Voting under way in Dublin Bay South by-election

Voting in the Dublin Bay South by-election is under way.

Polls opened at 7am and will close at 10.30pm, before the count begins on Friday.

The vote follows weeks of campaigning in the race to succeed ex-Fine Gael minister Eoghan Murphy in the constituency.

Labour Senator Ivana Bacik has become the frontrunner for the vacant seat, and is now the bookies’ favourite at 2/5.

Dublin Bay South by-election
Ivana Bacik, the Labour Party candidate for the Dublin Bay South by-election, with her director of elections Duncan Smith TD in Dublin city centre (Brian Lawless/PA)

Fine Gael Councillor James Geoghegan was the early favourite but has slipped back to 2/1.

Senator and former MEP Lynn Boylan has been chosen as the Sinn Fein candidate and is the outside bet at 7/1, according to bookmakers Paddy Power.

The housing crisis has become the major battleground in the contest.

Senator Bacik has claimed voters are turning to her because of the Government’s failure to deliver on the issue.

“When we look back at the results of the February 2020 general election, you might say that’s why the outgoing government didn’t do well, because they were perceived as having failed to deliver,” she said.

Dublin Bay South by-election
Fine Gael candidate James Geoghegan canvassing in the Dublin Bay South by-election (Brian Lawless/PA)

Cllr Geoghegan began the campaign by positioning himself as the voice for a generation “locked out of the housing market”.

The 36-year-old barrister, along with his Fine Gael colleagues, has been putting out the message that the constituency will be best served by a Government TD who can influence policy.

“At the end of the day, I’m just trying to put forward a message that I’ll be a real influence in government, because I will be as a Fine Gael TD,” he said.

Ms Boylan is Sinn Fein’s spokeswoman on climate justice and is the Seanad spokeswoman for communications, climate action and environment, social protection and employment affairs.

While she concedes she faces an uphill battle, she insists there is still “all to play for” in the contest.

“We’ve always known this was a Fine Gael stronghold, that it would be a David and Goliath battle for us to take a seat in a by-election,” she said.

Dublin Bay South by-election
Lynn Boylan, the Sinn Fein candidate in the Dublin Bay South constituency, who has said that housing remains one of the biggest issues in the area (Brian Lawless/PA)

“So, it’s all to play for still, we’re under no illusions that it is a Fine Gael seat to lose.”

Other candidates include Deirdre Conroy of Fianna Fail, and Councillor Claire Byrne running for the Green Party.

The Social Democrats have chosen Sarah Durcan, while the People Before Profit candidate is Brigid Purcell.

The current TDs in the constituency are Fianna Fail’s Jim O’Callaghan, Sinn Fein’s Chris Andrews and Green party leader Eamon Ryan.

A series of safety arrangements have been but in place, to ensure the by-election can be held in accordance with Covid-19 public health advice.

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

Polling stations are to be sanitised at regular intervals, with Perspex screens set up at each presiding officer’s desk.

Voters will also be asked to provide their own pen or pencil to mark their ballot paper, but pencils will be available if required.

Dublin Bay South by-election
Polling stations in the Dublin Bay South by-election opened from 7am on Thursday (Brian Lawless/PA)

Polling hours have also been extended by 30 minutes to assist Covid-19 arrangements, closing at 10.30pm instead of the traditional 10pm.

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

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