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People Before Profit Alliance and the Workers’ Party – their electoral chances… June 30, 2010

Posted by guestposter in Irish Politics, The Left.

Many thanks to AK of the Irish Election Literature Blog for the following analysis of some of the left wing parties prospects at the upcoming General Election. This is a part of a continuing series by AK. Other posts are here and here

People Before Profit Alliance
Dun Laoghaire
In the 2007 General Election Richard Boyd-Barrett got 5,233 votes and was 700 votes ahead of Ciaran Cuffe on the first count. Cuffe though pulled well ahead on transfers. The other current TDs are Labour Leader Eamon Gilmore, Sean Barrett of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil ministers Mary Hanafin and Barry Andrews.
Of course since then there have been boundary changes and the constituency lost a seat and is now a four seater.

The reduction in seat numbers wont have done Boyd-Barrett any favours but the actual boundary changes won’t have done him any harm in that it was some of the more affluent areas such as Foxrock and Carrickmines that were lost to Dublin South. This comprised 11,673 voters.

Assuming a similar turnout to 2007, in the new four seater Dun Laoghaire the Quota should be in the region of 10000 votes.

In the two LEAs People Before Profit stood in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown they polled 6,266 votes, Boyd Barrett getting 4,091 of them, and both it candidates Hugh Lewis and Richard Boyd-Barrett were elected. In the 3 LEAs that in the main now make up the constituency (Ballybrack, Blackrock and Dun Laoghaire) Fianna Fail polled 5,711 votes.

To be in with a shout Boyd-Barrett needs the 6,266 voters from the Local Elections to vote for PBP again, which is a vote of around 12% (20% is the quota). He will more than likely also need to pick up a few hundred votes elsewhere from other areas of the Constituency.
If all that happens , there should be enough transfers from Sinn Féin and elsewhere to win the seat.

However with Gilmore’s appeal and a decent running mate (one capable of getting enough votes to overtake Cuffe) its hard to see all the PBP Local Election vote staying. Cuffe may take a few of them too.
I suspect Boyd-Barrett is now more transfer friendly than he was in 2007 and Cuffe won’t get either the same first preference vote or the same amount of transfers.

So with Gilmore and one From FG (Not sure if Sean Barrett is retiring again) almost certain. We are left with Boyd-Barrett, Cuffe, Hanafin (who I suspect may decamp to Dublin South), Barry Andrews, Bailey or Regan of FG and Gilmore’s running mate fighting it out for two seats.

Were Boyd-Barrett to win then at least two of Dun Laoghaire’s current TDs would have to lose their seats. Cuffe looks a goner, at least one of the Fianna Fail seats must surely be gone (if not both). Then the complicating factor of a Fine Gael vote of 36% or so in the Local Elections and of course Gilmore’s attraction.

I can’t help feeling that even a ‘Gilmore Gale’ may not win a second seat for Labour here. Gilmore and Oisin Quinn failed to get a quota between them in 2007, but more relevant is that the Labour vote fell here in the local Elections.
Another factor is the recent formation of ‘An Fís Nua’ which if it runs a candidate could impact on RBBs vote enough to scupper his chances.

Still a likely outcome being Fine Gael 2, Labour 1, with RBB contesting with Fianna Fail for the last seat.

Dublin South Central.
5 TDs
Sean Ardagh and Michael Mulcahy of Fianna Fail, Mary Upton of Labour, Catherine Byrne of Fine Gael and Sinn Féin’s Aengus O’Snodaigh
Mary Upton is safe and Labour will take one of the Fianna Fail seats too (I can’t see them winning 3 seats). Catherine Byrne also looks safe.

So we should have Joan Collins, Ardagh/Mulcahy and O’Snodaigh fighting it out for the final seat.
In the local Elections between (Ballyfermot Drimnagh, Crumlin-Kimmage and South West Inner City) People Before Profit polled 5,463 votes, Fianna Fail (which included both Catherine and Charlie Ardagh) polled 4,418 votes ,Sinn Fein, which included the now departed Louise Minihan polled 3,909 votes.

As mentioned before in the Sinn Féin analysis I think O’Snodaigh could be in danger. All depends I think on how badly Fianna Fail do.

Fianna Fail will have two TDs and a vote split evenly enough between them. The defeat of both Catherine and Charlie Ardagh at the locals indicates that there isn’t a big personal vote for Sean Ardagh and there wouldn’t be a huge personal vote for Mulcahy either. So it’s highly unlikely that either will be in a position to buck a national trend of Fianna Fail polling badly. They will also be transfer toxic as proved by the Local Elections. (In Ballyfermot-Drimnagh, Fianna Fail ran 2 candidates. David Gaynor had upon his elimination in the 7th count less votes than the combined first preferences of himself and his running mate. It was a similar story for Catherine Ardagh in the South West Inner City Ward who also had less votes than the combined first preferences of herself and her running mate).

You also have to factor in a huge amount of local issues that have been caused by the cutbacks.
Joan Collins should be elected with O’Snodaigh possibly scraping in depending on how bad the Fianna Fáil vote is and if Labour transfer to him.

Dublin Mid West
Gino Kenny is highly unlikely to win a seat here but stranger things have happened. At Present Mary Harney, Fianna Fáil’s John Curran, Paul Gogarty of the Green Party and Labour’s Joanna Tuffy are the TDs. Harney is supposedly retiring and Fine Gael’s Derek Keating or Frances Fitzgerald should take that seat. Tuffy should be safe and as the Labour vote will need to treble for them win a second seat its unlikely they will.

Fianna Fáils John Curran should get in although that is by no means certain (The final Fianna Fáil candidate had less votes than the party first preference total in Lucan although they did slightly better in Clondalkin).
It’s Gogarty’s seat that is in the biggest danger. In 2007 Gogartys % vote dropped from its 2002 figure. In the local elections in Gogartys Lucan heartland the Green Party dropped from 14.42% in 2004 to 4.77% in 2009. In Clondalkin in dropped from 6.35% to 4.37%.

Its hard to call who can take it as there will more than likely be a group of candidates in Kenny and the Sinn Féin candidate (and possibly a Labour candidate too) and even the second Fine Gael candidate all within a few hundred votes of each other.

If it were a perfect scenario, Kenny could somehow scrape in, but highly unlikely.

Its hard to see PBP being in with a shout anywhere else.

The Workers Party
For The Workers Party there is an outside possibility of winning a seat in Waterford but its hard to see any of their candidates coming close to winning a seat.

In Cork North central Ted Tynan would need to be ahead of The Socialist Party’s Mick Barry and Sinn Féin’s Johnathan O’Brien to be in with a chance and that is highly unlikely.

In Waterford where Davy Walsh was elected to the City Council in 2009, the Workers Party also came very close to winning two other seats on Waterford City Council (within 8 votes in Waterford East and 56 votes in Waterford South Ward). They polled 1,426 votes in total (8.5% of the vote). Former WP councillor John Halligan polled 1430 votes. So on that there isn’t really a Dail seat, especially considering no candidates were run outside of the City.

There is though the possibility of increasing a candidates profile in the forthcoming by election (whenever that may be) and from that being in a better position to challenge for a Dáil seat.

The frustrating thing for The Workers Party and indeed the wider Left is that there really should be a Left seat in Waterford, given both the tradition in Waterford City and County and of course the scandal that was Waterford Glass. Wishful thinking but I can’t help wonder If there is a Left candidate in Waterford capable of uniting the various factions in City and County.

There are a few other Left groups that may put forward candidates.

Éirígí policy is not to stand in Stormont or Westminster elections. They didn’t put up any candidates in the Republics 2009 Local Elections (although this may in part be due to party policy as to electoral strategy not being fully decided at the time). They do have one councillor in the Republic, Louise Minihan who defected from Sinn Féin.

Were they to stand they would be highly unlikely to win, or even come close to winning, any seats.

New Ross based ‘Independent Left’ which includes former Sinn Féin Councillor John Dwyer (now a New Ross Town Councillor) may stand in Wexford but have little chance of winning a seat although they could pull a few thousand votes. It will be interesting to see how this group evolves (it has a relationship with People Before Profit although nothing formal as yet).

The Irish Socialist Network should increase their vote but given their base is in a three seater they are also unlikely to win a seat.

Letterkenny Residents Party – highly unlikely to stand or win a seat.


1. Clive Sullish - June 30, 2010

I’d be quite pessimistic about the electoral prospects of the Workers’ Party, of the Prophets’ Alliance, even of the Socialist Party. I fear that the Gilmore bubble will push them all back to the margins – even slightly credible Labour candidates will be elected; established Labour candidates will get one and a half or two quotas, and bring on their coat-tails party colleagues that you’ll never have heard of. With more time to organise things than Spring had in 1992, Gilmore will ensure that there’s enough candidates on the ballot paper to maximise Labour’s position. The extra-Labour left should be looking towards 2016 – of course, by then, several of our socialists really will be 70.


DublinDilettante - June 30, 2010

My, you are pessimistic. If it was a party-on-party fight, you might be right. Fortunately, most left candidates are rooted in their local constituencies with well-established bases. I don’t believe for a second that no-mark Labour functionaries will be elected en masse. Labour don’t have the resources or the plausible human material to pull that off.


Mark P - June 30, 2010

To be fair, quite a few no-mark Labour Party members were elected in the Spring Tide, and I’d expect many more useless fools to be elected under that banner come the next elections.


2. Jim Monaghan - June 30, 2010

‘An Fís Nua’
Live in Dun Laoghaire and this is news to me. I live a cloistered life.


irishelectionliterature - June 30, 2010

‘Fis Nua’ is the party founded by ex Greens last weekend. They got a mention in Mondays Irish Times
I presume they will have some grouping in Dun Laoghaire .


Mark P - June 30, 2010

The comment from Chris O’Leary at the end is a bit odd. It seems to imply that he thinks that the Green Party are a keeping a close eye on these developments. Popular man Chris at the moment, being wooed by both Fis Nua and People Before Profit.

It is also interesting that Fis Nua, which is pretty clearly a regroupment of what was the left of the Green Party, seems to have had no truck with the idea of joining the PBPA themselves. Presumably they’d be the sort of people who would be approached if the broader/looser alliance being discussed at those meetings with Vinnie Browne et al comes to pass.


3. Jim Monaghan - June 30, 2010

Does it involve Patricia Mc Kenna or is she going to do something with the Peoples Movement.
Oh I tend to agree that the small parties will be squeezed by a “useful” vote syndrome. I , also’ see an anything but FF and Greens popular front. A vote down the list against them. This will make the pattern of transfers particularly different this time.


4. Daniel Sullivan - June 30, 2010

Errr…”Mary Upton is safe and Labour will take one of the Fianna Fail seats too (I can’t see them winning 3 seats). Catherine Byrne also looks safe.

So we should have Joan Collins, Ardagh/Mulcahy and O’Snodaigh fighting it out for the final seat.”

Isn’t it 5 seats so it would be with 2 labour and one FG, “Joan Collins, Ardagh/Mulcahy and O’Snodaigh fighting it out for the final two seats.”


Daniel Sullivan - June 30, 2010

“The frustrating thing for The Workers Party and indeed the wider Left is that there really should be a Left seat in Waterford, given both the tradition in Waterford City and County and of course the scandal that was Waterford Glass. Wishful thinking but I can’t help wonder If there is a Left candidate in Waterford capable of uniting the various factions in City and County.”

It might not be to your liking but there is a left (even if you see it as merely left in name only) seat in Waterford which is held by the Labour party.


WorldbyStorm - June 30, 2010

I understand how you might have read it that way, and while in no way speaking for AK, I’m not sure AK is partisan in that sense. I think his point was very much that there was the possibility of an additional left seat for, as he said, the WP and the wider Left which was the focus of this piece. It’s part of a series and he’s threatening to do one on the LPs chances soon. I suspect all of us look forward to that.


5. Mark P - June 30, 2010

1) The term “left” can sometimes cause confusion because of its relative nature. IEL’s original post was talking about parties or candidates that are left in a meaningful sense, Dan. Not parties that are committed to business as usual neo-liberalism or to forming part of a Fine Gael-led government, but which brand themselves as vaguely liberal and ever so slightly left of Fianna Fail. I hope that’s cleared up any unfortunate misunderstandings.

2) I think that Clive has a very reasonable point in the first comment. A surge to any of the larger parties causes difficulties for the candidates of small parties and this is particularly so when that surge is concentrated in Dublin (where, of course most of the left hopes lie). Some people on the left are getting a bit carried away, mistaking a chance of seats for the certainty of a breakthrough.

The only really reliable, even on a bad day, seats for the left are probably those of Seamus Healy and Joe Higgins. The other left hopes are all potentially vulnerable to a squeeze if there really is a big surge in the Labour vote. However I’d be surprised if at least one of Collins, Daly, Boyd Barrett and Barry didn’t get in and would be hopeful that more than that will.

3) The Workers Party don’t have any chance of winning a seat this time around and haven’t had a chance since Martin O’Regan sadly died. They made a small step forward in the last local elections, after years and years of electoral retreat, and I suspect that the next election will be about trying to make another modest step forward in terms of votes.

4) Gino Kenny has no chance that I can see. His vote has been absolutely rock solid at just over 1,000 in the last two local and one general elections and there is no existing PBPA vote in any other ward in the general election constituency. He also isn’t as high profile as the other PBPA councillors and doesn’t have the same sort of machine around him that Collins or Boyd Barrett have. It would take something bizarre happening to put him in the running.

5) Collins and Boyd Barrett both have a very real chance of getting in. Boyd Barrett will probably get the bigger vote of the two, but Collins faces less competition in her constituency (and more favourable demographics in a solidly working class are rather than one of the three richest constituencies in the state, albeit one that is far from universally wealthy).

6) On a more general note, the PBPA project seems to have stalled a bit recently.

After a long time as essentially a less threatening disguise for the SWP it seemed to be taking on some flesh in the wake of the local elections. They were talking about getting independent councillors Declan Bree, Catherine Connolly, Chris O’Leary and the WUAG to join up, which would have turned them from an essentially South Dublin organisation into something approaching a national one. Six months ago they were announcing that discussions were ongoing with Bree, that O’Leary would be joining up with a group of 30 people in Cork “in the next few weeks” and that the WUAG were “in the process of joining”. (see: PBPA newsletter http://www.people-before-profit.org/files/PBPA%20Newsletter%2001.pdf )

At least to date, none of this seems to have come to pass. Connolly seems to be off their radar, Bree is no closer to joining, O’Leary and whatever people he has around him did not in fact join and the WUAG hasn’t joined up yet either. Meanwhile the PBPA still centrally consists of the SWP, Collins and the people around her, and the small number of left unity usual suspects in Dublin, along with a few people around some of their candidates. It still has only a handful of functioning branches, and functioning here means a monthly meeting. And it shows no sign of developing much further at the moment.

7) It’s worth noting that the various, never-ending, sets of discussions about left alliances don’t seem to centre on building the PBPA as that alliance.

The SWP/PBPA is in discussions with the Socialist Party about creating a left slate for the general election. Those discussions are not about the Socialist Party joining the PBPA.

The SWP/PBPA is also in a separate set of discussions involving Vincent Browne, some left leaning academics, and (according to the Phoenix) Niall Crowley. These seem to centre on the idea of building a broader and looser alliance than the PBPA, with even milder politics based on opposition to the government and standing the widest possible number of candidates on that basis.

These distinct discussions point in rather different political directions, but neither of them point towards greatly expanding the PBPA itself. What purpose does an “alliance” like the PBPA serve in, for instance, an even broader, even politically softer, alliance? It all seems a bit messy to me.


Tim Johnston - July 1, 2010

“Meanwhile the PBPA still centrally consists of the SWP”
That’s a polite way of putting it – the PBPA is just a front for the SWP, who, last time I checked, believed in revolution and not elections. The PBPA allows them to get over that moral hurdle.


Mark P - July 1, 2010

I’m nothing if not polite, Tim! Oh wait, hang on…

The SWP clearly controls the PBPA. For its first few years there really wasn’t much to it other than the SWP in a funny hat, and in some places it still mostly functions as a less threatening face for the SWP to put on for electoral purposes.

However, it’s worth noting that nowadays there are other people in the organisation and some of them seem to have at least some influence (see for instance the SWP standing aside for Joan Collins when Brid Smith’s claim to the DSC nomination wasn’t massively worse than Joan’s). The SWP may set the tone, but they do have to bring some others along with them. So while it would be dishonest to avoid mentioning the SWP’s dominant positon in the PBPA it would be a bit tendentious not to note that others do play a role in it.


Budapestkick - July 1, 2010

What moral hurdle?


Tim Johnston - July 1, 2010

The moral hurdle of believing one’s organisation to be ‘above’ elections whilst being able to have one’s members participate in them through a front organisation.

Mark, fair point.


Mark P - July 1, 2010

Tim, the Irish SWP used to participate in elections under its own name for some years. It didn’t present them with any moral difficulties because there is no contradiction between thinking that standing for election is useful and that standing for election isn’t enough.

(Admittedly, before 1996 they did not stand in elections and tended to give the impression that this was because of the morally or politically corrosive effects of electioneering, but that’s a rather out of date criticism to raise now).


Tim Johnston - July 1, 2010

I should have clarified – “last time I checked” was around 95-96 when I had contact with the party and some of its student members, but I have had a peek at their website and they do claim to
“want to see a movement of ‘people power’ to drive this government from office and to challenge the very system that has caused the problem.”

which, I suppose, could be interpreted to include elections, although clarification is not forthcoming, on the site at least.


Budapestkick - July 1, 2010

That makes sense. It says something that they veer so widely between ultra-leftist attitudes towards elections and the most brazen opportunism.


Mark P - July 2, 2010

Ah, I understand where you are coming from now. Yes, absolutely the PBPA would seem bizarre if you’d last dealt with the SWP at length in 1995 or so.

The thing is though that their attitude to elections slowly changed from 1996 on (ie after the Dublin West by-election). The SWP went from being opposed to standing in elections, to standing in them on a socialist programme in 1997. That gradually shifted to advocating a socialist alliance (and briefly launching one) around 2000 or so, but still insisting that socialists should stand as socialists. Then finally, they moved towards standing as “People Before Profit” on a leftish community style platform.

It’s been a slow evolution rather than a sudden change. Although their material from the late 1990s and early 2000s is a rich sources of hostages to fortune, full of arguments about how “electoralism” will drag a socialist organisation to the right in the search of soft votes. As they’ve tried their best to demonstrate wth “people before profit”.

By the way, I see that the new Phoenix is saying that Vincent Browne is pulling back from left alliance talks. You can’t take Phoenix too seriously about stuff like this though, because apart from its hostility to Browne its coverage of the socialist left generally reflects the attitudes of particularly arrogant provos.


Tim Johnston - July 2, 2010

thankyou for the update !


6. Budapestkick - July 1, 2010

‘O’Leary would be joining up with a group of 30 people in Cork’

Thirty people me hole. All due respect to Chris (one of the few good things to come out of the Green party) but he doesn’t have a group of 30 activists, though there may be about that number of casual supporters who canvass for him.

With regard to the possibility of a squeeze, it is a possibility but there was a swing to the labour in the locals and it didn’t stop the far-left candidates (SP, WP, SWP/PBPA etc.) from getting fairly credible results. I think that the likelihood is that there will be a swing to labour but there will be enough people looking for something harder that the vote will go beyond the baseline of Healy and Higgins.

Frankly, SWP/PBPA’s obsession with having a ‘broad’ (soft) approach towards elections seems very bizarre to me. Of the candidates in with either a good chance (Higgins, Healy, Barrett) or a good outside chance (Mick Barry etc.) of a seat, all are regarded as radical left candidates and most are Trotskyists (not really relevant to the electorate but still good to note). Why water down a programme when there are clearly more and more people being attracted to something mroe radical (see last years Euro elections for example). Why go for something soft and floppy when something strong and credible is possible? (Innuendo intended)


7. Jim Monaghan - July 1, 2010

On fronts and teh difficulty full timers might have in remembering which one the meeting is about


Mark P - July 1, 2010

Neither a witty nor a wise article there really, Jim.

And not really one that applies to Ireland with any force at all. There simply is no proliferation of rival but otherwise identical campaigns in Ireland driven by different groups on the left. The last time something like that happened that I can think of was when the SWP set up their own rival to Youth Against the War (School Students Against the War?) rather than joining the existing campaign and that must be seven or eight years ago now.

There is still a problem with the SWP setting up tightly controlled campaigns on major issues and then just looking for everyone else to sign up to a fait accompli, but that isn’t the general method of operation of the left here.

The actual proposals of the article are even less relevant to Ireland. Set up a joint paper of the Labour left, the Greens and the socialist left? We’d have to launch a major expedition to discover and locate a Labour left first and the Greens are in government.


8. La Mouche - July 1, 2010

Here’s some insight into the situation in Dublin Mid West (DMW):

The only sitting TDs with any serious chance of re-election are John Curran, FF (who is very strong in Clondalkin, notwithstanding the government’s unpopularity) and Joanna Tuffy, Labour (whose support is drawn from across the constituency and can expect to ride a Labour high tide).

Gogarty will not be re-elected. This is no better illustrated than by the 2009 local election results when Green Party support in Lucan and Clondalkin slumped. Paul is, himself, resigned to not being re-elected and has made such views widely known in the constituency. No news is forthcoming yet about Harney’s intentions for the next election. If she runs she will lose her seat, an experience which the addition of an extra seat at the last election saved her from. Retirement and something amongst the great and good elsewhere is all she has to look forward to.

The expected candidate line up for the next General Election is likely to be: FIanna Fail (2 candidates), Fine Gael (2 candidates), Labour (2 candidates), Green (1), PBP (1), SF (1), IND (? + Harney if she runs).

Sinn Fein support is haemorrhaging in DMW. They have failed to establish themselves outside of North Clondalkin and the rumoured (and inexplicable) decision to run Eoin O Broinn in the Gen Election illustrates just how far from electoral reality SF have drifted. PBP (Gino Kenny) are similarly unable to break out of North Clondalkin. Kenny has failed to make any appreciable impact as a councillor and his local reputation has suffered (as SF’s did before) due to the yawning gap between his electoral rhetoric and his failure to deliver on the ground once elected.

Transfers from these two candidates will, however, play a hugely important role in determining the fourth seat in the constituency.

Curran and Tuffy will vie for the first seat. Neither are likely to have any significant surpluses to distribute to running mates. Transfers from eliminated independents will scatter across the constituency, but should help Frances Fitzgerald (FG) to secure the third seat. That will leave FF, LAB, FG, SF and PBP candidates in the race.

If the second Labour candidate is able to remain in front of PBP and SF, then the elimination of those candidates will push her/him in front of the second FG candidate (Derek Keating) and secure the fourth seat with transfers from the elimination of the second Fianna Failer. If not, then the fourth seat will go to Keating. Labour can win two seats on between 20-25% first preferences (1 to 1.25 quotas). Given the electoral dynamics of DMW it is not necessary for Labour to score 30% plus as the OP suggested.


9. La Mouche - July 1, 2010

Sorry, but missed the Workers Party candidate, Mick Finnigan, who will poll similarly to last time. On elimination his transfers will trend towards the Labour party.


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