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Some thoughts on Dublin Mid West after the bye-election December 1, 2019

Posted by Tomboktu in Uncategorized.

Background: Dublin Mid West is a four-seat constituency with three local electoral areas making up the bulk of the constituency: Clondalkin, Lucan and Palmerstown-Fonthill. In 2016, Sinn Féin’s EOin Ó Broin and Fine Gael’s Frances Fitzgerald were both elected on the first count. FF and PBP won the other two seats. In 2011, it elected four Government TDs: two FG and two Labour.

Sinn Féin in Dublin Mid West will have a challenge in the next general election to retain two seats. I think Ó Broin would be open to trying that. In the 2014 locals he ran with a running mate (who has since defected to FF and was not re-elected). They split the area, with the running mate from north Clondalkin canvasing in his own community, and Ó Broin focusing on the more middle class south Clondalkin. They got more than 3 quotas, probably a combination of national factors and local strategy working together for them.

Mark Ward is based in North Clondalkin. It has an interesting electoral history. Decades ago, a Labour councillor was the only elected representative based in the area. He left Labour shortly before he would have been kicked out for his votes on Dublin County Council on rezoning. For decades, no party put a candidate up from the area, and the area had a very low turnout, which resulted in low-levels of canvassing, often token — by candidates across all parties. Then Gino Kenny ran in the local elections on issues that mattered to people in the area such as facilities for horses, support for drug users, turnout shot up and he was elected to the council in 2009. He delivered on horse facilities, and was elected to the Dáil, with the other parties noticing the increased turnout in north Clondalkin.

The real possibility is that in the next general election, if Sinn Féin take two seats, it will be at the expense of the other North Clondalkin TD, Gino Kenny, rather from FF or FG.

The Social Democrats’ Anne Marie McNally not do well in the bye-election. Between Dáil and local elections, this is McNally’s third time out and she has not grown her vote enough to make her a serious candidate for the next general election. The view I hear is that she does not spend enough time building her local base, putting more time into her national role for her party at the cost of building the base for an additional SD seat.

FF and FG will both be reasonably happy with the outcome in the bye-election, even if the loss of a FG TD is a setback in the Dáil for the moment. In both parties, their vote was enough to confirm they have a seat in the next multi-seat general election. For FF, sitting TD John Curran will also be relieved that the showing of his party’s candidate Shane Moynihan was not too strong — that is, he didn’t win the seat — and the numbers could bode well for Curran to be the solo candidate in the general election.

The PBP seem to have used the bye-election to build the profile of their unsuccessful local election candidate in Lucan, Kellie Sweeney. Madeleine Johansson is the only PBP councillor in the three local authority areas that make up DMW, in the clumsily named “Palmerstown-Fonthill”, which is Gino Kenny’s base. (Fontill is a near-empty townland between the N4 and the River Liffey. The vast bulk of the electoral area’s residents live in Palmerstown and north Clondalkin.) Sweeney’s poster campaign was the most sophisticated in the bye-election, and was possibly somewhat confusing. She had four posters, with short messages on four themes: climate change, career politicians, housing, and healthcare. They used the same photograph and shapes, but the colour schemes were very different, and when I first saw two of them I thought different candidates had used the same lazy designer.

Labour’s Joanna Tuffy cannot be at all happy that she came so far behind ex-Green Paul Gogarty: 13% to 7% first preferences in the bye-election. They are both based in the Lucan electoral area, and if that pattern remains in place at the general election, they question will be whether her transfers will elect Gogarty. He beat her in 2002, being elected in the third seat when it was a three-seater and she came fourth. In 2007, she pipped him by 32 votes on the first count but Gogarty pulled in more transfers to be elected with over 1,000 more votes than her in the final count (both were elected). She beat him in the 2011 general election, when he was not elected, but in this year’s local elections in Lucan, Gogarty had nearly double the number of her first preferences. Her increase from 5.0% in the 2016 general election to 6.7% does not suggest an upswing that would bring her back to Leinster House in the spring.

The “official” Green Party candidate, Peter Kavanagh, is a new councillor in Clondalkin and he must see the bye-election as a base-building exercise. Gogarty’s presence must be a threat for the medium term, and the next general election is too soon to give Kavanagh time to build a reputation as an effective councillor. But he could hope to replace Gogarty in the next-plus-one General election.


1. crocodileshoes - December 1, 2019

4 men living in Clondalkin now represent the constituency. Interested in what you say about Ann Marie mcNally, an articulate, engaged, media-friendly candidate. You’d think she’d be transfer-friendly, too, but apparently not. Would it be too cynical to suggest she should find a more middle-class constituency?

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - December 1, 2019

Perhaps it’s small partyitis. There’s only so much a person can do if they’re involved both at national and local level. One will suffer. And that pattern has been evident with Sol and PBP since the election of their TDs with more people having to focus on national/Dáil issues at the expense of local ones. Not sure how one squares that circle.

Liked by 1 person

Tomboktu - December 2, 2019

I am reminded of a comment a pal made years ago (about a different candidate in a different election in a different place): “she’d make a great candidate not not a great TD”. Does McNally have the opposite problem?

Liked by 1 person

2. roddy - December 1, 2019

Both Sweeney and McNally were very gracious towards Ward,both saying they were glad he won.

Liked by 2 people

3. Tomboktu - December 1, 2019

She has to get her base up high enough for transfers to come in to play. Lucan and parts of south Clondalkin are pretty middle class, but FG and FF take those votes, as, I would guess (without data) do Tuffy, Gogarty and Kavanagh.


4. EWI - December 1, 2019

This should be in ‘signs of hope’? Tuffy’s brand of ‘Labour’ politics will be no loss to national politics.


Tomboktu - December 2, 2019

Now forgotten, but Tuffy was one of only two Labour TDs in 2011 to vote against going into coalition.

Liked by 1 person

EWI - December 2, 2019

Now forgotten, but Tuffy was one of only two Labour TDs in 2011 to vote against going into coalition.

She was also vice-chair (to Alan Shatter) of the small Israel supporters’ group in the Oireachtas.


Joanna Tuffy - December 2, 2019

It was a Parliamentary friendship group, one of many set up by the Oireachtas under the auspices of the Inter Parliamentary Union, including one with Iran and China. See here for example


5. Fergal - December 1, 2019

Funny how the mainstream reported theses by-elections…The Greens’ big victory came with the news that it was the Greens’ first ever by-election victory…surely, it was SF’s first one too?!
Can anyone here explain the SF bounce? Very strong local candidates in Dub M-W and Cork.. but how does this square with their recent locals slump? Does this augur well for Westminster elections?
Greens are on a wave….or ???


Liberius - December 1, 2019

The Donegal South-West by-election back in November 2010 that elected Pearse Doherty was SF’s first Dáil by-election win.


Fergal - December 1, 2019

You’re right Liberius…thanks


Paul Culloty - December 1, 2019

Going back to basics, such as community activism? It was ignoring that spadework that cost Labour its traditional base, after all.


6. Joanna Tuffy - December 1, 2019

I am happy with the result. Of course I would have liked to do better but am around a long time and know it’s an uphill climb because except for 1992 and 2011 it always was such for Labour in Dublin Mid West. I’m under no illusions about the difficulty of the task I face but don’t write me off just yet. 2016 I was just under 5% and the Social Democrats were 6.1% and the PBP 10.7%. This by By-Election I got 6.7% with Social Democrats on 4.1% and PBP on 5.1%. I’ve been elected to the Council in the Lucan Electoral Area. The turnout from my best areas was low. Geographical and gender and other factors will be present in a General Election in a way that were not a feature of a By-election. It’s wide open – personally I wouldn’t rule anyone out or in including myself.

Liked by 2 people

7. 1729torus - December 1, 2019

A big problem with leftwing politics is that it historically has little to say about the supply-side of the economy. SF have done a decent job of dealing with this out by being aggresive on issues such as rising insurance premiums and housing.

PBP/Solidarity don’t seem to have anything to say about an booming economy suffering from bottlenecks and shortages, so it’s not surprising their vote is shrinking back to the same level it was back in 2007

FG keep chasing the far right vote at the expense of the middle ground, and they’re losing core votes to the Greens as a result. FG had a opportunity in 2011 to replace FF as the dominant party of the centre to centre-right and they squandered it for fear of some far-right party taking 5% to their right.

If FG don’t change tactics, their core vote will fall below 20%. SF aren’t going to let them into office the same way Labour did, FG are probably facing marginalisation and irrelevance if FF beat them next year


8. Joanna Tuffy - December 1, 2019

Also just a correction re Labour having no representation in North Clondalkin – it was part of Dublin West and Joan Burton a TD from 1992 to 1997. In 1999 Quarryvale was part of the Lucan Electoral Area and in fact I topped the poll in Quarryvale boxes on that occasion. Robert Dowds was elected same year for Clondalkin Electoral Area. It’s true I’ve lost support there and would have got a small per cent in by election but myself and Robert jointly polled very well there in 2011 and I did fairly well there in 2007 which is one reason I was able to be elected alongside Paul Gogarty in that election – a high proportion of my votes back then were from Clondalkin voters.

Liked by 1 person

Tomboktu - December 2, 2019

The paragraph in the post is about elected representatives based in north Clondalkin, and indeed my use of ‘based’ has a fair degree of flexibility

Cllr John O’Halloran lived there, Deputy Gino Kenny grew up there, Cllr Jonathan Graham lives there, and Deputy Mark Ward lives there. It would be a bit of a stretch to attribute a form of similar connection between yourself or Joan Burton to north Clondalkin that would justify the word “based”. (On that basis, you could say that John Curran, or Frances Fitzgerald were ‘based’ in north Clondalkin.)


ThalmannBrigadier - December 2, 2019

Jonathan Graham is no longer a councillor or a member of Sinn Fein. As someone who knew people who had to deal with him in college, the party is richer for having lost him.

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