Disappointment outweighs success for Fine Gael with big losses in local elections
Party’s share of votes has dropped by more than 12% even as new names elected
Fine Gael’s Ken Egan and Emer Higgins – seen with Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald – were elected on the last count at the local elections in City West. Photograph: Dave Meehan
Fine Gael has had a very poor election. Its vote share has dropped by more than 12 percentage points since the general election and, despite the overall increase in the number of council seats, the party is still going to lose more than 100 from its total of 335.
The larger party in the Coalition seemed to have inured itself from an electoral backlash three years into government, with Labour taking most of the brunt.
But in recent months, its standing has been undermined by a series of crises and scandals on the Fine Gael side, coupled with falling opinion poll showings.
The fall in support has nevertheless taken many by surprise, with a sense that there may have been complacency within the party.
It had a bad day in Dublin City Council, but held its own in the other Dublin local authorities.
Losses to FF Outside the capital, though, the party sustained losses, mainly to Fianna Fáil. As voting continues in the European election counts, the party’s prediction that it would win four seats looks anything but assured.
The party’s hopes of winning two out of the four in the South may be realised – though by the skin of its teeth, if at all.
Mixed messages The two byelections had mixed messages. Gabrielle McFadden’s victory was solid, yet the hand-picked candidate for Dublin West, Eamonn Coghlan, had a so-so outing.
Fine Gael’s drop in support is larger than Labour’s in real terms, but proportionately it is still manageable.
There will be no threat to Enda Kenny’s leadership this side of a general election, but the result will certainly give the party a shock and jolt it into action. Mr Kenny will immediately have to make a move that is counterintuitive for him and effect a relatively major reshuffle of Ministers.
Mr Kenny was expected to be a Bertie Ahern-like minimalist when it came to the game of chess for portfolios, but circumstances may have forced his hand.
Drag on party Phil Hogan is still likely to become commissioner but some of his closest allies may lose out because their performance has acted as a drag on the party.
They may include Minister for Health James Reilly, who is also deputy leader.
Expect also pressure from within the parliamentary party for Mr Kenny to make amends with the Fine Gael rebels in the Reform Alliance.