Local Election Result | In the Dark


Local Election Result | In the Dark

Following Friday’s vote, counting in Ireland’s local elections began Saturday morning. As it happened, Maynooth was one of the first LEAs to start counting and, the electorate being fairly small, was completed last night.

In the system employed in these elections, votes are progressively reallocated in various rounds until one ends up with the top n candidates to fill the available seats. The STV system involves a quota for automatic election which is N/(m+1) + 1 votes, where N is the number of valid ballots cast and m is the number of seats in the constituency.  To see why this is the case consider a four-seat constituency, where the quota would be 20% of the votes cast plus one. No more than four candidates can reach this level so anyone managing to get that many vote is automatically elected. Surplus votes from candidates exceeding quota, as well as those of eliminated candidates, are reallocated to lower-preference candidates in this process.

I thought it might be interesting to show how it went. Here is the state of the poll after the initial count of first preference votes:

Incumbent Councillor Naoise Ó Cearúil (Fianna Fáil) led the first preference votes, exceeding the quota of 1566, and was therefore immediately elected. When his surplus votes were reallocated to second-preference candidates they did not result in anyone else exceeding quota, so Peter Hamilton (who finished last) was eliminated and his votes reallocated, etc. And so it came to pass that Tim Durkan (Fine Gael) was elected on the third count, Angela Feeney (Lab) and Peter Melrose (Social Democrats) on the 6th Count, and Paul Ward (FF) on the 7th Count. Durkan, by the way, is the son of sitting Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan. For those outside Ireland I should mention that the Irish Social Democrats are quite progressive – in contrast to some parties with the same name in other countries – and they have a TD in the form of Caroline Murphy who has strong local support.

The turnout in Maynooth, by the way, was 45.3%. That’s quite high by the standards of local elections in the UK, but I always find it disappointing when people can’t be bothered to vote.

Anyway, of the five councillors elected (2 FF, 1 FG, 1 Lab & 1 SD) four are incumbent. The only change was sitting Green candidate Hamilton was replaced by newbie Peter Melrose for the Social Democrats. It was a disappointing result for Sinn Féin, similar to what happened five years ago in this LEA. The losing candidate then, however, Réada Cronin, went on to win a seat as TD for North Kildare in the General Election of 2020.

As I write, under a quarter of LEAs have completed their counts but it is fairly clear that it has been a disappointing election for Sinn Féin who, despite riding high in the opinion polls a few months ago, have not really recovered significantly from their poor showing in the 2019 Local Elections. Of course the question asked in opinion polls is about a General Election, which is quite a different kettle of fish compared to a Local election. Lots of pundits are trying to interpret these local results as a kind of opinion poll on the General Election which must happen before next year. They do this in the UK too. I don’t think that is wise. I think most people vote in the Local Elections on the local and rather mundane issues which are actually what the County Councils can actually deal with. Councils have very little power in Ireland and candidates who have grandiose plans far beyond the scope of what a councillor can actually achieve are not likely to do well. There is also a definite advantage on being an incumbent who has done a good job for the past five years. A problem for Sinn Féin is that it had to put up new faces in many LEAs to replace those lost five years ago, and few have been successful.

Anyway, it seems the status quo parties have done better than expected, and a variety of Independents have done well. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael – to me, indistinguishable conservative neoliberal parties – are currently governing Ireland in coalition with the Greens. It surprises me that there is so much support for establishment parties that have presided over a housing shortage, ever-increasing homelessness and steadily deteriorating public services, but there you go.

We’ll have to wait a considerable time for the European Election count to finish, as it hasn’t even started yet, but it seems likely that Sinn Fein will struggle and that Independent will do well.

Leave a Comment