Is Councillor Catherine Ardagh Ready for the Dail?

There are only 25 more Wednesdays until the deadline for the general election, but 44 candidates for the Dáil have already been officially announced for Dublin’s central constituencies.

So if we’re going to look at what the candidates say they’ll do if elected, and what they’ve done as Dublin city councillors or political activists, it’s time to get started.

And we will begin today with Fianna Fáil’s candidate for Dublin South-Central: Catherine Ardagh.

Currently a councillor for the Kimmage-Crumlin area, she is the daughter of Seán Ardagh who sat in the Dáil for 15 years before deciding not to contest in the last general election.

Catherine Ardagh is the only candidate running for Fianna Fáil in Dublin South-Central, since Ballyfermot councillor Daithí de Róiste was told by the party that he couldn’t put his name forward to be a candidate there, because the party needs to meet gender quotas.

This will be the first election where at least 30 percent of a party’s candidates must be female. If any parties fail to meet this quota, they will lose a portion of their state funding. Fine Gael have also issued directives to male councillors in order to meet their gender quota.

De Róiste, who works in communications, hit out at the party on Twitter. Many media outlets ran with the story, but Ardagh says she wasn’t contacted for her views at all, and feels the coverage was unfair to her.

(We couldn’t find a news story about this issue in which Ardagh was quoted, but were unable to confirm whether she was contacted and asked for comment.)

Ardagh, however, declined to explain in what way it was unfair to her. “It’s difficult for me to really comment on it,” she said.

Instead, Ardagh wanted to talk about how she’s been working for many years to represent Fianna Fáil.

She was on the board of the South Inner City Community Development Association from 2007 until 2009, when she ran in the local elections for that area.

Ardagh lost out on the final seat to Sinn Féin’s Críona Ní Dhálaigh – the current Lord Mayor of Dublin – by fewer than 300 votes. The 2014 local elections were de Róiste’s first time running, Ardagh says. 

Ardagh’s Campaign

Will the controversy over her selection affect her popularity among voters? Ardagh doesn’t think so.

She says she’s been getting a very positive response on the doorsteps. “In Perrystown last night, they were very welcoming,” she says.

The issues she is hoping to get elected on are the ones that she has heard people raising most while canvassing, she says.

The first is cuts to services, home help and Living Alone Allowance for the elderly. Pensions haven’t been cut, but expenses have certainly increased, she explains. “I think it’s really unfair on them,” she says.

The second is the high cost of childcare, an issue she hopes will appeal to younger voters. She would like to see tax incentives and childcare in schools to help families.

Even with ten candidates running for just four seats in the area, Ardagh seems optimistic. She says she is familiar with many parts of the constituency outside of her Crumlin-Kimmage ward, including Walkinstown, Templeogue and the inner city.

What Has She Done as a Councillor?

According to Dublin City Council’s minutes, of the 25 monthly council meetings that have taken place since Ardagh was elected last June, she has attended 23: that’s 92 percent. 

Of the 11 South Central Committee meetings during that time, she was present for eight: that’s 72 percent. 

But it’s not just about showing up, is it? It’s also about using your seat at the table to try to get things done.

One of the main ways councillors do that is by proposing motions. If the other councillors vote for these motions, they amount to directives to the executive branch of the council to do something. (There’s more on the process in TASC’s Open Government Toolkit, here.)

In the South Central Committee meetings, Ardagh put forward four motions. In the meetings of the full council, she offered 26. Many of her motions related to traffic and situations involving individual constituents – details of these remain private. She says the majority of her motions relate to housing queries and antisocial behaviour.

For comparison, de Róiste has put forward 63 motions at monthly council meetings, more than twice as many as Ardagh. Also, 23 de Róiste’s motions related to the City Development Plan, one of the most important pieces of policy that councillors have power over. 

Ardagh didn’t submit any motions regarding the City Development Plan. Not under her name, at least.

She says that this is because she worked with other councillors to put together motions for the City Development Plan  as part of the Sporting Liberties group – a campaign in Dublin 8 calling for the council to rezone for sports and leisure use. But these motions didn’t go in under Ardagh’s name. 

Ardagh says her proudest achievement in the council to date, was when she proposed in May that councillors send a letter to the Minister for Justice and Equality, asking him to bring an end to long-term direct provision. People who come to Ireland and request asylum can spend up to ten years in this system, awaiting a decision. 

Ardgah’s proposal got cross-party support and was agreed upon unanimously. Though the decision is far out of her control as a Dublin city councillor, as a solicitor, she deals with a lot of asylum cases and was happy to see the proposal passed, she says.

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Louisa McGrath: Louisa McGrath is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at [email protected]

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