What if local election results were repeated in General Election?

Labour would win just six seats if local results repeated in next General Election

The Local Election result has already cost Eamon Gilmore his role as Tánaiste and leader of the Labour Party.  Photograph; Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

The Local Election result has already cost Eamon Gilmore his role as Tánaiste and leader of the Labour Party. Photograph; Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

Fri, May 30, 2014, 09:16

The Local Election result has already cost Eamon Gilmore his role as Tánaiste and leader of the Labour Party. An analysis of the results translated into the 40 Dail Constituencies that will be the battleground for the next General Election, makes it very clear the scale of the problem facing Labour.

Yes, it was a local election and the General Election will be contested by a vastly different array of candidates including Ministers and TDs from all parties. However, as was the case in 1991 and 2009 the warning signs were apparent and they effectively predicted the result of the following Dail election.

If last weekend had been a General Election, Labour would have been reduced to a low of just six seats, which would represent their fewest number of TDs returned since the party was founded. The survivors would have been Ann Phelan in Carlow-Kilkenny, Brendan Ryan, Dublin Fingal, and Eric Byrne or Michael Conaghan in Dublin South-Central. In Dublin Bay South either Ruairi Quinn or Kevin Humphreys would have held on, as would Pat Rabbitte or Eamonn Maloney in Dublin South-West.

Emmet Stagg would have continued his unbroken spell in the Dáil dating back to 1987, but the ultimate irony is that the final survivor would have been Eamon Gilmore if Seán Barrett had retired. Every other seat in the country would have been lost including those of all the likely contenders for the leadership.

Much of their middle class vote melted away and it completely vanished in the working class areas that used to sustain them even in bad times. The vacuum that they left in those areas has been filled by Sinn Féin, People before Profit and an avalanche of Independents that spans the entire political spectrum.

It will be a monumental task for the new leader to devise a strategy to entice that support back to the fold. An upturn in the economy will only be of value to the party if the benefits manifestly improve the living standards of the population and particularly those in what used to be the Labour heartland

Fine Gael also got a rude awakening last weekend.

Up to now they had largely escaped the wrath directed at their coalition partners. Enda Kenny is in the firing line for the first time since the bungled challenge to his leadership in 2010 as it has dawned on the backbenchers that, just like Labour, some 30 of their number might be spending only one term in the Dail. However, if these figures were replicated in 2016 that is what will happen and the Taoiseach will be denied his heartfelt desire to be the first leader of Fine Gael to win two successive terms in Government.

Fianna Fáil were on their knees just three years ago and many commenters speculated that the party was heading for oblivion. But the reality is that the party is part of the culture and, like Labour, will survive. At its worst moment it still achieved 17 per cent in 2011 and, for all its successes last weekend and there were many, Sinn Féin is just at that level of support now. Fianna Fail has the largest share of the vote in 15 constituencies and is clearly on the upturn, although with a considerable job of work still to do in Dublin.

Sinn Féin never make massive strides, but incrementally build support, just as they did in overtaking the SDLP, and including the Presidential election have added 3 percentage points at every election since 2009.

Were these figures come to pass then the only viable coalition is Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, who would have 46 and 42 seats respectively, Even if the roles were reversed would either party realistically want to be a junior partner in Government?

With no party even reaching 50 seats the recipe exists for a period of political chaos as existed in 1981 and 1982 and then it took three elections within 18 months to bring closure.

The results in every LEA were calculated and allocated to their respective Dail Constituencies. As happened in many instances where an LEA was divided across one or more Constituencies the exact portion was calculated and appropriately apportioned.


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