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Winners and Losers at the elections… 2 June 11, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Fiach Kelly on the IT podcast this last week on the elections made an interesting observation. Talking about the SF loss of local election seats he suggested that talking to rival parties there was a sense that SF had become de-energised in the past couple of years. And he argued that there was a sense of SF ‘withering’ somewhat. Those losses are considerable, no question about it, though SF will still have widespread representation (and I’m always aware of the implications for Seanad seats in these matters given the input of councillors – SF is likely to lose a seat or so there).

We know there were very high-profile issues over councillors in the past. My read is that many people came into SF in the past decade who were unprepared for the discipline of party politics or the sheer grind of local politics. Small wonder a tranche were unable to keep going, and I’d actually have some time for their complaints. We live in a very different world to even two decades ago.

According to RTÉ’s post-elections analysis SF in Leinster House were ‘in shock’ and various high-profile members were recorded saying ‘they didn’t see it coming’. And yet, polling for the party has been static for a long period, the Presidential Election alone should have been a significant alarm.

Was I surprised they faced such a reverse, falling to 80 plus councillors and being effectively wiped out in some of the strongholds they picked up in 2015? Yes, definitely. I wasn’t one who was sceptical of SF’s poll rating over the past few years – I’d never had the sense that they had at local level particularly caught fire. Nor was I terribly impressed by the new leadership which seemed competent but hardly inspiring. Indeed I’d wonder if the change was too late, and in a way too emphatic, shifting from an Adams era to one where he had all but vanished.

Indeed SF perhaps grew too quickly in the past decade and was itself unprepared for the structural stresses this would incur. Moreover the culture of the party, for want of a better word, would inevitably change too, moving from a tighter bound organisation to a looser one.

Fascinating to see how something quite similar occurred within the WP in the 1980s, albeit the dynamics there were also impacted by broader events. But Kelly made an excellent point that whatever about the allegations of bullying the response of SF was itself problematic – perhaps because that shift in culture is difficult (actually just thinking of the WP experience in a way one could argue that in part the split was a function of people moving from rigid control systems en masse – there was a lot more than that, but… it might well have been a part even if submerged by partly ideological considerations. Certainly that rigid party structure was a factor in the establishment of DL and the fact a large majority of the WP walked away from it). And so in Tipperary, Cork and even parts of Dublin things went south.

One dynamic that he pointed to was the retirement of a layer of long time activists – due to age as distinct from disenchantment. That steadying factor atrophying must be a factor.

Pat Leahy suggested that the MLM plan to increase middle class support was now in ruins (where now the idea they’d go in as a minority party supporting FG/FF?). I’ve long wondered was there a clear plan there. But then it’s difficult, and I say this as someone who is sympathetic to SF, to quite determine what direction they as a party are going in – at least by their own lights. What do they see themselves as being? Supplanting FF and the LP? Being democratic socialist republicans occupying a space adjacent to social democracy? It’s a puzzle. And it’s a puzzle that needs teasing out because clearly whatever message they currently are putting out isn’t resonating as it should with their voters. According to Kelly turnout was about where it was five years ago but turnout in working class areas was low.

And Kelly had an excellent point that SF and other parties who suffered seemed unable to connect with working class voters who were their base given matters or sentiment had changed – that while there was anger we were not as we were five years ago. And they pointed to FF’s slow increase in votes both in working class areas in Dublin and parts of south Dublin (Charlie O’Connor is back, no less) and how they were ‘reestablishing’ themselves where they once were. And Kelly suggests that FF sees representing the ‘urban working class as part of their ID’. And they’re back on Dublin City Council as the largest group which feeds into the next election.

And SF? They must be in danger of losing seats and good people across a range of areas.


1. Joe - June 11, 2019

“But then it’s difficult, and I say this as someone who is sympathetic to SF, to quite determine what direction they as a party are going in – at least by their own lights. What do they see themselves as being? Supplanting FF and the LP? Being democratic socialist republicans occupying a space adjacent to social democracy? It’s a puzzle. And it’s a puzzle that needs teasing out because clearly whatever message they currently are putting out isn’t resonating as it should with their voters.”

Isn’t that it in a nutshell?
What are they? What is their message?
Over the last few years it has appeared that they have been drifting towards the centre and towards coalition with one or other of the right-wing parties. All the while having a left conscience within the party (Ó Broin and others, how many others does anyone know?) who speak and tack left but who also never rock the party boat to any great extent – all very loyal to the party.

So why vote for SF when they are looking more and more like FF?

Or is that being harsh? They have tried to be a constructive but serious opposition in a leftish social democratic way in terms of economic and social policy. But somehow that hasn’t resonated with voters – at least it didn’t at the locals.


EWI - June 11, 2019

All the while having a left conscience within the party (Ó Broin and others, how many others does anyone know?)

Well, the former SF MEP for Dublin as well, for one (she’s a left-wing ‘Green’, essentially). Mac Donncha and others as well.


Joe - June 11, 2019

Yes. But any idea how many others? What kind of heft does the left element have in SF? Could there be any concerted effort internally to keep SF ‘left’?
I wonder would a bit of political contest within the party actually do them good?
A left grouping arguing and pushing for a left agenda might actually energise the party overall. They’ve gone a bit stale, there’s nothing much exciting about them. There doesn’t appear to be much internal debate or contesting ideas – a hangover maybe from the top down origins and traditions of the movement.
Maybe that’s why the bubble seems to have deflated a fair bit, if not actually burst.


Dr.Nightdub - June 11, 2019

Daithi Doolan, SF Councillor for Ballyfermot, would be another. Was on the last DCC Housing Committee, may even have been its chair, has been very vocal and tried to show genuine leadership on the question of social housing.

Liked by 1 person

2. IrishBardamu - June 11, 2019

They were wiped out in area’s where there had been significant infighting such as County Cork, Westmeath, Galway and Wicklow and Dublin City. Seamus Morris in Tipperary made a point about cetain people in middle management. I don’t think it’ll end yet but I think the scale of their loss will make them rethink how they handle disputes. In other areas their support held up (Tallaght, Donegal, Waterford).

In terms of departing local activists, Offaly is a good case. The two SF councillors who topped the poll in Edenderry and Tullamore resigned from the council. Both seats were lost, with their candidate in Tullamore coming last.

I think the party’s position on the 32nd amendment had some impact, though most supporters who would’ve been unhappy with the position moved to Fianna Fail. Aontu won’t be going anywhere though they managed to come ahead of SF in some rural LEAs.

SF are facing certain loses in Carlow-Kilkenny, Wicklow and Dublin Fingal. They’d want a lot of luck to hold onto Limerick City, Cork East and Dublin North West.


Joe - June 11, 2019

Dublin Fingal? I’d see O’Reilly as a strong performer for them. And with Daly gone to Europe there should be votes to be picked up. I definitely wouldn’t rule O’Reilly out from retaining her seat.


Liberius - June 11, 2019

If we take the local results of Balbriggan, Howth-Malahide (where the problem is) and Swords in 2014 & Balbriggan, Howth-Malahide, Rush-Lusk and Swords in 2019 as a rough approximation of Dublin Fingal then the SF vote dropped from 10.95% to 6.13% between the two sets of locals. In the 2014 locals the statewide vote for SF was 15.2%, it was 13.8% in the 2016 GE (O’Reilly fetched 8.7%) and 9.48% in 2019 locals, I make that a slightly sharper drop in the approximate Dublin Fingal.

Looking at the Daly conundrum, she polled 20.48% in the 2009 locals in Swords (along with another 1.68% for the second SP candidate; total 22.16%), moving forward to 2014 the two Daly candidates and Coppinger combined for 10.62%, SF went from 4.63% to 11.05%; for context the LP vote went from 25.38% to 11.2%. The Daly vote effectively scattered everywhere rather than going in one specific direction.

That’s what potentially 6-7% before whatever O’Reilly can swipe out of the Daly vote. Possibly survivable, I wouldn’t be placing bets on it, especially with the greens on the rise and Clifford-Lee of FF in the Seanad.

Liked by 1 person

3. EWI - June 11, 2019

Small parties are either radical or nothing. And Mary Lou is as radical as a dish-cloth.


4. benmadigan - June 11, 2019

think SF’s main problem is the difference between NI and the ROI – in the sense that a large percentage of the working class population in NI is still demanding/begging for release from the UK and ultra-unionist domination
On the other hand, in the 100 years odd since the proclamation of the republic, the ROI has established itself as an independent country. Its working class voters just want release from austerity and corrupt politicians of every shade and hue..


5. dermot - June 12, 2019

For poll wonkery, something I hadn’t noticed before: check out the aggregate graphs of RedC and B&A below the table of poll data:


Hard to reconcile these with the local results, esp. SF, no wonder they’re stunned right now.


The low turnout should be a story in itself, as the 2014 (52%) was at the time the second lowest. 2019 was even lower (50.2%), so the turnout actually ties 1999 for the lowest turnout ever…don’t know how accurate turnout stats go, but it might even be THE lowest.



Might be dangerous to extrapolate too much into the local results therefore. Not saying SF don’t have real problems (jesus lads, would you leave off the loafs of bread and the ‘England out’ gesture nonsense / get your act together); that said, their typically lazy electorate definitely couldn’t be arsed this time.


Paul Culloty - June 12, 2019

The major problem with the polling companies is that they find it virtually impossible to accurately calibrate support levels for the minor parties – B & A tend to undervalue the Soc Dems, veering between 0-1%, compared to 2-3% nationally in the locals (which includes areas where they didn’t stand any candidates), and by contrast both they and MRBI overvalue SF, with the maligned Red C closest to the mark with that party. Mind you, Red C’s continual error is with FF, though generally about 2%, and overprice FG by 4-5% on average.

Liked by 1 person

Dermot M O Connor - June 12, 2019

Yup; likelihood to vote seems to be the rock they founder on – basically comes down to guesswork.

Good for a VERY crude general idea, but I wouldn’t want my life to hang on any of the pollsters tea-leaves.

Given that none of them saw the dial move for the Greens (and it definitely did move, turnout notwithstanding), I’d be prone to putting their MOE in the 5% range.

Except for Labour, haha. High five.


6. Jim Monaghan - June 12, 2019

A bit of realism from Brid Smith. “Bríd Smith, People Before Profit TD for Dublin South Central has welcomed the call by Lynn Boylan for Sinn Fein to seek more co-operation with left wing parties.

In a statement, Brid Smith said:

“Lynn Boylan has put her finger on the key issue that needs discussion after local and European elections– Sinn Fein should turn left rather than seeking to position itself as yet another party in the mainstream centre. There are huge inequalities in Irish society and many working class people want the left to co-operate together to break the grip of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

“But that also means making a real choice. You cannot just use left wing rhetoric and then deploy the votes won to prop up one or other of the establishment parties. You cannot talk of developing ‘people power’ style resistance to the political establishment – and then join them later in government.

“So, yes, Lynn is right – Sinn Finn needs to have a conversation about whether or not their strategic goal is to join a government dominated by one of the right wing parties. They don’t need to apologise for walking behind a banner that states ‘England get out of Ireland’ or wear a poppy to show how they have paid an entry price for getting into the establishment. They should embrace, rather than discard, radical, left wing anti-imperialist policies.”

The SP/Solidarity just made excuses.


7. Jim Monaghan - June 12, 2019

From John Meehan “The estimated loss of Sinn Féin seats in an Irish General Election – up to 12 – is, in my opinion, accurate. Among the seats at risk is Dublin Central, where the current SF TD is Party Leader Mary Lou McDonald.

It is likely that 4 by-Elections will occur in six months. This presents an opportunity to the anti-coalition fighting-left which should prepose one candidate in each constituency on an agreed platform.

“Waterford TD David Cullinane said yesterday: “Low turnout, the boundary issues, and Sinn Féin not articulating our positive vision, are all issues we have heard from Sinn Féin people over the last number of days.

“We are hurting, because we lost a lot of good councillors and one MEP at least in Lynn Boylan. We have to listen, we have to learn.”

The Irish Examiner has spoken to Sinn Féin TDs, councillors, and activists who have expressed concern that an early general election this year could heap further losses on the party, with many warning that unless serious changes are made, up to 12 of its Dáil seats could be lost.

“We have an identity crisis and people will not vote for a party which is unclear in its policies,” said one TD.

“We could fall to 12 or 13 TDs the way things are. It is that bad and we do not have a lot of time to put it right”


8. Jim Monaghan - June 12, 2019
9. AdoPerry - June 12, 2019

The electoral register is completely out of date. I had 4 polling cards from previous tenants ( unused 😂😂) and know of plenty more similar cases. Eliminate these and the polling data may slightly change the turnout figures in forthcoming elections.

Liked by 1 person

10. roddy - June 12, 2019

Aye right enough,whatever you say ,don’t say” England out”.I wonder would those south of Newry find that sentiment so objectionable if they faced the prospect of Boris Johnson rule?!


Dermot M O Connor - June 12, 2019

They can work every second to get England out, but it’s not 1980 any more (the next census will prove that). That ‘come out ye black and tans’ schtick might appeal to core voters, but getting the core out isn’t the game any more. If there’s to be a UI in our lifetimes, it’ll involve winning a small % of the bourgeois unionist voters to vote in their economic best interest rather than tribal / sectarian for one, and if I know one thing about bourgeois middle classes, it’s that their #1 loyalism is $elf intere$t.

If ‘England out’ posters dredged from the early 80s is the hill SF are choosing to die on, good luck to them, because they’ll need it. Kiss goodbye to UI for another decade or three.

That said, I don’t want to see SF turn into centrist technocrats either, mind, which I fear is the most likely outcome, the occasional atavistic theatrics notwithstanding.


Miguel62 - June 12, 2019

I really do have to laugh at the feigned shock/horror reaction to the SF “England, get out of Ireland” banner. I mean, who knew?


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