Dublin proves to be a fickle place for politicians and political parties
Projected Labour losses show how volatile the capital is with unclear results
Labour’s Pat Rabbitte canvassing in a Dublin shoe shop during the 2011 general election. A 9 per cent support level in Dublin would see Labour’s seat tally tumble into low single figures in the next general election. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
Dublin is an electoral roulette wheel. Nowhere else in the country can a party’s fortunes vary so dramatically. A bonanza of seats in one election can be swept away in the next.
Fickle and disloyal to political parties, no other region in the country is close when it comes to changes on the electoral scoreboard. If a political party or alliance does not take Dublin, it won’t take the country.
In 2002 Fine Gael succeeded in winning a mere three seats in the capital, with only Richard Bruton, Olivia Mitchell and Gay Mitchell surviving a general rout for the party. It was that dismal performance in Dublin that served as the microcosm of the party’s wider problems and cast doubt over its future. Gains of seven seats in each of the two successive elections show how far the pendulum has swung the other way in that decade.
Similarly, Fianna Fáil’s electoral dominance of Irish politics under Bertie Ahern was built on a solid base in Dublin, where it became the dominant party for three elections.
The crisis showed how transient the loyalty was. Its support in Dublin collapsed completely at the last election, down from 39 per cent to 12.5 per cent.
The findings of the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll show extraordinary shifts in the allegiance and mood of the capital since the 2011 election. There are two political groupings where this is most evident – the Labour Party and Independents.
Labour almost equalled Fine Gael with percentage support in Dublin in 2011 (29.3 per cent compared to Fine Gael’s 29.9 per cent) and actually won one more seats in the capital (18 opposed to 17).
While Fine Gael’s support is down 13 points in Dublin in the Irish Times poll (it is now at 17 per cent), that drop is small in comparison with the 20-point drop for the Labour Party.
The other figure that stands out is the phenomenal showing for Independents and others in the capital. When the Greens at 2 per cent are grouped in with them, they make up the largest bloc by far of any political grouping – 34 per cent, or one in three voters.
Only seven of the TDs elected in Dublin in the last election were from outside the four big parties, but if these figures were repeated in an election, a doubling of that figure would be conceivable.