Cork North Central goes to the polls

Cork North Central goes to the polls
Housing was the strongest issue on the doorsteps in this by-election campaign.

Voters in the Cork North Central constituency go to the polls today to elect a TD to replace Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher.

Housing, healthcare and proper northside representation have been the issues encountered by prospective TDs in recent weeks.

Constituents have 12 candidates to choose from, with all the major parties contesting for the seat along with independents.

The constituency started off as a five-seater when it was first established in 1981 but was reduced to four seats in 2007, with Fianna Fáil represented since the beginning.

The constituency itself stretches from parts of Bishopstown, the city centre island up through inner-city areas out to the suburbs of Glanmire, Blarney, Glounthaune, and Whitechurch and then into rural areas. 

Voting got underway this morning at 7am and will end tonight at 10pm. 

The counting of votes takes place tomorrow in Nemo Rangers with a result expected tomorrow night.

The Cork by-election remained relatively untouched by controversy until recently when rumours emerged that Cork North Central TD Dara Murphy (FG) is to resign before Christmas.

While Fine Gael have refused to confirm this, a number of candidates are annoyed that he did not resign earlier to allow constituents to choose two new TDs instead of one today.

Housing issues have been to the fore on the doorsteps in Cork North Central in recent weeks.

Many of the candidates themselves, as well as the Cork Chamber, highlighted urban living and new housing as the number one issue in the area.

“The number one issue we have encountered has undoubtedly been housing and that encompasses homelessness, younger families not being able to afford a mortgage, sky-rocketing rents, a lack of social, affordable and private housing,” said Cllr Padraig O’Sullivan (FF) who is aiming to keep the seat for his party following Billy Kelleher’s election to the European Parliament.

“It’s not the only issue but it’s the main one we encountered.” Sinn Fein’s candidate in the race, Cllr Thomas Gould, agreed that housing is the number one issue being discussed on the doorsteps and blamed Fine Gael and Fianna Fail for it.

“For some people, it’s the lack of social housing - there are 5,000 people on the council’s waiting list and another 2,000 relying on Housing Assistance Payment, worried about the lack of housing,” he explained.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar joined Senator Colm Burke on a canvas at Blackpool Shopping Centre, Cork. Senator Colm Burke is running for Fine Gael in the Cork North Central by-election.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar joined Senator Colm Burke on a canvas at Blackpool Shopping Centre, Cork. Senator Colm Burke is running for Fine Gael in the Cork North Central by-election.

“A lot of people are also very concerned about the numbers of homeless people, especially children, in Cork and across Ireland.

“There are also issues in terms of the lack of affordable houses and the huge rents people are being forced to pay.” Fellow City Councillor and Labour candidate John Maher added:

“Housing is the main concern and it’s a complex one with the need for social housing and support for those who are renting and can’t afford their own home as well as private, affordable housing.

“Even the older people who have a house, they’re worried and angry for younger people who can’t get one - it’s the first thing they say,” he said.

“They’re worried about the kids who don’t have a house for Christmas.” The Fine Gael candidate in the race, Senator Colm Burke, was forced to defend his party’s record on housing in the region this week on the Tonight Show.

He responded to criticism by saying that 1,000 local authority houses are being built in Cork, including many on the northside.

Senator Burke pointed to a drop in unemployment in the constituency as well as recent school builds and extensions, a primary healthcare centre and housing projects underway in the constituency.

Northside by-election candidates from left, Thomas Gould, Sein Fein; John Maher, Labour and Colm Burke, Fine Gael during an open debate at Gaelcholáiste Mhuire AG Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Northside by-election candidates from left, Thomas Gould, Sein Fein; John Maher, Labour and Colm Burke, Fine Gael during an open debate at Gaelcholáiste Mhuire AG Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“On housing, we have built over 40 houses on the Harbour View Rd as part of an ongoing regeneration project,” he said.

“There’s another 43 to be completed by the end of December and on White Street, there’s 47 units to be built there.

“People want houses built but they want them built in a faster fashion and we have to up our game on that,” he added.

Senator Burke also pointed out the need to progress the affordable housing scheme and ensure that sites are identified on which to build affordable accommodation for young people seeking to live in Cork.

Healthcare issues and anti-social behaviour have also been to the fore on the doorsteps, with constituents keen to see hospital waiting lists addressed and more gardaí in the area.

Debates have seen political rivals butt heads over issues such as health, housing and public transport in recent weeks.

The by-election has also seen many party leaders get involved.

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