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The United Left Alliance ,the 2014 Local Elections and Opinion Polls May 21, 2012

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics, The Left.

Recently I did a post on Sinn Feins prospects for the 2014 Local Elections, now its the turn of the ULA .

In 2009 the Consituent parts of the ULA won 12 County / City Council Seats.
2 WUAG (Seamus Healy and Pat English), 4 Socialist Party (Joe Higgins, Clare Daly, Ruth Coppinger and Mick Barry), 5 People Before Profit Alliance (Richard Boyd Barrett, Joan Collins, Brid Smith, Hugh Lewis and Gino Kenny) as well as Sligo Independent Socialist Declan Bree. There are also a number of Socialist Party and WUAG Town Councillors.

The success of the ULA in the 2011 General Election (and the 2009 European Elections) means that 5 of their 12 elected Councillors have been replaced with co opted councillors. In 2009 Clare Daly, Joe Higgins, Richard Boyd Barrett and Seamus Healy were all elected on the first count well over the quota. Joan Collins polled very well too.
So not alone will the ULA have some new names before the electorate, through their Dail success they have lost some very big vote getters.  The possibility of gaining an extra seat in for example Swords or Dun Laoghaire will have waned. So before the ULA can make gains they have to make sure they hold on to what they already have.

In the 2011 General Election the ULA Fielded candidates in Dublin, Cork, Wexford, Sligo North Leitrim, Tipperary South, Laois  Offaly, Carlow Kilkenny and Limerick.
Judging by various groups being established and past elections my thoughts are that by 2014 they will also field candidates for seats on Waterford City Council, Wicklow County Council,Louth County Council, Galway City Council, Kildare County Council and Kerry County Council. I’m curious if the ‘Non Alligned’ part of the ULA manages to field candidates in other parts of the country too. At this stage its hard to tell. There may also be some former Labour people willing to run.

There is also another possibility of the ULA being part of a broader left Anti Water Charges / Anti Property Tax Alliance built upon the Household Charge and Water Taxes Campaign.

The expansion of the ULA vote will, at current support levels, be thwarted in many areas by the increase in the Sinn Fein vote. Often its a case of the two going after the same votes and Sinn Fein have a head start in many areas. The opposite is of course the case in areas such as Fingal and Dun Laoghaire where the ULA are strong and Sinn Fein are weak.

So a Council by Council guide….and again this is vague and based on some guesswork as there surely will be places where there will be ULA candidates that I haven’t covered.

Carlow – The Carlow based Conor McLiam polled over 1000 votes in the 2011 General Election. Carlow has also seen big turnouts in the anti Household Charge meetings. Were he to stand I’m not sure which ward he would stand in but would need around 500 votes to be in with a chance of winning a seat. A possibility.

Cavan – Unlikely to field a candidate
Clare – The SWP has previously run candidates in Shannon although it may be a Socialist Party candidate if the ULA run a candidate this time. Either way unlikely to win a seat.

Cork City Council – Mick Barry polled 4,803 votes in the General Election, having got over a quarter of the votes in the Cork North central ward in 2009. With an increased party vote and vote management could bring in a running mate. A seat may also be won in Cork North East. The problem being that an upwardly mobile Sinn Fein are likely to be fishing in the same pool of voters. There may also be some non aligned ULA candidates elsewhere in Cork and its a hard task to win a seat the first time out. So one seat and an outside chance of two.

Cork County Council – Ann Foley stood for People Before |Profit in the General Election and is still active. The ULA will probably field another candidate or two elsewhere in Cork. Unlikely to win any seats.

Donegal – A place where the ULA may run a candidate but unlikely to be elected…. Although not sure if The Letterkenny Residents Party are part of the ULA.

Dublin City Council– Since (and before) her election to the Dail Joan Collins has been very active in the Community. As well as the Campaign against the Household Tax, I gather she was very active in the constituency after the shambles that was the privatisation of the bin service. Something that impacted people directly. I heard from a few sources that she or one of the other PBP Councillors or reps called to homes to ask if their bin had been collected etc. Work like that on the ground will more than likely be well rewarded.
So despite a strong Sinn Fein presence in the area I’d expect Brid Smith will hold comfortably in Ballyfermot-Drimnagh, Pat Dunne (who replaced Joan Collins) should hold on in Crumlin and that Tina McVeigh has a decent enough chance in South West Inner City. There may be a Labour seat going a begging in Ballymun -Finglas due to John Lyons election to the Dail. Sinn Fein have a head start here (although Dessie Ellis was elected to the Dail too) but with a decent candidate a seat for the ULA would be an outside chance.
So a likely two and possibly 3 with an outside chance of 4 seats.

Dun Laoghaire -Rathdown – In Dun Laoghaire Melissa Halpin took Richard Boyd Barretts seat after he was elected to the Dail. She is likely to hold on as is Hugh Lewis in Ballybrack.
The uproar over the proposed Oil rig in Dublin Bay has been led in part by People Before Profit Alliance. I’ve been told of Ladies who lunch distributing Save Our Seafront leaflets about the proposed oil rig to their friends over gettogethers. They have been active in many other campaigns but this one in particular has struck a chord locally.
Elsewhere in the Council Sandyford Glencullen could see a decent vote for a ULA candidate but not enough to win a seat.
So likely to hold on to their two seats.

Fingal – With Joe Higgins and Clare Daly now in the Dail, the likelyhood of second seats in Castleknock and Swords will have gone. There is a slim possibility of a second seat in Mulhuddart. Matt Waine should hold on in Castleknock and Eugene Coppinger in Swords. Balbriggan Town Councillor Terry Kelleher was quite prominent in the Campaign against the Household charge and could make a breakthrough as may Brian Greene.
On a really good day six seats, but more likely to win three or four.

Galway City Council – An area where I suspect the ULA will field at least one candidate. Unlikely to win a seat. Could Catherine Connolly be tempted into the fold I wonder too?

Galway County Council – Unlikely to field a candidate

Kerry – There was a PBP candidate for Tralee Town Council in 2009 and the KPSWA were active in the General Election campaign. So there could well be a ULA candidate there. Unlikely to win a seat though.

Kildare – Likely to have a ULA candidate in at least one area. Unlikely to be elected.

Kilkenny Unlikely to field a candidate

Laois- Laois based Ray Fitzpatrick ran in the 2011 General Election but is unlikely to win a seat.

Leitrim –Unlikely to field a candidate

Limerick City Council. The ULA are active in Limerick and Cian Prendiville ran in last years General Election polling 721 votes. He’d need to increase his percentage vote considerably to be in with a chance of being elected. An outside chance.

Limerick County Council –Unlikely to field a candidate

Longford –Unlikely to field a candidate

Louth – A candidate may be fielded in one (or both) of the Drogheda constituencies. Unlikely to win any seats though.

Mayo –Unlikely to field a candidate
Meath – May field a candidate but unlikely to win a seat.

Monaghan Unlikely to field a candidate

Offaly Unlikely to field a candidate

Roscommon – Tim Stevens stood here in 2009 but without much success. If there are any ULA candidates they are unlikely to win any seats.

Sligo County Council – Declan Bree should hold his seat. Hard to see any other ULA candidates elected.

South Dublin County Council – Gino Kenny won a seat in Clondalkin in 2009. Kenny will be under pressure from Sinn Fein to hold his seat but should hold on. A Lucan based candidate Rob Connolly ran in the General Election but its a very hard ask to win a seat in Lucan. Had the ULA existed in 2009 Mick Murphy would probably held on to his seat as he would have had a better transfer rate from Pat Dunne. Hard to see Labour holding their 3 seats here so Murphy should return to the Council chamber. Unlikely to make any headway elsewhere in the SDCC area. Probable return of two seats.

Tipperary North Riding -Unlikely to field a candidate

Tipperary South Riding – WUAG should hold on to their two seats in Clonmel with Billy Shoer and Pat English.Strangely the fact Seamus Healy wont be running could spread the vote better between their candidates and they may even get a third seat. In 2009 they won a seat on Carrick On Suir Town Council, so could possibly win another seat elsewhere in South Tipp. Should hold their two seats with a distinct possibility of a gain.

Waterford City Council.The SWP and PBP have previously run candidate for Waterford City Council. Were they to double their vote in the South ward they would win a seat but The Workers’ Party will also be targeting a seat there, especially with former WP Councillor John Halligan now in the Dail.

Waterford County Council– WUAG could well field a candidate in Comeragh just over the border from Clonmel (indeed a good part of that LEA have postal addresses “Clonmel, County Waterford.” ). Issues such as the status of Clonmel Hospital impact this area. Unlikely to win a seat but could run being mindful of future possible boundary changes.

Westmeath –Unlikely to field a candidate

Wexford – New Ross based Seamus O’Brien stood in the General election and there may well also be a Wexford Town based candidate. Unlikely to win any seats.

Wicklow – Sinn Fein have a headstart here and are visibly active in Bray and the East side of the County. ULA will probably field a candidate in Bray but wont win a seat.

So on a really good day the ULA could return 20 County and City Councillors but are more likely to return around 15. Putting that in context, in 1985 the Workers Party had 19 City or County Councillors and in 1991 they returned 24 (from The Lost Revolution).

Although the ULA TDs have a high profile, the ULA itself doesn’t. I’ve heard it referred to as anything from ‘The Socialist Alliance’, ‘United Socialists’, ‘Workers Alliance’ and other titles.
I’m sure it’s being done but there needs to be pressure put on to have the ULA included as a separate entity in opinion polls.  We know from the smallprint in various Red C polls that the Socialist Party support is 1% or 2% ,yet there appears to be no effort on the part of polling companies to tie the various ULA groups together and come up with a figure. As an election nerd myself I can’t understand how you wouldn’t want to get the maximum stats out of a poll.

Opinion polls had quite an impact in the election of Joe Higgins to the European Parliament in 2009 as he was seen by many voters as the person who could keep both Mary Lou McDonald and Fianna Fail from winning a seat.
Opinion Polls make stories, be it the front page of the paper , a blog post, website, message board or the television and radio news. On a simple level each party’s name is read out (or written) with maybe a pie chart or graphic , with the party logo, with their level of support, their gains or losses etc. Being lumped in with the ‘Others’ denies the ULA an opportunity to get the wider public more in tune with the name. I suppose it could be called “Brand Awareness”. Which goes back to being an ‘Alliance’ or being a ‘Party’….. (which has been well covered already 🙂 )


1. daibhidhdeux - May 21, 2012

Reblogged this on Daibhidhdeux's Blog.


2. D_D - May 21, 2012

The last four paragraphs are well argued and should help to make the case inside the ULA. The recent Millward Browne poll in the Indo seperated out the ULA for the first time. The result was a dismaying 1%, the same as the Greens!


irishelectionliterature - May 21, 2012

Hadn’t realised the ULA were included in the Millward Brown poll. 1% is a start and sure it can only rise. Hopefully the other polls will follow the lead.


3. Julian Assandwich - May 21, 2012

Was just cooking up a blog kinda along these lines, looking into demographic trend in RedC polls. I’ll publish it now. I spotted a very interesting trend with the female vote. According to recent polls, Labour have lost 10 percentage points/half of their female voters since the election.. while the “others” category has seen a similar rise.

It wouldnt be much of a leap to suggest that was triggered by Clare Daly’s X Case legislation and would infer that the ULA and “independents” have an enmeshed identity – which offers massive possibilities for the ULA, possibly some insulation from the coming SF tsunami.


Julian Assandwich - May 21, 2012
que - May 21, 2012

how did you identify that a SF voter would most likely be a middle age farmer?

that very specific. Its not from the conn-ulster strength is it?


Julian Assandwich - May 22, 2012

Pretty much yeah. Was just making up your stereotypical X voter for a bit of fun really – adding together party’s strongest results. Though it does hint some truth. SF are quietly taking over FF’s natural demographics while Fianna Fail – other than Cork – are being penned into nearly the same territory as Fine Gael. While Munster is somewhere FG are losing votes. The two are being pushed into the very same ground – largely the Leinster-rancher territory that Conor McCabe talks about. It’s no coincidence support there is holding up while agricultural prices are doing well.


que - May 22, 2012

okay but thats a huge leap. (by the way dont see anything wrong if Farmers vote in big numbers for SF. Some of the poorest of the working class are farmers).

The agri. prices argument doesnt hold. Prices are only holding up recently. few years back they were through the roof. The reasons support holds up for the big parties is simply because up until recently the only left wing party looking to speak for working class farmers were labour and they are a fairly crap party as we all might agree.

Most other left wing parties know nothing about about difficulties in rural Ireland, generalise and come at things from the wrong end of the stick and usually end up complaining about rich farmers. A recipe for success it aint.


Mark P - May 22, 2012

These would be other parties like the one whose most prominent figure was born and raised in the crowded conurbations of the Kerry Gaeltacht would they?

Rural areas are more conservative than urban ones as a general rule of thumb, across time and place. Ireland, despite a rather distant agrarian radical past, has been no exception to that. Labour weren’t any more “crap” in the countryside than they were in the cities over most of the 20th Century. People just didn’t vote for them in the same numbers in the countryside and the reasons for that are rather more complex than there “crapness”.

Julian’s description of SF moving into the position and role occupied by FF has rather more substance to it.


Tel - May 23, 2012

Strong Labour vote in rural Leinster/east Munster predates strong Labour vote in urban Dublin – see election results in late 1920s/early 1930s.

There is no one ‘rural Ireland’ & there is certainly not a workable general rule that rural areas are more conservative than urban, off the top of my head Andalucian farm labourers formed the far-left of the UGT in the 1920s & 1930s. Rural areas and/or agrarian areas do not come as one single socio-economic type there are many many different variants.

Sinn Fein unquestionably has more potential in particular rural areas (conservative ones!) in Ireland with traditional FF voters & I don’t think Labour ever tried to represent farmers did they? Though I am not sure what is meant by ‘working farmers’ in this context.


Mark P - May 23, 2012

I specifically referenced an important exception – agrarian radicalism in earlier periods in Ireland – so as to make it clear that the tendency for rural areas to be more conservative than urban areas is just that: a tendency. But that doesn’t make the tendency any less real.

For instance, in most countries, at most times, left wing parties have tended to draw disproportionate strength from urban areas and conservative parties have tended to draw disproportionate strength from rural ones. That doesn’t mean that rural areas are just some sea of homogenous reaction. There have been plenty of radical movements originating in or having a particular. resonance in particular rural areas at particular times.


Blissett - May 23, 2012

‘These would be other parties like the one whose most prominent figure was born and raised in the crowded conurbations of the Kerry Gaeltacht would they?’

So what, Gay Mitchell was born in Inchicore, doesnt make him any better on the issues affecting rural people, and disadvantaged farmers. Lets be frank, Healy aside, the ULA has little to no read on rural issues. What have they said about AEOS being scrapped? This is a huge issue for small farmers, and I cant see a thing.

You can ascribe a tendency to conservativism to rural people all you like, but meeting them half way would be a start.


Blissett - May 23, 2012

So what, Gay Mitchell was born in Inchicore, doesnt make him any better on the issues affecting rural* people

*urban working class people, that should say


4. Excellent Cedar Lounge Article on ULA election prospects « Tomás Ó Flatharta - May 21, 2012
5. ivorthorne - May 21, 2012

I was called for a poll recently. Think it was Red C. No ULA option.


6. sapteuq - May 21, 2012

After the Dublin West bye-election in October the Times had a ridiculous pie chart. It had an enormous chunk, the third-biggest, labelled “independents and others”! A much smaller slice for Fine Gael and then, even more absurdly, a tiny sliver for the Greens. But recognition of existence for the ULA there was none despite Ruth’s massive vote


7. Paddy Healy - May 21, 2012

Tipperary North Riding and Tipperary South Riding will be a single local authority for the next local elections. WUAG came within 50 votes of gaining a third seat on Tipp SR Co Council in last local elections.
The 1% vote for ULA in opinion polls is misleading. For example, voters for Joe Higgins in Dublin West are likely to mention Socialist Party and voters in South Tipp are likely to mention WUAG or independent.
A vote of 18% for Independents and others in an OPINION POLL as opposed to a general election is unprecedented. In a general election the vote for others is swollen by the number og local “no hoper” candidates standing.


irishelectionliterature - May 21, 2012

That’s what I cant understand 18% is roughly the same support (or larger) as FF, Labour or Sinn Fein. Anyone with an ounce of interest in politics and elections would try and see what the make up of that 18% is.
Not just that but without dividing it up, the actual accuracy of the poll itself is flawed as how then do they decide what % of the ‘undecideds’ to put into the Independent / Others bucket?

re Tipp and WUAG , they did come very close the last time to 3 seats , hence I mentioned that Seamus Healy not running may spread the vote more evenly between the WUAG candidates and give them a better chance of 3 seats. Although I presume the number of Councillors will be reduced in a united Tipperary.


8. CMK - May 21, 2012

An interesting analysis, but one which, in my view, is unduly conservative about the ULA’s prospects at the next locals.

We have all just witnessed how SYRIZA in Greece went from 5% to where they look like emerging as the biggest party there. Not for a moment suggesting that the ULA will replicate this but merely pointing out that we have two years of grinding austerity between now and the next locals, along with several potential timebombs ticking, a Greek default and exit from the Euro being the most perilous.

It’s also likely that there’ll still be at least 400,000 people still unemployed in 2014, the battle over the household tax will probably have been dwarfed by property and water taxes, the state will have to take the politically risky decision to ramp up its legal intimidation of those engaged in civil disobedience around household/property/water taxes, there’ll probably still be 70,000 people or more emigrating every year to 2014 and beyond. The ULA, and it constituent elements, both separately and as the ULA will be central to these struggles. It would be odd if the role of the ULA and its member organisations were not to recoup a significantly higher number of seats than indicated in this analysis based on their roles in resisting an intensifying austerity.

I also disagree with the idea that SF will be the inevitable beneficiaries of voters sick of FF/FG and Labour. While there will certainly be a surge in SF support over the coming years the party itself, I think, is not equipped ideologically to meet the challenges this country and Europe faces with the consolidating supremacy of finance capital in the EU. Moreover, they are still capable of mis-reading the public mood, for instance with the household charge, and they are locked into a conventional politics of making slow steady gains, election by election, when the 2011 general election was just the first in what likely be a series of paradigm shattering elections. SF’s status as a government party in the North may lead them to take too cautious a stance when a radical approach would be more sensible. The seem to be working to a political timetable that would have made sense in the period from the first IRA ceasefire in 1994 to the bank guarantee in 2008, but which is less suited to current uncertain circumstances.

For all that the 2014 locals will be probably match, if not surpass, the upheaval of 2011, with FG and Labour the victims rather than FF. Looking forward to future instalments, if any are planned, on FF and the government parties.


irishelectionliterature - May 21, 2012

Agree with a good deal of that and the ULA will do well in areas where it (its constituent parts) has been long established. Currently these are predominantly Urban areas where a large number of votes are needed to win seats.
Its difficult to see many new candidates winning seats, although these are strange times and I’m pretty sure the Property Tax especially will cause consternation.
Regarding Sinn Fein, they made a mess of the Household Tax but in many parts of the country are currently the only organised ‘Left’ party and have a head start on the ULA in lots of areas.

Will be doing ones for the other parties too…… might take it handy and do The Christian Solidarity Party next.


CMK - May 21, 2012

🙂 You could do a two-for-the-price-of-one and do the CSP with the Greens.

I agree with Sinn Fein being the only identifiable ‘Left’ in many parts of this state, but the memories of the troubles still taint them for that all important middle age to elderly voting cohort.


9. Feadog - May 22, 2012

Its not the pollsters fault or the commentators or the media. The lack of recognition for the ULA lies with the ULA. As society polarises, Sinn Fein are taking the leading position on the Left. They are not the rivals of the ULA, SP or whatever, but allies, though a little friendly competition would be helpful.


Jack Jameson - May 23, 2012

The ULA undoubtedly (and regrettably) considers SF rivals, as witnessed by the reported barbs by Brid Smith (SWP/PBPA) at a recent conference.


Ed - May 23, 2012

I wish that were the case – a SF/ULA bloc would be quite a formidable force, if it was on the right basis – but there are very serious political differences that can’t just be written off as sectarianism on the part of the ULA (at least not by anyone whose memory stretches back a few years – as far as the 2007 election campaign for example).

You can still have tactical alliances on particular issues of course, but it takes two to tango. Right now SF and the ULA are working towards the same outcome in the referendum campaign, even if they’re not formally allied. But in the household charge campaign, how could there be an alliance when SF wouldn’t support the call for non-payment?


Mark P - May 23, 2012

And how can there be a general political alliance with a party which is simultaneously carrying out the same policies in the North that the ULA are fighting against in the South?

On individual issues, where there are compatible goals and methods, the ULA has been perfectly willing to work with Sinn Fein. But ultimately, Sinn Fein is a populist party rather than a socialist one and those are incompatible outlooks.


10. TheOtherRiverR(h)ine - May 23, 2012

Out of curiosity didn’t the SP used to get a very decent vote in the Dundrum LEA? Shouldn’t that be a target?


Mark P - May 23, 2012

Yes, Lisa Maher came very close to a council seat a couple of council elections ago. The Socialist Party hasn’t done any electoral work there in years however.


11. SF, the ULA… « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - May 23, 2012

[…] about IELB’s overview of the potential electoral prospects of the ULA earlier in the week it reminded me that there was an intriguing analysis in the Sunday Business Post […]


12. Fianna Fail and the 2014 Local Elections « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - October 22, 2012

[…] pieces on the prospects of  The ULA  and Sinn […]


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