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Justice and Equality. As opposition spokesperson he drafted and secured cross party support for his Parole Bill, which was passed by the Oireachtas. The Bill gives victims of crime and their families the right to be heard during the parole process. The Oireachtas also passed his proposals to expand the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau into law. A keen cyclist, he advocates the extension of cycling infrastructure in Dublin.  

On health Fianna Fáil promises to create 2,600 additional hospital beds (same as FG) and to significantly increase home care support hours to alleviate delayed discharges, as well as recruiting 1,000 extra consultants and 4,000 extra nursing staff over five years. 

The party also says it will create 200,000 new homes by 2025, as well as an extra 50,000 social and affordable homes. They declare they will increase homeless funding to €250 million, and increase rent supplement levels by 10 percent. 

They promise an extra €5 a year in the state pension over five years (same as FG) and will introduce a transition pension in the interim for people aged 65 and 66.

On climate Fianna Fáil also says it is committed to reaching a 70 percent target for renewable electricity by 2030 (same as FG). The party says it’s committed to raising carbon tax to €80 per tonne by 2030 and undertake the retrofitting of homes with funding of €200 million. It would establish a €5 million trees in towns fund for local authorities, and allow local authorities to launch car-free days in specified parts of their area. It would also ban diesel cars from Irish cities from 2030, with the aim of a complete removal of fossil fuel cars by 2035.

Cllr Chris Andrews – Sinn Féin

Chris served as a TD between 2007 and 2011 for the Fianna Fáil party.  During that term he was Convenor of the Finance Committee, and also sat on the Trade, Enterprise and Employment Committee, and the European Scrutiny Committee. He campaigned on behalf of the Palestinian people, personally taking part in a flotilla to try to bring aid to the people of Gaza. After losing his Dáil seat in the Fianna Fáil meltdown of 2011 he left the party a year later citing disillusionment with the lack of leadership as the reason and joined Sinn Féin.

Chris is currently a councillor for the South East Inner City ward. He is involved in community development work with residents’ associations, environmental groups, charities and local community projects focused on homelessness and mental health. Chris was central in setting up the Ringsend/Irishtown Darkness into Light Walk which in two years has raised over €200,000 for Pieta House and suicide awareness.    

Sinn Féin, (an all island party) call for a new universal public health system for Ireland that provides care to all, free at the point of delivery. They want to end the two- tier system and replace it with comprehensive community-based primary health and social care services for all, and to recruit 6,600 additional frontline healthcare workers. They call for an end to public subsidies for private healthcare. 

On housing they promise to build 100,000 public homes on public land; including 60,000 social homes. They would also take emergency action to address the rental crisis by reducing rents by up to €1,500 a year with a refundable tax credit, alongside introducing a three-year freeze on all existing and new rents. They are also calling for a referendum to enshrine the right of housing into the constitution, and to target long-term homelessness.

Kevin Humphreys – Labour

Kevin was a TD in the Fine Gael-Labour coalition from 2011 until 2016. He served as Minister of State for Employment, Community and Social Protection from 2014 to 2016.  He was Convenor of the Oireachtas Finance Committee, Public Expenditure and Reform, and secured reforms to the Freedom of Information Act.  He was also active on establishing an Independent Advisory Council on Climate Change. He first became a county councillor in 1999, and was elected again 2004 and 2009, topping the poll, both times. One of the things he worked for was the Dublin bike scheme. He also served as Deputy Lord Mayor in 2009. Kevin campaigned against the original 8th amendment in 1983, and has been a keen advocate of minority causes. Since 2016 he has been a member of the Seanad. 

Labour want to end the two-tier health system that exists in this country. They promise to deliver Universal Health Care by creating a new National Community Health Service – a public primary care system where access is free to all. They also want to extend free GP care to those under 18, followed by the rest of the population by 2021 at the latest, and reduce drug costs and prescription charges. The party wants to see an annual social welfare increase of a minimum €5 per week every year in all social welfare payments.

On housing they want public land to be made available for social and affordable housing, including schemes of affordable home ownership. They want to replace the Housing Agency and the Housing Finance Agency with a new single national State agency, called the National Housing Development Bank, which is to be given the powers, the land, the expertise and the money to deliver housing now.

Eoghan Murphy – Fine Gael

Eoghan is the current Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, a position he’s held since 2017. In his Urban Development and Building Heights: Guidelines for Planning Authorities (2018) plan he called for councils to lift ‘overly restrictive maximum heights.’ The measure is not without its merits as it is an attempt to check urban sprawl, but it also means local councillors can no longer impose building height rules in city and county development plans, and could mean Dublin will lose its status as a low-density city.  

Murphy has been heavily criticised for inaction in relation to housing and that homelessness has grown under his watch. He defends his record, including €400m spending on HAP payments rather than implementing adequate funding for local authorities to build public housing.

However, the one kind of housing model he seems to favour is the ‘co-living’ model; a small private en-suite room with shared communal spaces.  Such units may suit short-term mobile residents, but with rents ranging from €1200 to €1500 a month they are hardly a solution to the housing crisis. The five-floor complex earmarked for Dún Laoghaire, and recently given the green light by An Bord Pleanála, has been described by some as Dickensian, with rooms compared to bedsits. Last December a motion of no confidence in the Minister tabled by the Social Democrats was only narrowly defeated by three votes.

However, despite this, the Minister and Fine Gael are confident they can deliver 35,000 – 40,000 new homes every year for the next five years. And they promise to expand the Help to Buy scheme, aided with the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, in a bid to help more first-time buyers.

Kate O’Connell – Fine Gael

Kate was elected for the first time to the Dáil in 2016, taking Lucinda Creighton’s former seat for Fine Gael. Originally from Kilbeggan, County Westmeath, she now lives in Rathgar where she runs a successful pharmacy practice.   

Fine Gael has promised 2,600 additional hospital beds (same as FF) along with 3,840 new primary care workers with 1,000 in place by the end of the year. It says it would extend free GP care to all children under 16, and reduce the drug payment scheme to a maximum of €75 a month. The party  says it will recruit 5,000 nursing staff over the next five years, as well as 1,000 new consultants over ten years (same as FF).

They also promise to raise the state pension by €5 a year and introduce a State transition pension for those retiring at 66 (same as FF), and a State pathway pension for those retiring at 65, while eliminating the need to sign on and be actively seeking work.

They promise to introduce legislation to provide for tenancies of a long-term or indefinite duration, which would give renters greater long-term security, but it must be noted they opposed Sinn Féin’s recent bill to freeze rents. 

They plan to raise the carbon tax (currently €26 per tonne) over 10 years by €6 each year with this raise ring-fenced and invested in climate action, and to increase renewable electricity to 70 percent by 2030 (same as FF). They want to increase the current level of retrofitting of homes tenfold, and increase the take up of electric vehicles.  

There are identical similarities in the policies and promises that both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are making, although the parties differ in some respects, particularly their tax proposals.

Eamon Ryan – Green Party/Comhaontas Glas

Eamon has been leader of the Green party since 2011 and a TD for Dublin Bay South since 2016. He was first elected to the Dáil in the 2002 election and was the Green party’s spokesperson on Transport, Enterprise, Trade and Employment; and Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. From 2007 until 2011 he was Minister for Communications, Energy, and Natural Resources in the Fianna Fáil-Greens government which ended with the economic collapse and the bailout. He did much to promote green energy and the use of wind power doubled in Ireland during this period. He was criticised by some environmental activists for supporting, along with the government, the Shell to Sea programme in County Mayo, which he had actively opposed before the Greens entered government.   

The Greens (an all island party) believe in a single-tier health system that gives universal access based on need. They want to boost primary care facilities, putting the patient at the heart of the healthcare system, as well as giving people access to their medical records. Innovate in education, agriculture and economy.  

In their manifesto they set out an ambitious plan to provide affordable housing for all, new public housing founded on the Vienna model, a cost-rental housing model, where tenants pay the construction and maintenance costs, not the market rate and homeownership at a cost equal to no more than 30 percent of net income. They also want to empower renters by paying rent supplement in advance, and legislate to end the sale of property as a reason for ending a lease. 

The Green Party have 40 years expertise on the environment and have led many of the current small changes implemented. They believe that Ireland must lead the way in the fight against climate change with system change. They demand Ireland implement fully the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, retrofit buildings for energy efficiency, and transition to a 100 percent decarbonised power system, while ending reliance on fossil fuels completely. They are opposed to fracking and demand a total ban on further exploration or drilling.

Annette Mooney – S-People Before Profit

Annette is a member of People Before Profit, a political movement that grew out of frustration at the perceived concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, and widespread inequality. She narrowly lost her council seat last year to Mannix Flynn, and is running now for a Dáil seat. It will be Annette’s second time to run for the Dáil. She was the coordinator of the Together for Yes campaign, which delivered the largest yes vote in the country for Repeal. She campaigned successfully for the Irish Glass Bottle social and affordable housing, and has been a consistent campaigner for rent controls. She worked as a community nurse before becoming a secondary school teacher, and if elected she promises only to take the average wage.

To protect the less well-off Annette and PBP want to bring about strict rent controls, and a situation where rental increases can only be linked to a rise in the Consumer Price Index. Also PBP argue that tenants must be given security of tenure, and where a building is sold off the tenants be allowed to keep their homes (same as GP).

She would like to see more compulsory purchase orders on vacant properties, and an end to big land developers buying up sites and then sitting on them. She also wants to see an expansion of homeless shelters and an end to the degrading practice where homeless people have to ring every day at a certain time to see if they can secure a bed. 

She would like to reverse the 300 buses cut from Dublin Bus that the Fianna Fail-Green government brought in, move to a €1 fare and gradually to free buses. She’s calling for more cycle lanes with soft barriers, as well as a move to renewable energy.