Republic of Ireland news

Labour poised for victory in Dublin Bay South by-election

James Ward, PA

Labour’s Ivana Bacik looks set to win the Dublin Bay South by-election as tallies show she has secured the most first preference votes.

The count got under way at 9am this morning, and within a few hours Ms Bacik was pulling ahead of her biggest rival, Fine Gael’s James Geoghegan.

Labour members expressed hopes of victory, with many saying she is in a strong position to win.

Polling in the contest to replace Fine Gael TD and former minister Eoghan Murphy closed at 10.30pm on Thursday, with the count taking place at the RDS.

Labour TD Duncan Smith said he is “cautiously optimistic” that Ms Bacik will take a seat in the 33rd Dáil.

She is expected at the count centre later this afternoon with party leader Alan Kelly.

The result is expected this evening.

The Republic uses a system of proportional representation rather than the first-past-the-post election method (FPTP) used in the US and the UK.

The proportional representation with a single transferrable vote system, referred to as PR-STV or simply PR, allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference.

If a voter’s first-choice candidate is eliminated, their vote is transferred to their next preferred candidate.

The idea is that it maximises a person’s vote, with fewer votes discarded than in the FPTP system.

Turnout in the contest picked up on Thursday evening after a relatively slow start.

By around 9pm, the average voter turnout had reached 40%, compared with 34% at 8pm and 24% in the early evening, according to figures from RTÉ.

That is on a par with the last by-elections in 2019, when four contests saw turnouts of between 25% and 35%.

But it remains well below the 2020 general election, when turnout was 62.9% nationally, and 52% in Dublin Bay South.

Thursday’s vote was Ireland’s first electoral contest since the coronavirus pandemic began, but it remains to be seen if that affected turnout.

A series of safety arrangements were put in place to ensure the by-election was held in accordance with Covid-19 public health advice.

Hand sanitiser was available at all polling stations, while voters were asked to wear masks and observe social distancing rules when inside.

Polling hours were extended by 30 minutes to assist the extra arrangements, closing at 10.30pm instead of the traditional 10pm.

University College Dublin professor and anti-lockdown campaigner Dolores Cahill was prevented from entering the count centre after she refused to wear a face mask.

Ms Cahill, who ran as an independent candidate, attempted to push through a number of gardai and security officers to gain access.

The outspoken critic of Covid-19 restrictions was joined by a few supporters, who also refused to wear face coverings as required under health regulations.

The academic, who is no longer lecturing at UCD, demanded the identity of the garda, who repeatedly told her his name and the station he is associated with.

She left a short time later.

Other candidates in the election include Deirdre Conroy, of Fianna Fáil, while councillor Claire Byrne is running for the Green Party.

The Social Democrats are represented by Sarah Durcan, while the People Before Profit candidate is Brigid Purcell.

The current TDs in the constituency are Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan, Sinn Féin’s Chris Andrews and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan.

Long considered a Fine Gael heartland, Dublin Bay South is home to the affluent suburbs of Terenure, Rathmines, Rathfarnham and Ballsbridge.

The other candidates in Dublin Bay South are Justin Barrett (National Party), Jacqui Gilbourne (Renua), Mairead Toibin (Aontu) and independents Peter Dooley, Mannix Flynn, John Keigher and Colm O’Keefe.

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