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Trinity College Dublin

Irish election 26 February 2016

 

For material on Ireland's 2011 election, click here. For results of the 2014 European Parliament elections in Ireland, click here. For information on results of Irish elections 1948 to 2007, click here. For information on results of Irish elections 1922 to 1944, including the exceptional election of June 1927, click here. For arguments for and against retaining PR-STV as Ireland's electoral system click here.

This page was created and continuously updated during the 2016 election campaign.

The results of the previous election, held on 25 February 2011, justified the tag 'earthquake election'. This is incorporated into the subtitle of How Ireland Voted 2011, published by Palgrave Macmillan in October 2011. The February 2016 election is fully analysed in How Ireland Voted 2016 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).

 

 

Results 2016

For some discussion of why the government parties fared so badly despite the positive economic story of the previous five years, see politicalreform post here. The raw figures are:

2016 election result
Candidates
Votes
% vote
Change since 2011
Seats
Change since 2011
% seats
Fine Gael
88
544,230
25.52
-10.58
49
-27
31.21
Fianna Fáil
71
519,353
24.35
+6.90
44
+25
28.03
Sinn Féin
50
295,313
13.85
+3.91
23
+9
14.65
Labour
36
140,893
6.61
-12.84
7
-30
4.46
AAA–PbP (Anti-Austerity Alliance – People before Profit Alliance)
31
84,168
3.95
+1.77
 
6
+2
3.82
People before Profit
18
42,174
1.98
+1.01
3
+1
1.91
Anti-Austerity Alliance / Socialist Party
13
41,994
1.97
+0.76
3
+1
1.91
Social Democrats
14
64,094
3.01
+3.01
3
+3
1.91
Green Party
40
57,997
2.72
+0.87
2
+2
1.27
Renua Ireland
26
46,552
2.18
+2.18
 
0
0
0
Workers and Unemployed Action Group
1
7,452
0.35
-0.05
 
1
0
0.64
Direct Democracy Ireland – National Citizens Movement
19
6,481
0.30
+0.27
 
0
0
0
Workers Party
5
3,242
0.15
+0.01
0
0
0
Catholic Democrats – The National Party
3
2,013
0.09
+0.09
0
0
0
Fís Nua
2
1,224
0.06
+0.02
0
0
0
Irish Democratic Party
1
971
0.05
+0.05
0
0
0
Communist Party of Ireland
1
185
0.01
+0.01
0
0
0
Identity Ireland
1
183
0.01
+0.01
0
0
0
Independent Alliance
21
89,828
4.21
+4.21
 
6
+6
3.82
Independents 4 Change
5
31,365
1.47
+1.47
 
4
+4
2.55
Other Independents
136
237,351
11.13
-1.31
12
-2
7.64
 
Total
551
2,132,895
100.00
0
157
-8
100.00

Electorate: 3,305,110. Turnout (valid votes / electorate): 64.53% (-4.65% compared with 2011), though the uncertain state of the electoral register means that not too much importance should be attached to this.

Note: figures exclude the 158th TD, the outgoing Ceann Comhairle, a Fine Gael TD returned without contest. The Independent Alliance, Irish Democratic Party and Identity Ireland were not formally registered. Three of the TDs returned for the Independent Alliance, and all of those elected for Independents 4 Change, had been elected in the 2011 election or, in one case, at a by-election between the two elections: most as Independents, plus one for the Socialist Party (Anti-Austerity Alliance), one for People before Profit, and one for Labour, and the gains recorded for these groups reflect the increase in votes and seats for the groups per se rather than for the candidates making up the groups.

Source: newspapers. Official figures are usually published only several months after election day.

 

For some discussion of the apparent puzzle of why the FG–Labour government lost almost as many votes and seats in 2016 as the FF–Green government lost in 2011, despite the huge difference in the performance of the Irish economy during the tenure of these two governments, see post on politicalreform.ie.

 

Women in parliament

The candidate gender quotas (see discussion below) resulted in a significant increase in the percentage of female parliamentarians; the high percentage among first-time TDs suggests that the percentage is likely to increase at future elections.

2016 election Total TDs Male TDs Female TDs % female TDs
Fine Gael
50
39
11
22.0
Fianna Fáil
44
38
6
13.6
Sinn Féin
23
17
6
26.1
Labour
7
5
2
28.6
AAA–PbP (Anti-Austerity Alliance – People before Profit Alliance)
6
4
2
33.3
Social Democrats
3
1
2
66.7
Green Party
2
1
1
50.0
Workers and Unemployed Action Group
1
1
0
0
Independent Alliance
6
6
0
0
Independents 4 Change
4
2
2
50.0
Other Independents
12
9
3
25.0
         
Incumbent TDs re-elected
98
82
16
16.3
Former TDs returning after an absence
8
8
0
0
First-time TDs
52
33
19
36.5
 
Total
158
123
35
22.2

 

The number of women elected to the Dáil was 25 in 2011. It became 35 in 2016 by the following sequence:

Development Number of female TDs
   
General election 2011 25
March 2013: election at by-election of Helen McEntee (FG) 26
March 2014: death of Nicky McFadden (FG) 25
May 2014: electon at by-elections of Ruth Coppinger (SP) and Gabrielle McFadden (FG) 27
Dissolution of 31st Dáil 27
Retirement of Sandra McLellan (SF), Olivia Mitchell (FG) 25
   
Election 2016  
Incumbents re-elected (16): Joan Burton (Lab), Catherine Byrne (FG), Joan Collins (I4C), Ruth Coppinger (AAA-PBP), Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy (FG), Clare Daly (I4C), Regina Doherty (FG), Frances Fitzgerald (FG), Heather Humphreys (FG), Mary Lou McDonald (SF), Helen McEntee (FG), Mary Mitchell O'Connor (FG), Catherine Murphy (Soc Dems), Jan O'Sullivan (Lab), Maureen O'Sullivan (Ind), Róisín Shortall (Soc Dems) 16
Incumbents defeated (9): Aine Collins (FG), Ciara Conway (Lab), Lucinda Creighton (Renua), Anne Ferris (Lab), Kathleen Lynch (Lab), Gabrielle McFadden (FG), Michelle Mulherin (FG), Ann Phelan (Lab), Joanna Tuffy (Lab)  
New TDs elected (19): Maria Bailey (FG), Mary Butler (FF), Lisa Chambers (FF), Catherine Connolly (Ind), Kathleen Funchion (SF), Hildegarde Naughton (FG), Josepha Madigan (FG), Catherine Martin (Grn), Denise Mitchell (SF), Imelda Munster (SF), Margaret Murphy O'Mahony (FF), Carol Nolan (SF), Kate O'Connell (FG), Fiona O'Loughlin (FF), Louise O'Reilly (SF), Anne Rabbitte (FF), Brid Smith (AAA-PBP), Niamh Smyth (FF), Katherine Zappone (Ind) 35

 

In 2011 the average number of first preferences won by female candidates exceeded that won by men, but that was not true of the 2016 election:

2016
Candidates
Votes
% vote
Change since 2011
Seats
Change since 2011
% seats
Men
389
1,600,683
75.05
-9.18
122
-18
77.71
Women
162
532,212
24.95
+9.18
35
+10
22.29
 
Total
551
2,132,895
100.00
0
157
-8
100.00

Note: the 158th TD, returned without a contest, is male.

 

 

Incumbents and non-incumbents

Incumbents fared better pro rata than non-incumbents, and two-thirds of those who stood for re-election were successful. There were a further 8 former TDs returning after an absence (Thomas Byrne FF, John Curran FF, Michael D’Arcy FG, Pat Cope Gallagher FF, Seán Haughey FF, Darragh O’Brien FF, Eamon Ryan Grn, Eamon Scanlon FF), and 52 first-time TDs, about a third of the total.

2016
Candidates
Votes
% vote
Change since 2011
Seats
% seats
Incumbent TDs
145
1,051,083
49.28
+6.84
97
61.78
Other candidates
406
1,081,812
50.72
-6.84
60
38.22
 
Elected candidates
157
1,285,677
60.28
-1.69
157
100.00
Unsucccessful candidates
394
847,218
39.72
+1.69
0
0.00
 
Total
551
2,132,895
100.00
157
100.00

 

The 116 candidates with the most votes received more votes than the other 435 put together. Altogether, there were 145 candidates who received fewer than 1,000 first preference votes.

The lowest number of first preference votes with which any candidate was elected were 1,990 (Maureen O’Sullivan, Ind) and 3,226 (Paschal Donohoe, FG), both in the Dublin Central constituency. In contrast, one candidate (Jennifer Murnane-O’Connor, FF, Carlow–Kilkenny) received 8,373 votes without being elected, and three other unsuccessful candidates (Michelle Mulherin (FG, Mayo), Johnny Mythen (SF, Wexford) and Paudie Coffey (FG, Waterford)) each received more than 7,000 first preferences.

 

Fragmentation and disproportionality

 

Election indices  
Disproportionality (least squares index) 5.62
Effective number of elective parties (Nv) 6.57
Effective number of legislative parties (Ns) 4.93

Note: figures based on treating 'Independents 4 Change' as a party, given that it was formally registered as a party despite not having a policy platform and even though not all of its 5 candidates mentioned the Independents 4 Change label. Candidates standing as members of the Independent Alliance are each treated as a separate unit, given that this label was not registered and did not appear on the ballot paper. All other independents are treated as separate units. In fact, aggregation / disaggregation of the two small groups of Independents makes very little difference to the indices; if the five candidates of Independents 4 Change were treated as separate independents the values of the indices would be respectively 5.58, 6.57 and 4.94, while if Independents 4 Change and the Independent Alliance were both treated as groups the values would be 5.60, 6.49 and 4.90.

These figures establish the 2016 election result as the most fragmented ever held in Ireland, surpassing the previous peak of fragmentation, the election of June 1927. The fragmentation of the votes is quite a bit higher than in June 1927 (6.57 compared with 5.73), while legislative fragmentation is slightly higher (4.93 compared with 4.85). Disproportionality was at its lowest level since 1992.

If seats were allocated purely on the basis of total national first preference votes, and if all votes had been cast as they were on 26 February, then the allocation of the 157 seats under the Sainte-Laguë method (generally seen as the 'fairest' since it does not systematically favour either larger or smaller parties) would have been FG 43, FF 41, SF 23, Lab 11, AAA-PbP 7, Soc Dems 5, Greens 5, Renua 4, Independents 4 Change 2, WUAG 1, Direct Democracy Ireland 1. The remaining 14 seats would have gone to Independents: Michael Healy-Rae, Denis Naughten, Michael Lowry, Mattie McGrath, Shane Ross, Danny Healy-Rae, Michael Fitzmaurice, Michael Harty, Sean Canney, John Halligan, Kevin Boxer Moran, Noel Grealish, Michael Collins and Thomas Pringle. LSq would be 2.22 and Ns 5.71.

Under the D'Hondt method, which tends to give the benefit of the doubt to larger parties, the figures would have been FG 48, FF 45, SF 26, Lab 12, AAA-PbP 7, Soc Dems 5, Greens 5, Renua 4, Independents 4 Change 2, with only 3 Independents being elected: Michael Healy-Rae, Denis Naughten, and Michael Lowry. LSq would be 5.31 and Ns 4.61.

 

Government formation

A new government was approved by the Dáil on Friday 6 May, a full 70 days after election day; government formation took several weeks longer than ever before in the history of the state. The government was dominated by Fine Gael, which occupied 12 of the 15 cabinet positions, with the other three posts going to Independent TDs. In the vote on the election of the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny won by 59 votes to 49, with the 43 FF TDs abstaining; with only 59 votes in a Dáil of 158 members, the government is not in a strong position and its prospects for long-term survival are uncertain.

 

 

The 2016 election

[Written before election day, and largely left unamended since then]:

On Wednesday 3 February 2016 the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, acting on the advice of the Taoiseach (prime minister), Enda Kenny, dissolved the 31st Dáil. The 32nd Dáil is to be elected on Friday 26 February; polling stations will be open from 7 am to 10 pm. Nominations of candidates closed at noon on Thursday 11 February.

The 32nd Dáil will have 158 members, a reduction compared with the 166 TDs (members of the Dáil) in all Dála going back to the election of 1981 despite steady population growth over the years. One of these, the Ceann Comhairle (speaker) will be deemed elected without a contest, leaving 157 to be elected by means of the PR-STV electoral system (see ballot paper). These 157 TDs will be returned from 40 constituencies: 14 3-seat constituencies, 15 4-seat constituencies, and 11 5-seat constituencies. Average district magnitude, at 3.92 seats per constituency, is exceptionally low by the standards of PR electoral systems, which is a major reason for the level of disproportionality (lack of complete correspondence between parties' vote shares and seat shares) at recent Irish elections. Once voting finishes, the ballot boxes will be sealed and then brought overnight to a central counting point within each constituency. Checking and counting of the votes begins at around 9 am on Saturday 26 February, and the first TD is likely to be declared elected between 2 and 3 pm. Because the counting of votes under PR-STV is a multi-stage process, the final results of the election may not be known until early the next week, though most constituencies will complete their counting on Saturday 27 February.

The 32nd Dáil is due to meet first on Thursday 10 March. First, it will elect its new Ceann Comhairle. This process itself will generate a lot of interest since for the first time the Ceann Comhairle will be elected by secret ballot, a reform introduced in the hope that this may result in the election of an independent-minded Ceann Comhairle with cross-party backbench support; previously the Ceann Comhairle has been elected in open votes, with TDs following party lines rigidly, meaning that the Ceann Comhairle has in effect been the choice of the incoming Taoiseach ever since this pattern was established in 1973, though the occupants of the position since 1973 would resent and challenge any inference that they have merely been government placemen following instructions to protect the government of the day from interrogation by opposition TDs. If, as is likely, there are several candidates for the position, this process could take some considerable time, especially given that it is not clear that the Dáil's standing orders are quite ready for the new method of electing a Ceann Comhairle.

Once this is over, the Dáil's next business is to elect a Taoiseach. In the past, this has usually been a straightforward matter, as between election day and the Dáil's first meeting parties have agreed to form a majority coalition government – for example, when the 31st Dáil first met, Enda Kenny (FG) was elected Taoiseach by 117 votes to 27. Perhaps this, or something similar, will happen on 10 March, but it may be that no candidate for the office wins a vote; the election of a Taoiseach proceeds by names being voted on individually in sequence, and it is possible that each one is defeated, ie that more votes are cast against each one than in his or her favour. If that occurs, the current Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, must tender his resignation to the President but he and his government remain in office until, once some inter-party arrangement has been reached, the Dáil either confirms them in position or elects a different Taoiseach. There is no fixed time limit on how long such a situation – of a 'caretaker' Taoiseach and government – can continue, but given that such a government would be unable to implement any contentious policy the likelihood is that if there seemed to be no prospect of the deadlock being broken there would be a fresh general election.

 

Background to the election

To sum up nearly five years of political developments in one paragraph: The 2-party coalition between Fine Gael and Labour took office in March 2011, with the support of over 110 of the 166 TDs and a five-year term ahead of it. The economy was at a low point by every measure and the outgoing government, led by Fianna Fáil, had suffered massive losses in the February 2011 election. Over the next five years the economy recovered, albeit not in a way that impinged on everyone, despite which government popularity fell consistently. The policy that aroused most opposition was not any increase in taxes or the reduction of public sector wages but, rather, the introduction of water charges, something that was deeply resented by large sections of the population even though such charges, along with local service charges, which are also resented by many, are the norm across the developed world. Of the two government parties, it was the smaller one, Labour, that seemed to suffer more, and in the summer of 2014, after a disappointing performance in the local and European parliament elections, its leader Eamon Gilmore resigned. He was succeeded as party leader and Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) by the deputy leader, Joan Burton. Both parties suffered the departure of TDs who opposed some of the measures brought in by the government, and this led to the creation of two new parties. In July 2013 five FG TDs voted against a government bill to introduce abortion in certain limited circumstances, and four of these went on to form the Renua party. In September 2012 a Labour TD resigned from the party and in July 2015 she, along with two TDs elected as Independents, formed the Social Democrats. Three major referendums took place during the lifetime of the government: in May 2012 the people approved Ireland's signing the EU's fiscal compact; in October 2013 the people rejected a government proposal that the upper house, Seanad Eireann, be abolished; and in May 2015 the people approved the introduction of same-sex marriage.

 

Manifestos

In alphabetical order: Direct Democracy Ireland manifesto; Fianna Fáil manifesto; Fine Gael manifesto; Green Party manifesto; Labour manifesto; People before Profit manifesto; Renua manifesto; Sinn Féin manifesto; Social Democrats manifesto.

Not all parties have a manifesto, at least one that can be found online. In these cases, a link to its site is provided, assuming a site can be found:

Anti-Austerity Alliance site; Catholic Democrats site; Communist Party of Ireland site; Fís Nua site; Independent Alliance site; Independents 4 Change no site apparent; Irish Democratic Party site; Workers and Unemployed Action Group site; Workers Party site.

 

Candidates

The absence of a central database of candidates makes it a challenge to gather all the data. Official notices of poll are available from most returning officers' sites; the sites of some returning officers do not have the notice of poll; and some returning officers, remarkably, do not even have a site. It appears that the total number of candidates is 551, which is the second highest ever, slightly below the 566 at the 2011 election. The biggest change since 2011 is in the number of Labour candidates, which is four fewer than the number of seats the party won on that occasion.

Party / group / status Total Incumbent TDs

Other candidates

Fine Gael 88 61 27
Fianna Fáil 71 18 53
Sinn Féin 50 12 38
Green Party 40 0 40
Labour 36 26 10
AAA–PBP 31 3 28
Renua 26 3 23
Direct Democracy Ireland 19 0 19
Social Democrats 14 3 11
Workers Party 5 0 5
Catholic Democrats – The National Party 3 0 3
Fís Nua 2 0 2
Workers and Unemployed Action Group 1 1 0
Irish Democratic Party 1 0 1
Communist Party of Ireland 1 0 1
Independent Alliance 21 4 17
Independents 4 Change 5 4 1
Other Independents 137 10 127
       
Total 551 145 406

 

How many candidates are alumni of the Department of Political Science, Trinity College Dublin?

Only seven, as far as the Department is aware. These seven, with graduation date, are: Dara Calleary (FF, Mayo; 1996); Jack Chambers (FF, Dublin W; 2013); Paschal Donohoe (FG, Dublin Central; 1996); Gary Gannon (Soc Dem, Dublin Central; 2012); Seán Haughey (FF, Dublin Bay N; 1985); Averil Power (Ind, Dublin Bay N; 2000); Alex White (Lab, Dublin Rathdown; 1981). See also alumni page here, and list of notable alumni here.

Dara Calleary (FF, Mayo)

Jack Chambers (FF, Dublin W) Paschal Donohoe (FG, Dublin Central) Gary Gannon (Soc Dems, Dublin Central)

 

Seán Haughey (FF, Dublin Bay N) Averil Power (Ind, Dublin Bay N) Alex White (Lab, Dublin Rathdown)

 

 

What are the issues?

Since the economic collapse of 2008 the economy has been the largest issue, and that remains the case. To some extent the parties can even be placed along a conventional left–right spectrum according to how they would divide the state's future disposable income (now known as 'fiscal space') between tax cuts and increased spending. Independent economists are generally unimpressed, suggesting that it would be more in the country's interests to use any budget surplus to pay down the national debt, thus reducing interest charges and minimising risk in the uncertain international economic climate, and moreover that most estimates of the size of the fiscal space are speculative and usually predicated upon optimistic assumptions about the country's likely future growth trajectory and about the wider economic climate. (For informed discussion of such matters, see the Irish economy site and the site of the Fiscal Advisory Council, a body set up to advise on economic policy and whose advice is generally disregarded by all parties if it looks likely to be electorally unpopular.)

At times the campaign has resembled a generic Irish drama from the 1940s, where a rural family sits around the farmhouse kitchen table arguing fiercely about how to spend the £1,000 cheque due to arrive from America – but the audience realises from the start that no such cheque is going to arrive and that the heated arguments are about fantasy money. If the discretionary spending available to future governments is not quite fantasy money then it is certainly hypothetical money, and it is not surprising that voters have been reluctant to spend time perusing the details of the various parties' plans about how this future windfall will be allocated.

Fine Gael is assessed by many as having adopted a misplaced approach to the issue. Having built a reputation of fiscal rectitude by its record over the five years of its term, it called this into question by its promise at the start of the campaign to abolish the USC (Universal Social Charge) if returned to government, despite the importance of this tax in governmental revenue. It appears to have adopted a non-Downsian approach – firming up support among its core voters, who were intending to vote for it anyway, rather than moving towards the median voter – which has resulted in a profile of support that is much stronger among AB and C1 (middle-class) voters than among C2 and DE (working-class) voters, in contrast to its fairly cross-class support pattern in 2011.

Another reason why the government parties do not appear to be coasting comfortably to re-election on a tide of economic recovery is that many people have not felt, or believe they have not felt, any tangible evidence of a recovery. In this context it is instructive to look back at the 2007 election, which took place at the height of the 'Celtic Tiger' phenomenon, when the government was spending much more money than the real economy was generating, as became apparent when the property market crashed the following year. It might be assumed that in 2007 all voters felt that they were doing well economically, but this is not the case, as evidence from the INES survey shows. For example, when asked whether the economy of Ireland had got better over the past five years, 15 per cent saw no change since 2002 and 11 per cent felt it had got worse. When asked whether there had been improvements in 'the economic situation around here over the last five years', 20 per cent said there had not been any improvements and a further 22 per cent said that while there had been improvements, neither the government nor the local TDs could claim any responsibility for this. There are undoubtedly some voters who are quick to blame the government of the day for any shortcomings in the quality of services but slow to give it credit for any improvements.

As well as the economy, health and crime are also quoted as major issues, the latter acquiring particular topicality due to some high-profile gangland killings in Dublin in the early days of the campaign, but there is an established pattern at Irish elections that while voters regard these as important issues, neither really influences their voting behaviour greatly because even if they are dissatisfied with government performance, as is usually the case, they have little faith that any other government would do better.

Some parties have staked out a distinctive position on abortion: Labour, Sinn Féin and smaller left-wing groups all favour the abolition of the constitutional provision inserted by referendum in 1983 in order (it was hoped by its proponents, though its effect turned out to be rather different) to prevent either the legislature or, through constitutional interpretation, the courts from legalising abortion. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are each divided internally on the issue and instead favour the creation of a deliberative body after the election to examine the subject and make recommendations.

Given that there is only one pre-defined coalition option (a continuation of the current Fine Gael–Labour government), and that this looks likely to finish some way short of an overall majority, the question of government formation is an issue in itself (see paragraph below), with party leaders regularly being pressed on which options they would rule in or out.

As at most elections, though, it is not always possible to identify a clear narrative underlying the campaign, with a multitude of subjects being raised in a range of different arenas.

 

When will the result be known?

As indicated above, the main outlines of the 32nd Dáil will be known by late on the night of Saturday 27 February, though the final distribution of seats may take a day or more longer. That may well not make clear which parties will form the next government, though, something that could take days or even weeks longer.

 

How many seats will the parties win?

Even if we knew how many votes each party would win, we could not be certain how many seats they would take. At least five factors affect the conversion of votes into seats: the vagaries caused by small constituency size (district magnitude), the fragmentation of the rest of the votes, the evenness or lumpiness of a party's vote across the country, transfer patterns, and the degree of concentration of the party's own votes among its candidates; see fuller discussion here.

Given that a coalition of FG and Labour is the only pre-declared option, and that predictions for Labour are usually in the range of 8–15 seats, most interest has centred on the number of seats that FG will win. At the start of the campaign it seemed on course for somewhere in the high 50s, maybe advancing to the low 60s if it grew in support, making a return of the incumbent FG–Labour coalition government, perhaps with the support of Independents, a real possibility. The drop in support for both parties since then makes this look highly unlikely.

In 2002 FG's votes-to-seats conversion ratio was 0.87, while in 2011 it was 1.28. Thus, if it were to win, say, 28 per cent of the first preference votes on 26 February, with its 2002 ratio it would win just 38 of the 157 contested seats. But if it achieved its 2011 ratio, then with the same vote it would win 56 of the contested seats. (In either scenario, it would of course also have the 158th seat, that of the outgoing Ceann Comhairle, who is returned unopposed.) The mid-point of this range is 47 seats (48 counting the Ceann Comhairle). Given that FG looks very likely to be the largest party at the election, and that it will attract reasonable (though not exactly strong) transfers from Labour, Renua and some Independents, it can be expected to achieve a conversion ratio of more than 1. This suggests that if FG were to receive 28 per cent of the first preference votes it will win a seat total in the low 50s – around 52, say – and that for every 2 per cent above or below this it will gain / lose around 3 seats. Thus with 26 per cent of the votes it might end up with around 49 seats, while with 30 per cent of the votes a figure of around 55 is more likely. There is potential for FG, as the largest party, to gain more from an increase in votes than it loses from a decrease in votes – in other words, the relationship might not be strictly linear – so if it were to reach a level as high as, say, 34 per cent, it might cross critical tipping points in a number of constituencies and win 3 seats in some 5-seat constituencies and even 2 seats in some 3-seaters, given the fragmentation of the other votes among many smaller parties and independent candidates. The seat prediction made on this page's 2011 counterpart did not make sufficient allowance for this and hence significantly under-estimated the eventual FG seat total. As always, things become clear after the event that were not apparent before it.

For another projection of the latest poll figures into estimated seats, see Michael Marsh's 'poll of polls' analysis on the RTE election site, and for more poll analysis, see Tom Louwerse's in-depth analysis of the opinion polls. These two 'polls of polls' are usually slightly different, which perhaps creates the need for a 'poll of polls of polls'.

 

Women and the election

Ireland has long been a laggard when it comes to women in parliament. The highest number of female TDs elected at a general election is 25 out of 166 (15%) in 2011. This placed Ireland in 111th position in February 2016, according to the IPU's database, once the adjustments necessitated by that database's eccentric ranking system are made. [The ranking numbers are allocated 'eccentrically' in that they do not, as is conventional, indicate how many countries are ranked higher. This anomaly results from the strange method of dealing with countries with identical scores. Thus in the list as of February 2016, after the top ten countries, the next three are tied on 41.3% women in parliament, and each is correctly denoted as being joint 11th. Logically, the next on the list should be ranked as 14th, given that there are 13 countries above it, but it is instead given the number 12. The same mistake is repeated a number of times in the list. Thus, since there are 110 countries that have a higher percentage of women in their parliaments than there were in the 31st Dáil, Ireland should be ranked as number 111, not number 88 as in the IPU's list.]

In response to this situation, the 31st Dáil passed legislation that requires parties to ensure that at least 30 per cent of their candidates are female, or else they lose half of their state funding. This has led to a significant increase in the number of female candidates, with all the main parties meeting the target, though several only barely. This will almost certainly lead to a significant increase in the proportion of women among TDs, though this proportion is not expected to reach 30 per cent, partly because most incumbents are male and incumbents tend to fare better at elections than newcomers, and partly because the likelihood is that there will be a significant number of independent candidates elected, and these are not subject to any gender-balance laws.

Party / group N candidates Men Women % women
Fine Gael 88 61 27 30.7
Fianna Fáil 71 49 22 31.0
Sinn Féin 50 32 18 36.0
Green Party 40 26 14 35.0
Labour 36 23 13 36.1
AAA–PBP 31 18 13 41.9
Renua 26 18 8 30.8
Direct Democracy Ireland 19 16 3 5.4
Social Democrats 14 8 6 42.9
Workers Party 5 3 2 40.0
Catholic Democrats – The National Party 3 1 2 66.7
Fís Nua 2 0 2 100.0
Workers and Unemployed Action Group 1 1 0 0
Irish Democratic Party 1 1 0 0
Communist Party of Ireland 1 1 0 0
Independent Alliance * 21 16 5 23.8
Independents 4 Change 5 3 2 40.0
Other Independents 137 112 25 18.2
         
Incumbent TDs 145 120 25 17.2
Other candidates 406 269 137 33.7
         
Total 551 389 162 29.4

* Not a registered party. For smaller parties and groups, failing to reach the 30 per cent candidate gender quota has no consequences since parties that receive fewer then 2 per cent of the votes do not receive public funding in any case.

 

Are the betting markets a reliable guide to what will happen?

Probably not. A study of these markets at the 2007 election concluded that for the most part they followed the opinion polls rather than constituting an independent distillation of informed opinion (see here). By bookmakers' standards the amount of money waged on election markets is small, and it doesn't take much money to change them, sometimes dramatically. That is particularly true of the markets on individual constituency outcomes. Insofar as they usually capture conventional wisdom, they tend to be reasonably accurate as pointers, but they can be wrong as often as conventional wisdom is wrong. Believing that a candidate's chances of being elected are improving simply because his / her odds are shortening would be a classic example of herd instinct.

 

Which parties will form the next government?

In a multi-party system there are a number of possible combinations of parties. The 'identifiability' of government options – that is to say, whether voters are confronted with clear choices or whether, as is sometimes the case in multi-party systems, the options are unknown and emerge only out of post-election negotiations – varies from country to country and from election to election. At Ireland's 2007 election, identifiability was very low. On election day, the betting markets listed 11 possible governments, with the most likely (FF + Labour) having a probability of only 30 per cent; the eventual government, FF + Greens + PDs, was perceived on election day as being only the fifth most likely outcome, with a probability of just 8 per cent (more on this at page on betting and politics). In 2011, in contrast, identifiability was very high, with only two possible 'options': a coalition of FG and Labour being the more likely, and a single-party minority FG government having a slim probability.

In 2016, as in 2007, identifiability is very low. The only pre-declared coalition is a continuation of the incumbent FG + Labour government, and a single-party FG government was regarded as an outside possibility at the start of the campaign, though that has receded as FG has displayed, if anything, 'negative momentum' in the polls. On current poll figures, both of these options will end up well short of a majority. Hence there is considerable uncertainty over the shape of the next government. The only two-party combination that is certain to have an overall majority is FG + FF, and both parties have been questioned about this. Even though party leaders often manage to avoid giving definitive and unambiguous answers, it does seem that FG has firmly ruled out coalition with either FF or SF and that FF has equally firmly ruled out coalition with either FG or SF.

While there is scepticism about whether this would prevent FG and FF from forming a government, on the basis that 'politicians never keep their promises', that analysis could be misplaced. First, contrary to popular belief, politicians usually do keep their promises (see analysis of pledge fulfilment by Rory Costello in Irish Times 24 Feb 2016). And the main reason they do is because of the reputational cost of not doing so – both FG and FF know that to form a coalition, having promised so firmly not to do so, would be thrown at them at every election for the next twenty years or more ('how can we believe a word you say when you formed a coalition with FF / FG back in 2016 despite assuring the electorate that you would not do so?'). As an illustration, Labour is still accused in 2016 of having committed such a breach of faith back in January 1993 when it went into coalition with FF despite having been FF's harshest critic during the campaign. In addition, neither FG nor FF wants to go into coalition with the other, and moreover any such arrangement would need the approval of the Fianna Fáil membership, which might well not be forthcoming even if the parliamentarians favoured the idea.

An alternative arrangement, under which FF would give conditional support to a FG minority government, is also speculated about. Unless seat distributions turn out very different from expected, any other government would need at least 4 parties (either FF or FG along with Labour plus two or three other parties (Renua, Social Democrats, and the Green Party should it win any seats)) and possibly some arrangement with Independent TDs as well. All of these arrangements do not have the look of stability about them.

If there is no FG–FF agreement on a government, and if the incumbent government falls too far short of an overall majority to be able to form a government even with the support of independent TDs and / or some minor parties, then there may be a second 2016 election.

 

Further information

Due to time constraints it is unfortunately not always possible to respond to every question about the election campaign: what the main issues are, how the Dáil is elected, what the opinion polls have been saying, what the choices facing the voters are, which campaigning techniques are most effective, what the various parties stand for, who's likely to win, etc. Those seeking information might find the following sources useful, though of course there is the usual caveat that this page is not responsible for the content of external sites:

Running commentary on the election campaign, as well as on other subjects, can be found at the Political Reform site. Dr Eoin O'Malley (DCU) provides regularly-updated analyses of the election campaign here. The ElectionsIreland site maintained by Seán Donnelly and Christopher Took also has a huge amount of useful information, including listings of candidates in individual constituencies, and information on many of them. Elections are organised by the Department of the Environment, but the information on its elections web page is somewhat sparse. Noel Whelan's up-to-the-minute book The Tallyman's Campaign Handbook: Election 2016 (Dublin: Liffey Press), launched on 20 January 2016, has in-depth information on the candidates in every constituency and much more besides. There is much information, especially from a geographical perspective, on Adrian Kavanagh's site.

The RTE Election site has information on virtually every candidate, as well as Michael Marsh's much-discussed 'poll of polls' analysis, and Tom Louwerse's site also analyses the polls. The Irish Election Stats site also aims to predict overall seat totals. The Irish Times has information on each constituency. The WhichCandidate site gives the opinions of candidates on many issues and serves as a voting advice application by enabling users to see which candidate's views most closely match their own.

If you want to talk direct to an academic who studies Irish elections then, in the event of no-one from Trinity College being available, examination of the Political Reform site may lead you to a suitable authority.

 

For context and background to the 2016 election:

How Ireland Voted 2011 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). Account of the last Irish general election: what happened, what the main issues were, how much impact the campaign had, the impact of party leaders upon their parties' electoral fortunes, where and how the election was won and lost, how much swings varied across the country, which parties were best placed for next time, and so on; plus 8 pages of photographs. What lessons can parties and analysts learn about the 2016 campaign from the record of the 2011 campaign?

Politics in the Republic of Ireland, 5th ed (Abingdon: Routledge and PSAI Press, 2010), ISBN 978-0-415-47671-3 (hardback), 978-0-415-47672-0 (paperback). This has chapters on every aspect of politics and government, including a chapter explaining and assessing the distinctive PR-STV electoral system plus one on electoral behaviour.

Data from the INES (Irish National Election Study, principal investigator Michael Marsh of TCD) is accessible on-line.

How Ireland Voted 2007 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). Account of the previous Irish general election: what happened, what the main issues were, how accurate or otherwise the polls were, how much impact the campaign had, the impact of party leaders upon their parties' electoral fortunes, where and how the election was won and lost, how much swings varied across the country, which parties were best placed for next time, whether the betting market is a reliable guide to what's going to happen, and so on; plus 37 pages of photographs. How much impact does a TV leaders' debate make?

How Ireland Voted 2002 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003). Account of the 2002 Irish general election, with same format as 2007 volume; plus 17 pages of photographs.

For those who seek an informed view concerning the impact of developments in Northern Ireland upon politics south of the border, and the implications of the 2011 election for the Northern Ireland peace process, then a hub of expertise is the Institute of British-Irish Studies at UCD.

The Politics of Electoral Systems, paperback edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), ISBN 978-0-19-923867-5. Has a chapter explaining and examining PR-STV in Ireland in the context of electoral systems worldwide, asking how far aspects of Ireland's politics can be attributed to PR-STV. This chapter contains the reproduction of a PR-STV ballot paper, which you can view here.

Days of Blue Loyalty (Dublin: PSAI Press, 2002), ISBN 0-9519748-6-6. Analysis of a survey of members of the Fine Gael party published shortly before the 2002 election. Fine Gael fared very badly at that election, but the survey pointed to a commitment among its membership, which has been one factor determining its rise since then. This book explores the worldview, backgrounds and activity levels of the party's members.

How Ireland Voted 2016. Not published yet, for obvious reasons - publication by Palgrave Macmillan expected in summer 2016.

For commentary and discussion on matters of economic policy - should the bondholders have been burned, what are the likely consequences of the various parties' budgetary policies, etc - see the Irish economy site.

And should you wish to study for a masters degree in Politics, the Department of Political Science at Trinity College Dublin has two highly regarded masters programmes.

 

Results 2011

The results of the Dáil election 2011 are fully analysed in How Ireland Voted 2011 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). The raw figures are:

2011 election result
Candidates
Votes
% vote
Change since 2007
Seats
Change since 2007
% seats
Fine Gael
104
801,628
36.10
+8.78
76
+25
46.06
Labour
68
431,796
19.45
+9.32
37
+17
22.42
Fianna Fáil
75
387,358
17.45
-24.11
19
-58
11.52
Sinn Féin
41
220,661
9.94
+3.00
14
+10
8.48
United Left Alliance
20
59,423
2.68
+1.59
5
+5
3.03
*Socialist Party
9
26,770
1.21
+0.57
2
+2
1.21
*People before Profit
9
21,551
0.97
+0.52
2
+2
1.21
*Other ULA
2
11,102
0.50
+0.50
1
+1
0.61
Green Party
43
41,039
1.85
-2.84
0
-6
0
Workers Party
6
3,056
0.14
-0.01
0
0
0
Christian Solidarity Party
8
2,102
0.09
+0.01
0
0
0
People's Convention
4
1,512
0.07
+0.07
0
0
0
Fís Nua
5
938
0.04
+0.04
0
0
0
Direct Democracy Ireland
3
588
0.03
+0.03
0
0
0
Progressive Democrats
0
0
0
-2.73
0
-2
0
Independents
189
270,258
12.17
+7.00
14
+9
8.48
 
Total
566
2,220,359
100.00
0
165
0
100.00

* Part of United Left Alliance, which did not exist as such in 2007.

Notes:

(i) derived from official sources. However, these classify Kevin McCaughey, a candidate in Cork South-West who received 765 first preferences, as an Independent, whereas all other sources classify him as a Green Party candidate, he was listed on the Notice of Poll as a Green Party candidate, and he is included on the Green Party website as a Green Party candidate, so he is treated in the table above as a Green Party candidate;

(ii) Table refers to contested seats; FF also won the one uncontested seat (automatic re-election of Ceann Comhairle in the Louth constituency), giving it 20 seats out of 166 in the 31st Dáil;

(iii) 20 independent candidates were loosely linked in an alliance called New Vision. New Vision was not a party, let alone a registered party, describing itself as 'an association of independent candidates, working together to change the way we 'do' politics in Ireland'. Together they won 25,422 votes, and one of these candidates was elected. This candidate, Luke 'Ming' Flanagan in Roscommon–South Leitrim, was and is in practice regarded as an independent rather than as in any sense a representative of New Vision;

(iv) The 'People's Convention', also not registered, ran 4 candidates in three constituencies in Cork;

(v) Direct Democracy Ireland, also not registered, ran three candidates in Dublin;

(vi) The Progressive Democrats, a party that had contested the 2007 election, had ceased to exist by the time of the 2011 election.

Electorate: 3,209,244. Turnout (valid vote / electorate): 69.19% (+2.79 compared with 2007). Invalid votes 22,817.

 

 

Election indices  
Disproportionality (least squares index) 8.69
Effective number of elective parties (Nv) 4.77
Effective number of legislative parties (Ns) 3.52

Note: figures based on complete disaggregation of Others, with each of the 189 independent candidates and 14 independent TDs treated as a separate unit.

 

 

 

 

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Last updated 28 October, 2016 1:38 PM