Archive for Kildare North

A Day of Results

Posted in History, Politics with tags , , , on February 10, 2020 by telescoper

The results of Saturday’s election are not all in yet, but it is clear that Sinn Féin have come top of the popular vote, with 24.5% of first preferences. As I write this they have 36 TDs compared to 22 altogether in the last Dáil Éireann. They are unlikely to win more than 2-3 more so won’t be the biggest party in terms of seats, but the chances are they will be part of the next Government.

In my own constituency of Kildare North, Sinn Féin’s Réada Cronin won a seat, dislodging one of the Fianna Fáil incumbents, Frank O’Rourke:

As news came in yesterday evening of the strong showing by Sinn Féin, quite a few old friends from the UK emailed me to ask about my opinion. Some for some reason were under the impression that this result is something to do with Brexit. It simply isn’t. The campaign was totally dominated by domestic issues, especially housing and health, on both of which the existing coalition has clearly failed. The so-called `Irexit’ party (funded and promoted by Nigel Farage stooges) flopped in spectacular, as did sundry other far-right parties who tried to whip up anti-immigrant sentiment.

Others asked whether the success of Sinn Féin makes a United Ireland more likely in the short term. Although I would love to see that outcome achieved by democratic means, I’m not sure that this election result automatically brings it closer. For one thing, the Border Poll that would be needed to achieve unification is not in the gift of the Dublin Government, whatever its complexion. For another. a successful vote for Irish unity would require a majority in favour on both sides of the border. The hard-line unionists in the North would not vote `yes’ under any circumstances so a majority would require a significant number of more moderate or more pragmatic unionists to swing towards unity. That may well happen as the negative effects of Brexit begin to bite on Northern Ireland, but it’s also possible that Sinn Féin’s past association with violence may scare some of them off. We’ll have to wait and see. A lot will depend on what happens in the next few months.

There are also some here in the Republic who regard Sinn Féin as pretty toxic, but I see the fact that it is now a major mainstream political party as a very positive development for Ireland’s democracy. For one thing, they offer a radical alternative to the two `establishment’ centre-right parties that have run Ireland for decades. These parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, came into existence as a result of the Irish Civil War, the latter party splitting from Sinn Féin on the issue of abstentionism. After the Civil War it was not until 1997 that the first Sinn Fein TD actually took a seat in the Dáil. Way back in 1919, however, the First Dail was essentially created by Sinn Féin. It seems to me only right that this party that played such a key role in Irish history should return from the wilderness. In some sense this General Election could mark the end of the beginning of Ireland as an independent nation.

Update: here is a summary of the final results.

In for the Count

Posted in Biographical, Politics with tags , , , , , , , on February 9, 2020 by telescoper

I voted in the 2020 General Election yesterday morning before Storm Cíara arrived in Maynooth, which it did in the early afternoon.I don’t know if the weather or the switch to a Saturday polling day affected the turnout, but it looks to have been about 60% nationally*. One factor in the Dublin area was that a couple of big sporting fixtures took place in the city on Saturday, the Six Nations Rugby between Ireland and Wales at the Aviva Stadium and a Gaelic Football match between Dublin and Monaghan at Croke Park.

Whatever the effect of these things on the overall turnout I’d imagine that a larger fraction of voters turned out earlier in the day than in other elections as few people would want to interrupt their Saturday night pleasures by visiting a polling station!

The worst of Storm Cíara seems to have passed, but it’s still rather windy with the odd heavy rain shower, which is enough to keep me indoors for the count. As the meteorological storm subsides, an electoral storm seems to be brewing – last night’s exit polls the three largest parties tied on about 22% of the vote (with a margin of error around 1.5%).

Taking a look at the preceding opinion polls you will see that outcome is well within the ±3% uncertainty of the last few:

  • Sunday Times/Behaviour & Attitude: FF 32%; FG 20%; SF 19%
  • Irish Times/IPSOS-MRBI: FF 25%; FG 21%; SF 21%
  • BusinessPost/Red C: FF 26%; FG 23%; SF 19%
  • Daily Mail/Ireland Elects: FF 27%; FG 22%; SF 22%
  • Sunday Times/Panelbase: FF 23%; SF 21%; FG 19%
  • Business Post/Red C: FF 24%; SF 24%: FG 21%.
  • Irish Times/IPSOS-MRBI: FF 23%; FG 20%; SF 25%

If this pattern is borne out it will be a bitter disappointment for Fianna Fáil who have had four years in opposition to make inroads but have apparently failed to do so.

The main story however is the remarkable rise of Sinn Féin, which looks likely to shatter the two-party dominance that has held sway in Ireland more or less since its inception as an independent state. Early indications are that they will do very well and return TDs in constituencies where they have never previously won a seat.

My constituency is Kildare North which elected 1 Social democrat, 1 Fine Gael and 2 Fianna Fáil TDs last time. based on early tallies it seems that Catherine Murphy (the Social Democrat), who is a very good candidate with a strong local following, will get re-elected on the first round but the Sinn Féin candidate Réada Cronin looks likely to win a seat too. That is remarkable because she only polled 6.55% of the votes in the last General Election and also lost her County Council seat in the Local Elections last year. It’s been a remarkable turnaround for her and for Sinn Féin generally. If SF do win a seat that means at least one of the incumbents will lose theirs. But who? We’ll have to wait and see!

Counting has really only just started so I won’t comment much until the real results are available, except to say that it is very difficult to see what kind of Government will emerge from all this, which looks essentially like a three-way tie in terms of popular vote, because that will not translate directly into seats owing to the way the Single Transferable Vote works.

For example, take Dublin Central, the constituency of Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald. The STV system involves a quota for automatic election which is N/(m+1) votes, where N is the number of valid ballots cast and m is the number of seats in the constituency. Dublin Central is a four-seater and it seems that Mary Lou got about 36% of the first-preference votes, which is way past the quota of 20%. This surplus (16% of the valid ballots) will be re-distributed among the 2nd preference votes of those who put her first which could make a huge difference to the fortunes of those lower-ranked candidates. But where will they go?

One might imagine that Sinn Féin voters would rank other leftish parties, but there is a fraction who don’t use the whole ballot paper, but just put a 1 next to the SF candidate. Some of the SF surplus may be wasted in this way. Moreover, during the European Elections last summer I noticed some very strange transfers that went from SF to right-wing rather than left-wing alternatives. It’s all very hard to predict, but we’ll know soon enough.

It took several days to get the full results of the European Parliament Elections last year, but in that case the constituencies were much larger (both geographically and in terms of number of voters). There were also many more candidates on each ballot paper. Hopefully there will be a clear picture of the outcome of this General Election later this evening…

*the official turnout figure is 62.9%