Ireland Archive

Ireland votes Yes

The Republic of Ireland has voted decisively to overturn the result of the June 2008 referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, with a 20% swing to ‘yes’ producing a two-thirds majority for the ‘yes’ side.

The Lisbon treaty, which updates the structures of the European Union, required approval by referendum for Ireland to ratify, and the treaty could not come into force without all member states ratifying. The June 2008 referendum saw a 53% vote against the treaty. Pressure from Europe and the continuing support of Ireland’s major parties saw Lisbon remain on the agenda, and Ireland’s economic collapse in late 2008 saw support for the treaty increase markedly.

Yesterday’s referendum produced a result of 67% in favour of the treaty, a swing of 20.5% on the previous referendum. While only ten of Ireland’s 43 constituencies voted ‘yes’ in 2008, all but two voted ‘yes’ yesterday. The two remaining constituencies, Donegal North East and Donegal South West, saw the smallest swings towards ‘yes’ (only about 13% each), while all other constituencie produced swings from 16% to 22%, indicating a remarkable consistency in the shift in favour of the Lisbon treaty.

In addition, there was an increase in turnout from about 53% to 58%, and a 5% increase in turnout was fairly consistent across the country.

I have created maps showing results and turnout levels for the two referendums, and posted them below the fold. Remember, you can download the Google Earth maps of both current Irish constituencies and proposed constituencies for the next election from the Tally Room maps page.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ireland on the verge of election

The Republic of Ireland could be less than two weeks away from the triggering of a general election. The Green Party will be meeting on October 10 to vote on a new program for government, and the party’s leader, John Gormley, has made it clear that if the program doesn’t achieve two thirds support at the meeting, the party will leave the government, which would likely deprive Fianna Fail of a majority in the Dail. So we could be seeing a new election soon in Ireland.

Tags:

Hanging parliaments

Two separate stories have emerged in the last few days of governments that could lose their majority with the resignations of their own party’s parliamentarians.

In the Northern Territory, Labor MP Alison Anderson has resigned from the party, and is yet to make clear which party she would support in office. The last election saw Labor win 13 seats, the opposition Country Liberals won 11 and conservative independent Gerry Wood won the remaining seat. Marion Scrymgour subsequently resigned from the ALP in early 2009, but committed to supporting the Labor government, keeping it in office as a minority government. Scrymgour has rejoined the ALP following Anderson’s resignation.

The Northern Territory previously had ‘semi-fixed terms’, with an election only allowed to be called in the last year of a term. After Paul Henderson went to a disastrous early election last year, this was replaced with complete fixed terms. As Antony Green points out, this makes the Northern Territory the first jurisdiction to see a government lose its majority, forcing a possible ‘baton change’. In the case that the government were to lose a vote of no confidence, the opposition would have eight days to form a government with majority support (or the Labor Party could elect a new leader who could garner support from an independent). If this could not be achieved, an election would be triggered.

These sorts of results have been largely absent since the creation of the two-party system around 1910, although John Curtin took office mid-term from various conservative governments. You could argue that the Labor split of 1917 similarly saw mid-term changes of government, although in these cases the new governments included many members of the former government. Update: commenters have pointed out that there were midterm changes of government in the ACT in the early 1990s in the early days of self-government and in Queensland in 1996.

Assuming the Country Liberals take the earliest opportunity to call a no-confidence vote, we could be facing a new CLP government, or a fresh election, by the end of August. Even if the CLP can stitch together a majority, however, they may determine it is in their interests to hold back and wait for an election they would likely win, and wait for the eight days to pass.

Meanwhile, in Ireland, the governing Fianna Fail-Green coalition has stumbled further towards defeat, with two Fianna Fail TDs resigning the party whip and moving to the crossbenches over local issues. Following on from devestating local elections and the loss of one of their seats at a by-election in June, this reduces the government to an 83-81 majority, with one seat vacant.

The government consists of 72 Fianna Fail, 6 Greens, 2 former Progressive Democrats and three other independents, for a total of 83. The opposition consists of 52 Fine Gael, 20 Labour, 4 Sinn Fein and three independents, for a total of 79. On certain policy issues (probably including the expected harsh budget in November) these two splitters can be expected to vote with the opposition.

The Speaker can be expected to support the government in the event of a tie, while the vacant seat is that of Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher, who was elected to the European Parliament in June. His seat is in Donegal South West, where the government parties won 52% in 2007, in comparison with 47% for opposition parties. Considering the scale of the collapse of Fianna Fail’s support, it has to be judged likely that this seat will be lost, meaning that the opposition will only need one other TD to defect for them to gain a majority.

While Fine Gael and Labour could try to stitch together a new coalition government, considering their high poll ratings you would have to think they would support an early election and form a relatively stable government, with Fianna Fail in danger of coming third.

The position is disastrous for the Greens, who would likely be wiped out in such an election. This puts them in an impossible position. They can bring down the government, regain goodwill from their traditional voters, but likely still be heavily punished, or delay the election as long as possible and be possibly destroyed in punishment for maintaining Fianna Fail in government for even longer. I personally think that the Greens will probably lose all six of their seats either way, but by bringing down the government they regain some goodwill and will hopefully survive to fight another day. If they don’t act against the government now, they will go down in history as Fianna Fail apologists and won’t be able to return.

Tags:

Europe 2009 – Results wrap part 1

Here is a brief summary of how the EU elections went in each country. Our first edition covers Ireland, the UK, Spain, Portugal, France and the Benelux countries.

  • Ireland - While Fianna Fail’s vote collapsed and Fine Gael’s vote rose, it didn’t dramatically alter the party’s performances. Each party lost one seat each, while Labour gained two. Sinn Fein lost their sole seat and the Socialist Party’s Joe Higgins was elected. One of the two independents was defeated.
  • Northern Ireland – Northern Ireland followed the pattern of electing one MEP from each unionist party and one from the more popular republican party, in this case Sinn Fein. However, in this case Sinn Fein for the first time topped the poll. This was partly due to the majority unionist vote being split three ways, with former DUP MEP Jim Allister running on the Traditonal Unionist Voice ticket.
  • Great Britain – Labour’s vote collapsed, losing 7% and coming third on 15.7% behind the Conservatives and the UK Independence Party. UKIP kept its vote steady at just over 16% while gaining an extra seat, while Labour lost 5 of its seats. The Liberal Democrats also suffered a 1.2% swing and lost one of their seats. The Green party gained 2.4% and came close to winning a number of extra seats but ultimately only managed to maintain their two seats. The British National Party managed to elect two MEPs in the North of England. Labour was beaten into second place in Wales for the first time in 91 years, and were also defeated by the Scottish National Party in Scotland. Labour came fifth behind the Conservatives, UKIP, Liberal Democrats and Greens in both South-East and South-West.
  • Portugal – The centre-right Social Democratic Party recovered from its massive 2004 defeat, winning 8 seats to the 7 seats won by the centre-left Socialist Party (which had won 12 in 2004). The Left Bloc gained two seats while the other two minor party coalitions maintained their existing two seats.
  • Spain – The 2004 election took place shortly after the election of the new Socialist government and the Madrid train bombings, and were a major defeat for the centre-right. This time around, the governing Socialists suffered a 5% swing while the People’s Party gained 1%. Overall, due to the reduction in MEPs, this resulting in the Socialists losing 4 seats and the People’s party losing 1.
  • France – The French result was a major victory for Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) who gained an 11.2% swing to poll almost 28%, which gave them four extra seats. The opposition Socialist Party lost 12.4% of its vote, falling to 16.5%, which cut their number of MEPs from 31 to 14. The result was very strong for the Greens-led Europe Écologie, which polled more than double the 2004 Greens vote, winning 16.3%, almost overtaking the Socialists, and winning 14 seats (up from 6 in 2004). The centrist Democratic Movement lost one third of its vote and half its seats in comparison to the former UDF party. The far right National Front suffered similarly, losing 4 of its 7 MEPs. Socialist votes also went to the Left Front, which doubled its MEP contingent (bringing it to 4) and the New Anticapitalist Party, which polled over 4% but did not elect any MEPs.
  • Belgium Dutch-speaking – The result saw all five parties that won seats in 2004 lose votes. The centre-right Christian Democrats lost almost 5% of its vote, keeping its 3 seats. The liberal Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats lost 1.35%, but maintained their 3 seats. The far-right Flemish Interest (formerly Flemish Bloc) lost 7.3% of its vote after polling 23% in 2004 and lost one of their 3 seats. The Socialist Party fell to 13.2% with a 4.6% swing, and losing one of their 3 seats. The Greens were the only party to hold up, only losing 0.08% and maintaining a 7.9% vote, and their one seat. The remaining vote flowed to the new centre-right Flanders secessionist New Flemish Alliance (9.9%) and the right-wing List Dedecker, who polled 7.3%.
  • Belgium French-speaking – Three of the four main parties in the French-speaking region lost votes, all flowing to the local Greens (called ‘Ecolo’). The Socialist Party lost 7%, falling to 29.1%. The liberal Reformist Movement lost 1.5%, falling to 26%. The centre-right Humanist Democratic Centre lost 1.8%, falling to 13.34%. The far-right National Front’s vote halved from 7.5% to 3.5%. The  Greens gained 13%, polling 22.9% and gaining a second MEP.
  • Belgium German-speaking – Like the French-speaking region, the result was good for the Greens and bad for everyone else, with the incumbent Christian Social Party suffering a 10% swing, but they still safely won the sole MEP for the region.
  • Luxembourg – The six Luxembourg seats broke down between the parties the same as in 2004, with the Christian Social People’s Party winning 3 seats and the three other main parties winning 1 seat each. However, the centre-right CSVP suffered a 6% swing and the Socialist Workers’ Party lost 3%, while the Greens and Democratic Party both gained votes.
  • Netherlands - The Dutch result was strong for left-wing minor parties and the far-right. The far-right Party of Freedom polled almost 17% in their first European campaign, coming second and winning 4 seats. The liberal Democrats 66 went from 4.2% to 11.3%, winning 2 extra seats on top of their existing one. The Greens went from 7.4% to 8.9%, gaining a third seat. The centre-right Christian Democratic Appeal lost 4.4%, polling 20%. The Dutch Labour Party suffered most, falling from 23.6% to 12.2%, losing 4 of their 3 seats. The liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy also lost 1.3% of their votes, and one of their 4 MEPs in the process.

Europe 2009 – Irish results

6:05pm – Voters in Ireland and the Czech Republic went to the polls on Friday. Czechs will still vote on Saturday, and neither country will count their European Parliament ballots until Sunday evening, so we don’t have any information about the European results.

However, Ireland also went to the polls to elect local government councillors and fill two vacant Dail seats: one in Dublin South and the other in Dublin Central. Votes are starting to be counted now and we should have some results within two hours.

6:17pm – In Dublin South, a by-election is being held to fill the seat of Fianna Fail TD Seamus Brennan, who died in July 2008. Fine Gael recruited RTE Economics Editor George Lee as their candidate, in a move reminiscent of Maxine McKew in Bennelong. Early first preferences in Dublin South have Lee winning 70% of first preferences.

6:21pm – In comparison, in 2007 the 3 Fianna Fail candidates in Dublin South polled just over 41%, compared to 27% for the 3 Fine Gael candidates, although both parties elected 2 TDs, with the fifth seat going to Eamon Ryan of the Green Party.

6:28pm – Dublin Central is the constituency of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who polled 36.8% of the primary vote. The other seats were won by another Fianna Fail TD, a Labour candidate and independent Tony Gregory. Gregory’s death in 2008 triggered the by-election.

While Dublin South seems a fait accompli, you could argue that Dublin Central is a four-way race between Fianna Fail (running Bertie’s brother Maurice Ahern), Fine Gael, Labour and independent Maureen O’Sullivan.

7:12pm – The current figures in Dublin Central:

  • Paschal Donahue (FG) – 21%
  • Ivana Bacik (LAB) – 20%
  • Maureen O’Sullivan (IND) – 20%
  • Maurice Ahern (FF) – 15%
  • Christy Burke (SF) – 9%

It appears that Fianna Fail will definitely fail to win this seat.

7:39pm – So the numbers in Dublin Central are remaining steady. If this is so, it appears that Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein preferences will flow to Maureen O’Sullivan, putting her in first place when you narrow it to a three-horse race. Either Labour or Fine Gael is then eliminated, and whichever remains has to get a large slow from the other to defeat O’Sullivan. Considering Sinn Fein and Green preferences, I tend to think it will be a race between O’Sullivan and Labour, with Labour needing a very strong preference flow from Fine Gael to win.

8:22pm – The Green Party are performing very badly on local councils, and it appears they will lose many of their seats. They polling 2-3% in many places.

8:58pm – Even though the Irish aren’t formally counting European votes tonight, it appears that there are some reports coming through from scrutineers. In Dublin, it appears that Labour and Fine Gael safely are on track for one seat, while Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party is performing strongly.

9:02pm – Various results in North-West Ireland indicate that Libertas leader Declan Ganley is performing well, including polling 31% in Sligo.

9:05pm – Ganley is also polling well in Clare and Donegal. It appears the polling figures underestimated his support.

10:13pm – North-West Ireland update: Libertas’ Declan Ganley and independent Mareen Harkin performing well. Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher (Fianna Fail) not performing as well as expected.

10:21pm – Dublin Central has long been dominated by the Ahern family, with Bertie Ahern’s brother Maurice running for Fianna Fail. Yet Maurice Ahern is on 12%, with Maureen O’Sullivan on 26%, and Fine Gael on 22%.

10:23pm – Apparently Ciaran Cuffe, who is a Green Party TD, has raised the prospect of the Green Party withdrawing from the government, which would likely bring down the government and bring on a general election.

10:31pm – Tonight has been horrible for the Green Party. Their polling numbers are extremely low and their council numbers have been decimated. You would have to think they are at risk of being wiped out in the Dail at the next election. If they were to bring down the government and go back to first principles, could that be the only way to salvage their base? It’s possible the government could fall over the next year without the involvement of the Green Party, so wouldn’t it be better for them to pick key issues to play hardball with Fianna Fail, and be willing to ultimately pull out if need be.

Europe 2009 – Ireland

This is the first in a series of profiles of each EU member state in the leadup to the European Parliament elections in early June.

Ireland will elect it’s Members of the European Parliament on Friday 5th June. The same day will see two by-elections for seats in the national Parliament, the Dáil Éireann, in Dublin South and Dublin Central, and local government elections across the Republic of Ireland.

Ireland will elect 12 MEPs on June 5, down from 13 in 2004. The republic is divided into four constituencies, with each electing 3 MEPs. The Dublin constituency previously elected 4 MEPs, but has lost one seat since the last election. North-West constituency has also taken more terrritory from East constituency.

The 2004 election saw Fine Gael (European People’s Party) win 5 seats, Fianna Fail (Union for Europe of the Nations) win 4 seats, Labour (Party of European Socialists) win 1 seat and Sinn Fein (European United Left) win 1 seat, and two independents, one aligned with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and the other aligned with Independence/Democracy.

These seats were split this way:

Irish politics has shifted greatly since the last general election in 2007. Support for Fianna Fail has plummeted, and the position of the Green Party has declined dramatically. The Green Party’s unpopularity has manifested in a number of ex-Greens running in the European elections. Ireland East Labour candidate is a former Green Party councillor who resigned in order to run for the Labour Party in the European election. Patricia McKenna, who was a Dublin MEP for the Green Party from 1999 to 2004, is running as an independent in competition with the Green candidate. Fianna Fail will also be leaving Union for Europe of the Nations and transferring to the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe following the election.

Meanwhile the performance of Labour, Fine Gael and Sinn Fein have all improved as the economic crisis has destroyed the credibility of the governing parties. The Irish Times recently commissioned polls for each constituency, which show that Labour, Fine Gael and Sinn Fein are on track to gain seats from Fianna Fail and independents, while Fianna Fail looks set to be the party to lose a seat in Dublin after the redistribution.

Update: Just to clarify, Ireland’s MEPs are elected using the same STV system used to elect the Dáil.

New electoral maps – Ireland

There is no election scheduled in the Republic of Ireland for the next three years, but there is a good chance that the economic crisis may force an early election, and I have completed a Google Earth electoral map of constituencies in the Dail Eireann, the lower house of the Irish legislature.

The Dail includes 43 constituencies electing 166 deputies or Teachtaí Dála (TDs), with each constituency electing 3-5 TDs.

This map includes both the boundaries used for the 2007 election and the new redistributed boundaries for the next election between 2009 and 2012. I have coloured the old boundaries blue and the new boundaries red, so you can see the differences (although most constituencies remain almost entirely the same). Google Earth allows you to also turn off different layers to see the map differently. I’ve also included labels for each 2009/12 constituency, which also include the number of TDs to be elected at the next election.

You can download it here.

Tags: ,

Ireland: economic crisis, early election?

If this is your first foray into Irish politics, you might want to start by reading this morning’s post.

Ireland’s most successful politician in half a century, Bertie Ahern, announced his resignation as Fianna Fail leader and Taoiseach on 2 April 2008, and soon after his Minister of Finance, Brian Cowen, was elected as the new Taoiseach.

Early polls put Cowen’s government in a strong position, with Fianna Fail polling over 40%, well ahead of Fine Gael in the mid-20s. His government’s first challenge came in June, when the Lisbon Treaty went to a national referendum.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags:

Ireland: the odd one out

As the economic crisis worsens and speculation of an early election in Ireland increases, it seemed about time to give Australian psephologists a crash-course in Irish politics. I’ll follow this up with another post about the possible early election later today.

Ireland is probably the most unique and fascinating of political systems amongst the rich anglophone countries. They have a very different electoral system and a very different party system to countries like the UK, Canada, the US and Australia, and even New Zealand.

Irish politics is dominated by two major parties who both sit on the conservative side of the spectrum when it comes to European politics and are hard to identify in the way that it is easy to align the Labour parties in Britain, New Zealand and Australia with the Liberals in Canada and the US Democrats, and align their conservative opponents. The two parties’ origins lie in the divisions over the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which triggered the Irish Civil War.

The current government is led by Fianna Fáil (Gaelic for “Soldiers of Destiny”, pronounced “Feena Foll”), which originated in the anti-treaty elements during the Irish Civil War. It calls itself a “centrist’ party, and has tended to be Ireland’s dominant party.

The opposition is led by Fine Gael (pronounced “Finna Gale”) which can be described as “Christian democratic”. Again, like Fianna Fail, Fine Gael does not clearly distinguish itself as a centre-left or centre-right party. FG is considered to be more moderate in its nationalism while FF is considered more neoliberal in its economic policies.

Ireland’s electoral system allows access for a number of other parties. Like the ACT and Tasmania, the lower house of the Irish Parliament, the Dáil Éireann, is elected using the Single Transferable Vote. 43 constituencies across the Republic of Ireland elect 166 deputies, or TDs (“Teachta Dála”), with each constituency electing three, four or five deputies.

The outstanding third party in Irish politics is the Labour Party, which, as its name would suggest, is the main working-class and union political party. Unlike its namesakes in the UK and Australia, the party never achieved major party status and as such is considered to be further to the left, although Ireland is generally a conservative country, which could contribute to this perception. The party won 12% in 2007 and in recent years has been most closely aligned with Fine Gael.

The Irish Green Party came fourth at the 2007 election, electing six TDs. The party aligns with the European Green Party and the Global Greens, with similar policies to most Green parties.

The Dail also currently  includes 4 Sinn Fein TDs. The party, unlike in Northern Ireland, is largely sidelined and stands out as a quasi-revolutionary far-left nationalist party. It has in the past attempted to work on a “common left front” of Labour, the Greens and Sinn Fein, overlooking their major differences. The party is directly linked to its Northern Ireland namesake.

The other party in the Dail at the 2007 election was the Progressive Democrats, a neoliberal party founded as a splinter from Fianna Fail in the 1980s. The party was FF’s main ally in Bertie Ahern’s government for its first two terms from 1997 until 2007, when the party lost six of its eight seats. The party decided to disband in December 2008 and both its remaining TDs now sit as independents supporting the Fianna Fail government.

Five years of Fine Gael/Labour government from 1982 to 1987 were followed by a Fianna Fail minority government from 1987 to 1989, when an attempt to win a majority resulted in losses for Fianna Fail and a coalition with the much-reduced Progressive Democrats.

This government collapsed in 1992, which saw an election where the Labour party gained a large number of seats and was put in a position where the only possible government was Fianna Fail/Labour. This government was succeeded in 1994 by a Fine Gael/Labour/Democratic Left government, which governed until it was defeated by a Fianna Fail/Progressive Democrats coalition at the 1997 election.

I write all this to demonstrate the remarkable stability of the last decade. Bertie Ahern led a new coalition government to become Taoiseach (Irish term for Prime Minister) at the 1997 election. The collapse in Labour’s seat numbers saw Fianna Fail and the PDs almost reach a majority, which they did with the support of independent TDs. At the 2002 election, Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats gained four seats each, resulting in 89 seats out of 166, a solid majority in Irish terms.

Ahern led the party to a third election in 2007, where Fianna Fail was reduced to its 1997 position, but a recovery in support for Fine Gael and the collapse of the Progressive Democrats resulted in a new Fianna Fail/Green/Progressive Democrats government. When Ahern retired as Taoiseach in 2008, he was the second longest-serving in modern Irish history.

My next post: The economic crisis, the Brian Cowen government, the collapse of Fianna Fail, and calls for an early election.

Tags: