This is the letter sent last week by the Workers’ Party to Dublin City Councillors regarding the upcoming vote on the seat of the late Cllr Anthony Flynn. This election has been triggered by a very dark and difficult series of events. We could argue that The Workers’ Party should claim the seat purely on the basis of our democratic mandate. However, we believe this would be unconscionable and are calling for surrounding issues to be addressed. Letter by Éilis Ryan and Claire O Connor sets out our position on: 1) The Democratic Mandate 2) The Housing Emergency 3) Assisting the Homeless 4) Supporting Survivors of Sexual Assault
The Workers’ Party is asking you to follow a fair democratic procedure and vote for our Party’s candidate to be elected to the vacant seat in the North Inner City Local Electoral Area, following the untimely passing of the late Cllr. Anthony Flynn.
In order to assist you in making your decision on this issue we wish to make representations on the following four points concerning our candidacy:
- The democratic mandate
- The housing emergency
- Assisting the homeless
- Supporting survivors of sexual assault
- The democratic mandate
Éilis Ryan, former Workers’ Party councillor, was the last candidate eliminated prior to the election of the late Anthony Flynn in the 2019 Local Elections. The final margin was 46 votes.
The functions of Local Authorities/Councils is provided for in s. 63 of the Local Government Act 2001 (as amended). Chief among these functions is:
- a) to provide a forum for the democratic representation of the local community, in accordance with section 64, and to provide civic leadership for that community
Section 69 of the Local Government Act, 2001 states that when a local authority is performing a function it must have regard to certain factors. One of these is:
g) the need to promote social inclusion…
Social inclusion is defined in section 2 as including:
a reference to any policy, objective, measure or activity designed to counteract poverty or other social deprivation or to facilitate greater participation by marginalised groups in the social, economic and cultural life of the local community.
We would suggest this encompasses ensuring that communities, especially ones which face the socio-economic challenges like some in Dublin North Inner City, continue to have democratic representation and their electoral desires respected. If this is the case, in making a co-option decision, the Council should ensure that the electorate of Dublin North Inner City continue to have democratic representation and should not make a decision which would undermine or contravene this.
In circumstances, where the late Cllr Anthony Flynn had the opportunity to leave behind instructions on co-option and did not take up this opportunity, the most objective way to ensure inclusion is to consider the wishes of the electorate as expressed at the previous election. In the previous election, Cllr. Anthony Flynn was elected in the last round by 46 votes in a run-off with another candidate. This other candidate was Éilis Ryan. Co-opting Éilis to fill this vacancy would therefore reflect the wishes of the electorate and would be an adequate representational substitute in a way that no other candidate for co-option could be. No other candidate could point to such an objective factor nor can they rely on the endorsement of the electorate. In such circumstances, the co-option of the Workers’ Party candidate by the Council both ensures the Council carries out its functions in accordance with section 69 and in accordance with the wishes of the electorate.
- The housing emergency
The housing emergency in Dublin is getting worse rather than improving. The Workers’ Party has taken a leading position in researching and presenting real long term solutions to undoubtedly the greatest issue facing the Council.
It was the Workers’ Party which first promoted a cost-rental model as the practical solution to the housing emergency in Dublin. In its document Solidarity Housing (published in May, 2016) the Workers’ Party laid out in clear terms what a cost-rental model of housing provision is and how it can work in an Irish context. The Party effectively publicised these proposals and made clear interventions at council level, particularly in the relation to the sale of council lands at O’Devaney Gardens.
On these matters we believe that we have played a constructive role in seeking real, long-term solutions to the greatest problem affecting our city. We would look forward to once again utilising our position on Dublin City Council to play such a constructive role.
- Assisting the homeless
The Workers’ Party believes the solution to the homelessness crisis is the provision of homes for all of those in need through effective housing provision by the State and Local Authorities. However, we recognise that until this is achieved the issue of those currently homeless is an immediate one which must be a priority for the Council. The Workers’ Party has always sought to ensure that public bodies, funded, managed and controlled by the State or Local Authorities, should take the lead role in this area.
While often well intentioned charities should not be the lead organisations in this area, especially those without effective public oversight. It is the duty of the Council to care for the needs of the citizens and residents of Dublin in the first instance. We have long stated that it is not good enough for the State and Local Authorities to shirk their responsibility in this area. While there may be a place for charities providing less vital services we have always and will continue to call for and plan that the Local Authority, and the State, takes the lead role in assisting these citizens and residents in distress.
We believe it is essential that the wider operation of ICHH is adequately investigated and lessons learnt. This must be a priority in order that the well-meaning social activism that many carried out on its behalf can be fully recognised while seeking to ascertain the context which led to serious allegations concerning its CEO and wider concerns about its operation, which were known to those who took a critical interest in it for some considerable period of time. This investigation must be thorough and intensive so once again we do not have a situation in Ireland of claiming how could anyone have known? Or what could have been done? People can know if they maintain a critical and responsible approach and there are clear processes in place to stop the cycle of such misuse of power.
- Supporting Survivors of Sexual Assault
The Workers’ Party believes that the victims and survivors of sexual assault must be supported. We are concerned that the commentary and lack of responsible discourse following the details emerging of serious sexual assault allegations against the late Cllr. Anthony Flynn has caused harm to survivors of sexual violence and intensified the suffering of the alleged victims, their families and the broader community.
We note that the alleged victims in question are members of a vulnerable cohort of society and believe their courage in coming forward must be recognised and respected. In order to move forward, a trauma-centred approach is required and we appeal to councillors to deal with this issue in a transparent, sensitive manner, which puts solidarity with survivors of sexual violence front and centre. Those who have made allegations of serious sexual assault must receive the support they need and Dublin City Council must play its role in this.
While we appreciate the very constructive role that some Independent elected representatives can and have played in representing the interests of working-class communities, the issue of how they have recently functioned within the Dublin North Inner City area is one that must be examined.
I hope as an elected representative on Dublin City Council you will take the time to consider the above. We would hope that you appreciate that as a Party we attempt to always be constructive in our political approach. We hope that you may be able to see the value the representation of a democratically endorsed Workers’ Party candidate can provide to the communities of North Inner City.
While we are engaging in the process set out by the City Manager in a recent letter as he presents it as in line with the Council’s standing orders in relation to filling this vacancy, the issues at stake in this case, of the proper democratic representation of working-class communities, are of primary importance to our Party and we reserve the right to pursue their adequate resolution.
Former Workers’ Party Councillor, North Inner City LEA
Workers’ Party representative, Dublin Central