SDs are meaningful alternative to status quo, Shortall

by Cóilín Duffy

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall says it means a huge amount to her to get the chance to contest another general election, with the possibility of representing her constituents once again.

She has been at the head of the Social Democrats since June 2015, but her Dáil involvement stretches a lot further back, when she first assumed office in November 1992 as a Labour Party T.D.

“Getting elected to the Dáil by your neighbours and people in your constituency is a huge honour,” Shortall told Dublin Gazette.

“It’s very humbling from that point of view. I always feel very grateful to people after an election, if I succeed in being re-elected.

“It’s very heart-warming in many ways, but it is also a huge challenge, because what people are doing is they are deciding that they want you to represent them.

“That is ultimately what a T.D. is – a public representative, and given the fact that I have been a T.D. since 1992 it is about track record, and I think I have done a lot of work over those years.

“It’s reassuring if I am re-elected, but I don’t take anything for granted, I can assure you.”

Speaking about some of the key issues for her constituents, Shortall sees this mirroring the national picture.

“The issues in Dublin North West are very similar to the issues around the country,” she said.

“Probably the top issue is health, and concern about the fact that it is so hard to access care in the public health system, and then a lot of people are afraid of not being able to do that, and that the service won’t be there when they need it.

“Then they are forced into a situation where they are forced to buy very expensive private health insurance and it shouldn’t be like that, because other European countries have proper public health services that actually work and are available to people when they need them.

“There’s also an older demographic and access to healthcare is more important as people get on in years.

“The other issue is housing. Housing is so unaffordable now for people and it doesn’t have to be like that.

“The problem is that both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil leave the responsibility for housing to the market, and the market, of course, won’t deliver affordable housing.”

Are more laws needed in relation to housing?

“I wouldn’t say it is about laws, it’s about political beliefs,” Shortall counters.

“We in the Social Democrats very strongly believe that the government has a responsibility to ensure that there is enough housing available, but also that it is about it being affordable to people.

“That means affordable, whether you want to buy or you want to rent.

“The other area obviously is that there is sufficient social housing. Currently that is not happening at all.

“The outgoing government is very much dependant on the market, both in terms of the housing assistance payment, rather than building social housing.

“Overall, they are not doing anything to drive down the cost of housing to make it available.

“If you have a decent job, you should be able to afford a decent house, and that’s not the case at the moment.”

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