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Irish European and Local Election results

by Frank Schnittger Wed May 29th, 2019 at 11:57:40 PM EST

Counting in the Irish European Elections has been completed although there is a re-count in Ireland South where only 327 votes separate the final two candidates with almost 100,000 votes apiece (scroll right to view all the count totals up to count 18). Overall the election is a triumph for the Greens and Fine Gael (EPP) who increased their share of the first preference vote at the expense of Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail (ALDE).

In Northern Ireland a surge in the centrist and non-sectarian Alliance Party vote meant that they gained a seat at the expense of the Official Unionist Party. Ireland doesn't seem to be following the European trend towards fragmentation of the party system and a growth (in some countries) of the far right.

There is still some uncertainty regarding the outcome of the Ireland South vote depending on the result of the re-count and the re-distribution of the losing (6th. place) candidate's votes as this will determine who finishes 3rd. 4th. and 5th. The 5th. placed candidate will only be able to take their seat if/when Brexit happens and Ireland's allocation of seats is increased. For the purposes of this analysis I am assuming that the candidates currently in 3rd., 4th. and 5th. place will retain those places after the re-count and re-distribution, although it is quite possible that the Greens will claim 4th. place from Fine Gael and thus gain the last automatic seat.

The Trend in the Irish Local elections is somewhat different with both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail increasing their share of the first preference votes and seats. However the major winners are the Greens and the new Social Democratic party with Sinn Fein and Solidarity People before Profit the major losers - between them losing over half their seats. Again, it can be argued that this represents a consolidation of the centre left and right at the expense of more left wing or nationalist parties.

However, as is always the case in Ireland, the reality is much more complex, with a variety of local, regional, personality, policy and inter-party issues at play. Fine Gael has been rewarded for its perceived strong performance on Brexit and the selection of some strong candidates. The Greens have finally been forgiven for their role as a minority coalition partner in the disastrous 2007-11 Fianna Fail led government which presided over the economic and banking crash in Ireland. Fianna Fail has been slowly rehabilitating itself by building on its strong organisational base at local level.

Sinn Fein has been punished for its failure to restore the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland set up under the Good Friday Agreement following various disagreements with the DUP. It's policy of abstentionism in Westminster has also meant it has been unable to exert much influence on Brexit, and given the DUP a free run at representing "the voice of Ulster" in British media and politics when in fact it represents only a little over 20% of the Northern Ireland vote. Sinn Fein has also been hit by allegations of bullying and quite a few resignations and splits on issues such as marriage equality and abortion.

The Alliance Party's triumph is a first for centre ground non-sectarian politics, although it can be argued that John Hume's SDLP also occupied that space back in his day.  The non-sectarian vote has been increasing slowly over the years, but in this case it was boosted by the popularity of the Alliance Party's candidate and Leader, Naomi Long, and the retirement of the Ulster Unionist Party incumbent, Jim Nicholson. It also sends a strong message to Westminster that a large majority of Northern Ireland voters are against Brexit with the Alliance Party very much aligned with the Lib Dems on that issue. With Sinn Fein also against Brexit, that means two out of Northern Ireland's three MEPs are staunch Remainers.

Brexit has also played a key role in Fine Gael's success in the European Elections, a success that was not matched by their performance in the local elections where more local issues tend to predominate. In contrast, the Labour party remains in the doldrums, stuck on 3.1% in the European elections and 5.7% in the local elections. Not so long ago - in 2011 - it could command up to 20% of the vote. It has never recovered from its involvement as the junior coalition partner in the post crash government from 2011 to 2016 which introduced austerity and regressive taxation measures.

The Confidence and Supply arrangement by which Fianna Fail are keeping a minority Fine Gael government in power is due to end after the next budget in the autumn. By then it is also hoped that the Brexit issue will have been resolved leading to much greater clarity over the policy options available to an Irish Government in the future. An Taoiseach, Leo Varadker, will be hoping that the next general election will be fought on Brexit related and European issues as Fine Gael has done much better in the European as opposed to the local elections.

If Fine Gael doesn't do a much better job of addressing public housing and healthcare issues in the meantime, we could yet see a very decisive swing to the left in Irish politics, despite the current very rude health of the Irish Economy, with GNP growth still at around 5% p.a. and unemployment now down to less than 5%.

Ireland Unemployment Rate

A hard Brexit would soon put an end to that downward trend and rural areas, in particular, would be very hard hit by tariffs of up to 50% on beef and agri-food products. Any attempt to impose customs controls at the Border would destabilise Irish politics very quickly and any government attempting to do so would quickly fall. We could be witnessing the calm before the storm at the moment and the relative peace and prosperity of recent years could soon be a distant memory.

In the Midlands North west constituency, European Parliament senior Vice President Mairead McGuinness (FG, EPP) topped the poll and was elected on the first count. It took 13 counts for independent Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, Matt Carty (Sinn Fein) and the second Fine Gael Candidate, former Rose of Tralee and LGBTIQ+ advocate, Maria Walsh to edge past Peter Casey (Independent), Brendan Smith (Fianna Fail), and  Saoirse McHugh,(Greens).  

I was particularly pleased to see Peter Casey fail to make it, as he had sought to weaponize the immigration and Traveller Community issues during the Presidential Campaign. It is also quite shocking for Fianna Fail to fail to win a seat in what has previously been part of their heartland. Poor candidate selection didn't help, but they are also becoming something of an older and very conservative person's party.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu May 30th, 2019 at 07:59:47 AM EST
The Greens' Ciaran Cuffe topped the poll in Dublin, with former Tánaiste (deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald (FG, EPP) coming in second. Clare Daly of the left-wing Independents4Change group won the third automatic seat with Barry Andrews (FF, ALDE) taking a fourth seat if/when Brexit happens - scroll across to count 16 in linked election table.

Incumbent Lynn Boylan (Sinn Fein) lost out in fifth place, and Irexit candidate, Hermann Kelly, got all of 2,441 votes or 0.67% of the vote. Regular readers here will recall that the Spectator's Correspondent, John Waters, had predicted that "Had an Irexit-promoting party contested the 2011 election it would have swept the board" to which I responded in an unpublished letter to the Editor of the Spectator "Let's see how his Irexit candidate, Hermann Kelly, does in the European Parliament elections in Dublin next month. I would be very surprised if he exceeded 5% of the vote. Hardly "sweeping the board".

As usual, I was being too kind...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu May 30th, 2019 at 08:22:29 AM EST

A full recount is taking place in the Ireland South Constituency - not surprisingly as only 327 votes separate Grace O'Sullivan (Greens) and Liadh Ní Riada Sinn Fein. The transfer of the losing candidates votes could also determine the order of the winners, with the fifth candidate only taking up their seat when/if Brexit happens and Ireland's allocation of seats is increased.

Note that incumbent Deirdre Clune is only in contention because of a large transfer of votes from her party colleague, Andrew Doyle, although the intra-party transfer rate of less than 50% is low by Irish Party standards and indicates a lack of collegial solidarity within the Fine Gael Party. Either that, or Andrew Doyle's vote was largely a personal or local one and had little to do with his party affiliation. Andrew Doyle was the only major Wicklow based candidate in the far north east of the constituency whereas Deirdre Clune's base is in Cork in the far south.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu May 30th, 2019 at 08:51:07 AM EST
The election of Naomi Long of the non-sectarian Alliance Party is a game changer in Northern Ireland as it has always, traditionally, been represented by two Unionist and one Nationalist MEPs. In part this represents demographic changes with an increasing part of the population identifying as neither Nationalist or Unionist. In part it reflects the fact that the Nationalist and Unionist populations are much more finely balanced and neither can any longer claim hegemony over N. Ireland politics. The DUP still has some difficulty coming to terms with that.

Note also the derisory votes of the Conservative Party and UKIP Candidates. "Mainland" i..e. British parties have never had any foothold in N. Ireland, the irony of which seems to have been lost on Unionists who claim they are more British than the British themselves. Note also that well over 50% of Colum Eastwood's votes transferred to Naomi Long (in preference to Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson) ensuring Long's election by a huge margin over the Traditional Unionist Voice candidate Jim Allister - whereas Eastwood himself got hardly any transfers when Ulster Unionist candidate, Danny Kennedy, was eliminated.

Sectarian voting patterns still rule the roost, particularly among Unionist voters.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu May 30th, 2019 at 09:12:15 AM EST
A Chara,

Your political correspondent, Pat Leahy, muses on the challenges facing Leo Varadker in the dying months of his government ["Leo Varadkar's fate is at stake as he faces three great tests", Opinion, 15 June].

Fine Gael performed much better in the Euro elections than they did in the Local elections securing 30% of the vote (+7 compared to 2014 result) compared to 25% (+1)  in the Local elections, which indicates that they do much better when European issues like Brexit are to the fore. So it may well suit Varadker to call an election while Brexit is still a live issue.

He may have little choice, what with a diminishing Dail majority and four bye-elections, which could further puncture his balloon, due before January. Varadker might just as well go the whole hog and call a general in October/November when Brexit may, or may not be resolved.

My guess is the UK will also be having a general election around then. There is no harm in meeting Boris Johnson with a fresh mandate... The question is a mandate for what? How would Ireland respond to a no deal Brexit? Would there be recriminations about "Varadker over-playng his hand" or a resurgence in national determination not to be messed around by the British and a hard line on all relations with them until such time  as the DUP veto on a "border down the Irish sea" is broken?

The hand of history awaits...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jun 15th, 2019 at 09:20:44 AM EST

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