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Department of Political Science, Trinity College Dublin

Michael Gallagher

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How Ireland Voted 2011

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This page contains information about the book How Ireland Voted 2011: the full story of Ireland's earthquake election, 326 pp. ISBN 978-0-230-34881-3 hardback; ISBN 978-0-230-34882-0 paperback. For full details see the Palgrave site. The list of contents and the index of the book give a good idea of the ground it covers. For more information on the election, click here.


Cover of How Ireland Voted 2011


What it's about

This volume in the How Ireland Voted series, the seventh (the first being written about the 1987 election), aims to do justice to the transformation of the political landscape that occurred on 25 February 2011. The first three chapters analyse pre-election developments. Chapter 1 traces the background to the election by outlining the dramatic events that had transformed the political and economic landscapes since 2007, most notably the change of leadership of the government in May 2008 and the banking crisis that arose, or finally became apparent, in September of that year and was to dominate the work of government for the rest of the life of the 30th Dail. Chapter 2 analyses the parties' manifestos, which are sometimes launched with as much publicity as the parties can muster and then consigned unread to the archives but which, when examined closely, can convey a lot about what the parties stand for. Chapter 3 examines the parties' selection of their candidates, asking whether the exceptional circumstances of the election brought forward a new type of candidate or whether the candidates selected were, by and large, of much the same backgrounds as those picked at earlier elections.

The next three chapters consider various aspects of the campaign. Chapter 4 reconstructs the course of the campaign and, based on interviews with key personnel, it presents and assesses the parties' perspectives on what went right and what went wrong for them. Chapter 5 considers the role played by the internet in what became known online as GE11 or on Twitter as #ge11, asking whether the internet can be considered to have taken centre stage as a key arena of political conflict or whether it remained marginal to the outcome. In chapter 6 six Dail candidates give their personal accounts of what it was like to face the voters on doorsteps across the country and, in a first for this series, a Seanad candidate conveys the unique experience of the 'Discover Ireland' route to parliament.

Chapters 7 and 8 analyse different aspects of the results themselves. Chapter 7 spells out the scale of the earthquake, noting the extent to which the results differed dramatically not just from those of 2007 but from those of every election since the 1920s, while at the same time observing that the election result displayed strong elements of continuity with what had gone before. Chapter 8 analyses survey data to investigate the reasons for the earthquake, asking who switched away from the government parties (and, just as interesting, who did not) and to whom they switched and why. This chapter, too, identifies a pattern of continuity amidst the change. Chapter 9 considers aspects of preference voting - the facility offered to voters under Ireland's PR-STV electoral system to rank order candidates - in 2011 in the context of what we know about previous elections. Chapter 10 focuses on the presence, or absence, of women in the campaign, in the context of Ireland's status as a country where women are more under-represented than in most European countries.

In chapter 11, the election of the Seanad, Ireland's upper house of parliament, is analysed. A chapter on this subject has featured in every How Ireland Voted book since 1989, but it may never do so again given the declared intention of the Fine Gael-Labour government to introduce a referendum to abolish the Seanad before the next election. Chapter 12 discusses the putting together of the new government, a task which, in contrast to 2007, contained few surprises but which nonetheless produced a number of contentious decisions. Finally, chapter 13 puts the scale of the political upheaval seen in Ireland in 2011 into the context both of previous Irish electoral history and of postwar European politics, showing how truly exceptional the election was. This chapter, written by Peter Mair, who tragically died in August 2011 (see tributes), two months before the book was published, also raises the question of whether the external constraints on Irish governments mean that Ireland has now become a 'democracy without choices'. Appendices to the book contain the full election results, information on all 166 TDs and on government ministers, and other relevant background information.

At the front of the book there is a chronology of the election campaign, and this is followed by a selection of photographs and campaign literature that capture the spirit of election 2011.


Reviews / endorsements

The book was reviewed in the Irish Times on 31 December 2011. A number of endorsements:

Professor John Curtice, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow
'No scholar of contemporary democratic politics can afford to ignore the 2011 Irish election. Hit especially hard by the world-wide banking crisis of 2008, Ireland's voters unleashed an electoral earthquake. In this book the country's leading electoral scholars provide an unrivalled analysis of how this drama unfolded and what it might portend for the future - not only for Ireland but for the many democracies that are now having to learn to live with an "age of austerity".'

Noel Whelan, Political Analyst and Irish Times columnist
'This is undoubtedly the most comprehensive Irish election analysis ever put between one set of covers. Marsh, Gallagher and colleagues have captured all the shifts, shocks and after shocks of Ireland's most seismic election. Practitioners, students and junkies of politics will devour it.'

Professor Michael Laver, New York University, USA
'The "must-read" and timely account by Irish political scientists of the Irish general election, this book builds on the strengths of past volumes, while also discussing important innovations such as the role of the new media. It is doubly compelling because of the cataclysmic nature of the 2011 election.'

Bryan Dobson, RTE News
'How Ireland Voted 2011 tells the inside story of an historic General Election which radically redrew the country's political map, almost wiping out the dominant political party and delivering an historic victory to a once demoralised opposition. Gallagher and Marsh have assembled a masterful survey of Ireland's "ballot box revolution".'


Who wrote it

The book contains contributions by academics from Dublin City University, European University Institute Florence, Free University Amsterdam, NUI Maynooth, Trinity College Dublin, University of Amsterdam, University College Cork, University College Dublin, by the political editor of the Sunday Business Post, and by seven candidates at the election (four elected to the Dail, three unsuccessful in the Dail election, one successful in the Seanad election). It was edited by Michael Gallagher and Michael Marsh, both of Trinity College Dublin.

Fiona Buckley, University College Cork
John Coakley, University College Dublin
Michael Courtney, Trinity College Dublin
Kevin Cunningham, Trinity College Dublin
David Farrell, University College Dublin
Michael Gallagher, Trinity College Dublin
Pat Leahy, Sunday Business Post
James McBride, University College Dublin
Claire McGing, NUI Maynooth
Peter Mair, late of EUI Firenze
Michael Marsh, Trinity College Dublin
Gary Murphy, Dublin City University
Eoin O'Malley, Dublin City University
Theresa Reidy, University College Cork
Richard Sinnott, University College Dublin
Maria Laura Sudulich, University of Amsterdam
Jane Suiter, University College Cork
Matthew Wall, Free University Amsterdam
Richard Boyd Barrett, People before Profit TD
Ciara Conway, Labour TD
Paul Gogarty, former Green Party TD
Sean Kyne, Fine Gael TD
Conor Lenihan, former Fianna Fail TD
Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Fein TD
Averil Power, Fianna Fail senator


How to order

Details on the Palgrave Macmillan website.



Cover of How Ireland Voted 2011





Click here for a number of political photos.


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Last updated 7 March, 2018 5:21 PM