Where pedestrianisation, cycle routes, and bus priority were election battlegrounds in Dublin, supporters won out

Comment & Analysis: Supporters of pedestrianisation, cycle routes, and bus priority measures have won seats in most areas where the issues became local election battlegrounds in Dublin.

The election results have shown relatively high support for candidates who are supportive of sustainable transport and public realm measures in areas where implementation has been strong or where plans are at an advanced stage, such as Living Streets in Dún Laoghaire, the Local Area Plan in Dundrum, the pedestrianisation of New Street in Malahide, and the Dublin City Centre Transport Plan.

It’s this website’s position that every Irish political party should be ‘on their bikes’ (as the phrase goes), but this analysis takes into account that on policy, the Greens, Social Democrats, and Labour have better-written policies on sustainable transport that the three larger parties, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and Sinn Féin. Of course, this doesn’t always translate into support for projects, and the record of individual politicians varies greatly, including members of the larger three being some of the strongest supporters of positive change.

Another caveat is that there’s usually a web of issues that get somebody elected—from whether a councillor is able to get a pothole fixed to their general liability to what is or isn’t an issue for their area. This article would turn into a book if it tried to account for everything for every candidate, so it wouldn’t.

Dún Laoghaire

Maybe the highest-profile supporter of Dún Laoghaire Living Streets, Cllr Lorraine Hall (Fine Gael), topped the poll in Dún Laoghaire local electoral area, and another strong supporter Cllr Tom Kivlehan (Green) was voted in second.

The opponents of Living Streets, the Dundrum plan, and (in Fingal) the Malahide pedestrianisation made no secret of their active campaigning against councillors who supported the changes, which have annoyed vocal groups. But these targeted campaigns and the running of candidates have failed.

In Dundrum, six of the seven local councillors (including Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour, and independents) elected supported this plan and were all reelected or replaced with a candidate with the same position. So was the seventh councillor who quietly voted against the plan. However, none of the four candidates who took part in the protests against the plan were elected.

As mentioned above, every party should be ‘on their bikes’, but it is noteworthy that the Green Party who are often blamed for changes to streets even when there’s a cross-section of political parties supporting that change, and, in Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council, where street changes and plans have arguably been ahead of most other, the Greens have the same number of seats as the previous election.

Dublin City

Of course, there is a mix of reasons for the Greens’ losing seats in local areas like Ballymun in Dublin City and in South Dublin County Council overall, which are not mainly (or maybe not at all) transport-related.

In Dublin City, Cllr Michael Pidgeon (Green) is seen as a hard-working councillor for his area generally, but it is significant that he topped the poll in the South West Inner City local area after he was probably the most high-profile supporter of the Dublin City Centre Transport Plan. He proposed the counter-motion against those wanting to stop or delay the plan, penned an article on it in the Journal, and appeared on radio shows.

The second councillor to be reelected in the same area, Cllr Darragh Moriarty (Labour), took the unusual step of issuing a press release to counter IBEC’s late intervention in the plan.

Cllr Daithí Doolan (Sinn Féin leader on the city council) appeared on a Prime Time debate as an MEP candidate and argued strongly for the city centre plan and then topped the poll in the local election in the Ballyfermot Drimnagh area. Of course, as with other candidates mentioned, transport isn’t the main or only factor for their success, but the idea candidates can go on national television, strongly defend the city centre plan and then top the poll grates with the claims made by opponents of the plan and most of the media focus on it.

Also topping the poll in Dublin City were strong advocates of sustainable transport, Cllr Carolyn Moore (Green) and Cllr Feljin Jose (Green), a former chair of the Dublin Commuter Coalition. On the full council, they’ll be joined by Cllr Hazel Chu (Green), who was reelected on the first count despite her position on the Strand Road cycle route and first-time councillor Cllr Paddy Monahan (Social Democrats), who has been an advocate for cycling.

After the DLRCC area, the Dublin City Council area had a large number of Green councillors and lost only two of the seats — quite a difference from claims they’d be wiped out over cycle lanes and bus priority plans. Meanwhile, the Social Democrats were the big winners in Dublin City, and their policy is one of the strongest on supporting sustainable transport.

A big question is how supportive Social Democrats councillors will be overall now that they have gained more seats? Will those new councillors follow their party policy or find further reasons to delay projects?

As an aside from the overall picture, Larry O’Toole, who was a Sinn Féin councillor for 25 years and a member of the transport committee, will be a loss for the city in debates where he interjected with sense on a range of transport issues.


In Fingal, the Malahide pedestrianisation was made into an election issue by opoinents of the project claiming that there was mass support against the pedestrianisation of New Street.

In Malahide, there was even a candidate fielded who opposed New Street as one of her main selling points. But five of the six councillors who supported the New Street project were reelected — Cllr Joan Hopkins (SocDems), Cllr Jimmy Guerin (independent), Cllr Brian McDonagh (Labour), Eoghan O’Brian (Fianna Fáil), and David Healy (Green).

The last was pushed out by Cathal Haughey, the grandson of Charlie Haughey, which is widely seen as more about political dynasties than anything else.

While other on-street projects have not been advanced as much as in the DLRCC areas mentioned above, the Howth-Malahide ward councillors also stood up to quite daft Irish Times focus on the protection of cycle lanes on the Howth Road, where the newspaper went along with the idea that there was a binary choice of people getting to church or protecting a cycle lane on the Howth Road. The Irish Times’ editors thought this was worthy of featuring on the cover of the newspaper twice.

South Dublin County Council

South Dublin County Council is not looking great, especially Tallaght. It is the reverse of the general idea, where there has been strong implementation. However, unlike the other areas, the majority of local councillors did not support the measures, and clearly, there were other issues high on the agenda.

Cllr Paddy Holohan, who was really pushing other councillors, including local Sinn Féin councillors, to be stronger against cycle paths in the Tallaght area, has resecured his seat and taken another in Tallaght Central and Tallaght South. He and whoever he appoints to the other seat will be included in the local area council meetings.

All is far from lost in South Dublin generally. New councillors such as Ciarán Ahern (Labour) and Jess Spear (PBP), who strongly support active travel and climate action, should help sitting councillors who are of the same mindset or at least somewhat supportive of making streets safer and giving more mobility options.

Cork City

The Greens held onto three of the four seats they won in 2019, but while the Greens lost one seat, there are now an extra two Labour councillors and one extra Social Democrats councillor. Like most other cities, support for active travel projects is now widespread across parties, but when projects are faced with opposition, there need to be politicians willing to keep pushing in the face of that opposition.

One of the central issues in Cork is that there seems to be a lack of ambition on the side of the council’s executive. A lot of what has been done in recent years is adding bollards to existing cycle lanes, but nobody in power seems to be taking much heed of the bollards slowly disappearing from the city’s streets.

That even extends to enforcement of newly built projects — where other councils have, within days or weeks, clamped down on illegal parking on walking and cycling spaces, Cork City Council has allowed illegal driving and parking to clog up the multi-million euro MacCurtain Street Public Transport Improvement Scheme. Cllr John Maher (Labour), who seems to be strangely the only councillor making a big deal of the lack of enforcement, was elected in the first count in the Cork City North East area.

Limerick City

A big question in Limerick will be how councillors and the current executive of the council will interact with the newly elected Mayor of Limerick, John Moran. As the first directly elected Mayor in Ireland, Moran has promised a more livable Limerick, and transport is within his remit. Time will tell if Moran will be able to make positive progress on walking and cycling, like Mayor Bloomberg in New York or Mayor Hidalgo in Paris.

At councillors level in Limerick, Cllr Conor Sheehan (Labour) was pushing active travel on the campaign trail as well as being a strong supporter of routes to school, and he achieved the highest vote for a Labour candidate in City North in 30 years.

Cllr Joe Leddin (Labour) placed third in his area, which has seven seats, after being one of the strongest supporters of the South Circular Road cycle route, while Cllr Sarah Kiely (Fine Gael) was re-elected after being one of the main supporters of the Childer’s Road and Hyde Road cycle routes and is one of the key councillors engaging positively for the Wickham Street project.

Sǎsa Novak (Green), a strong cycling advocate, missed out on retaining the seat she was co-opted into. After she was lost, it was noted on social media that she was one of the only councillors looking for the walls to come down around Moyross to connect the area. Limerick has also gained a Soc Dems councillor, Cllr Shane Hickey-O’Mara, but this goes back to the question of whether new councillors will follow party policy or not.

Galway City

The Greens lost their two seats in Galway City — Ireland’s most car-focused city — where implementation on sustainable transport so far has been low and on the edges. But a second seat has been gained for the Social Democrats in the city. Cllr Alan Curran (Social Democrats), who had been co-opted, has retained his seat — he’s a founder of the Galway Cycle Bus and one of the strongest advocates for cycling in Ireland.

Labour has also gained in Galway, but so far, we don’t know if the new councillors will follow Labour’s national policy or be as car-focused as most sitting councillors across all parties in Galway. Pinning the city’s future to a bypass that is likely never going to be built in its current form at least, and a process of redesigning it might take the best part of a decade. You’re then stuck in a Catch-22 situation because we’ll be midway to the 2040 climate targets, which will be far more stringent than the 2030 targets.

A big question in Galway will be if councillors collectively can offer anything different than looking at the second bypass, which is — even in the best-case scenario for its supporters — years away. Or will Limerick gain an edge on Galway? And, in another four years, how many voters will be on side with the idea that nothing can be done without the second bypass?


  1. Shout out as well to cycling campaigner Eibhlín Seoighthe who took the second Social Democrats seat in Galway. Helps to offset the loss of the Greens and general conservative nature of the Council. Hopefully the new Labour councillors have a better vision for transport in the city than the sitting one.

  2. Not in Swords they didn’t. But to be fair the cycling improvements there were a bit piecemeal or where there was already legacy cycling facilities in extremely poor condition.

  3. Great article Cian, and gives the lie to many statements from commentators in relation to support for active travel and sustainable transport changes. We need these councillors to step up to the plate even more now!


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