By Jenny Darmody
Everybody’s got voting on their mind this month as one of the most exciting Presidential elections to date enters its final stages. But that’s not the only seat being filled on October 27th.
Sadly, Brian Lenihan passed away after his long battle against pancreatic cancer. He was a very popular politician and was the only Fianna Fáil TD in Dublin to win a seat in the general election. But, for Dublin West, his seat remains unfilled, and that will change at the end of October, on the same day as the Presidential election.
The Dublin West constituency lent its seats to some of the more well-known TDs, and it’s been considered one of the most boring constituencies at election time, with shoe-ins, like Leo Varadkar, Joan Burton and Joe Higgins. But with the ‘star’ politicians already sitting comfortably in the Dáil, it will be far more interesting to see who of the remaining contenders will win the vacant seat.
Patrick Nulty, Labour
Patrick Nulty narrowly missed out on that final seat in March to Brian Lenihan. He’s a strong believer in free education, “I would campaign that there would be no further increase in the registration fee.” Nulty also wants to improve the issuing of grants for students by taking their assessment away from the local authorities. Nulty stressed he is not a member of the political elite, “I don’t come from a family of generations of politicians,” he says. “I come from a working class background.” The Labour candidate also stressed the importance of helping the economy grow to benefit students and young people and to ensure “that where students can‘t get employment immediately they can get experience working in their chosen field.”
David McGuinness, Fianna Fáil
David McGuinness was Brian Lenihan’s running mate in the general election. As a teacher, he has particular interest in education and students and is opposed to Labour’s broken promises. “They signed a pledge before the election and they backtracked. I disagree with their approach,” he says. McGuinness also says he supports the internships scheme, but thinks the government needs to be more aggressive with it. “Graduates are leaving college with nothing to do,” he says. In relation to grants, McGuinness feels the problem lies with the paper trail applicants have to go through and the solution is online. “We need to use computer resources,” he says. “I want to see that implemented.” McGuinness feels he has the ability to make a difference. He says the constituency “does not need another silent backbencher… [or] candidates who are against everything and are for nothing, although they may be very popular.”
Roderic O’Gorman, Green Party
In the general election, the Green Party failed to obtain any seats. Now, Roderic O’Gorman is fighting to be the only Green in the Dáil. O’Gorman believes there should be no increase in registration fees at the moment, but maybe in the future. “I don‘t think [reintroduction of fees] should be done in the next 3 or 4 years…I think after that period we need to look at the overall funding of the third level system,” he says. O’Gorman thinks the problem with issuing grants lies with local authorities. “I‘m not sure if going through the local authorities is the most efficient way of distributing the grants and I think that entire system needs to be overhauled” he says. He believes if he was the only Green in the Dáil he would still be able to make a difference. “You can use the opposition to affectively focus the government on certain issues,” he says. “I’ll be getting the government to look at three main issues: jobs, education and political reform.”
Paul Donnelly, Sinn Féin
Paul Donnelly kicked off a passionate campaign with guest speaker Gerry Adams at his campaign launch. Donnelly says he is completely opposed to the cuts in the education sector as well as third level fees. “We do believe there should be no fees whatsoever,” says Paul. He also believes the problems with grants lies with the system used to distribute them. “It seems that the system that’s in place at the moment is just not fit for purpose,” he says. “The departments that look after them need to be resourced.” Donnelly says Sinn Féin’s policies on banking guarantees and jobs will all help kick start the economy. ”Sinn Fein were the first ones to call on the pension reserve fund to be used.”
Ruth Coppinger, Socialist Party
Ruth Coppinger is a new candidate for Dublin West now that Socialist Joe Higgins has his seat in the Dáil. She believes the United Left Alliance’s mission to end the crisis in the economy is one of the best ways they can help students. “We want public investment in job creation,” she says. “Most of our graduates now have to emigrate.” She says the severe delay for students receiving grants is down to a lack of staff in the local authorities, which forces parents and students to take out loans to pay fees. “We want to give young people a future where they don’t have to emigrate,” she says. Coppinger says electing another member of government [Fine Gael/Labour] will be just another “yes man.” She says electing her as a member of the United Left Alliance will “send a really strong message to the government to stop this disastrous policy.”
Barry Caesar Hunt, Independent
Best known for his stint on TV3’s The Apprentice Barry Caesar Hunt is currently running his own barber shop and now is looking to be elected to the Dáil. Barry feels there are ways that business and revenue could develop through students, in particular, ITB in Dublin West. He says there is plenty of space for businesses to set up to improve the services students have. Hunt says, “I understand that student grants process can be slow and I will do everything I can to speed up that process.” He says he would also work on getting student accommodation on a deferred basis so students would not have to pay rent and deposits immediately. “I know these are small changes but it’s these small changes that can spur bigger ones,” says Hunt. He says we need to stimulate job growth by “reducing commercial rates and extending the intern system to all sectors incentivising workers and employers.” Hunt says, “as a sitting TD I would be in the arena where these changes for the better can be heard.”
Eithne Loftus, Fine Gael
Eithne Loftus was selected to run in the by-election over Kieran Dennison, who contested the election in March. Unfortunately, The College View could not contact Loftus in relation to student matters. However, Minister Leo Varadkar congratulates her on his website, saying, “Eithne is a great candidate with an excellent track record in the constituency. I have no doubt that Eithne will run a very positive campaign, and will put the constituency first at all times.”