Saturday, February 20, 2010

Minister on the move?

In the last week or so I have heard talk of Minister Mary Hanafin relocating her electoral base from Dún Laoghaire into Dublin South. At first I was extremely skeptical as she has steadily built her vote over the last three elections from just over 9% in 1997 to in excess of 20% in 2007. However, on further reflection it is not as far fetched as one might imagine.

The constituency boundaries were redrawn after the 2007 general election and Dún Laoghaire was reduced from 5 seats to 4 seats and about 11000 residents were moved into neighbouring Dublin South. The moved areas were mainly in Foxrock, Cabinteely and Leopardstown so the new boundary between the two constituencies is now the N11 Stillorgan Dual Carriageway.

Firstly let us consider the state of play in Dún Laoghaire. In 2007, both Fianna Fáil candidates headed the poll with over two quotas between them. After that, Eamon Gilmore of Labour was elected. Fine Gael's three candidate strategy failed miserably as with almost 1.5 quotas they should have been able to get two elected had only two candidates been run. The final seat was picked up by Ciaran Cuffe of the Green Party leaving Richard Boyd Barrett as the loser. If at the time the constituency had been a 4 seater, the most likely result would have been that 2FF, 1FG, 1Lab if the votes had been cast in the same proportions.

The 2009 local elections show a remarkable change in fortunes. Taking the results for the three main wards that make up the Dún Laoghaire Dáil constituency (Ballybrack, Dún Laoghaire and Blackrock - a small part of Stillorgan is also in DL) FG won 35% of the vote, Labour almost 24%, PBP 14% with FF back in 4th place on just shy of 13%. A repeat of these would result in 2FG, 1Lab and 1PBP being returned in the 4 seat Dáil constituency. Going from 2 TDs to none might seem extreme but remember that in 2002 no FG deputies were returned here, whereas only 10 years previously three were elected. A more realistic result might be 1FF, 1FG, 1Lab, 1PBP. But whatever happens there is no chance of both FF deputies being re-elected.

Looking at Dublin South, in 2007 FF won two seats through Seamus Brennan and Tom Kitt, with FG taking another two and the Greens wining the last seat with Eamon Ryan. Since then of course Brennan has passed away, Kitt announced his intention to retire at the next election, George Lee won the by-election with over 50% of the first preferences and then resigned. The bottom line is that going into the next election, FF will not have any sitting deputies looking for re-election. Of course Senator Maria Corrigan will look for a nomination, but her track record is poor having failed to be elected in 2 general elections and a Seanad election before being appointed to the Seanad by Bertie Ahern in 2007. Shay Brennan, late of Anglo Irish Bank, will also seek to run, but his outing in the by-election was less than impressive, failing to achieve even half the party's vote from the general election 2 years previous.

The local elections and the by-election both point to this constituency returning 1FF, 2FG, 1Lab and a big fight between FF, FG and Green for the final seat. So the solution to FF's problem seems pretty clear. They should move one of the two TDs from DL to DS. With only one candidate in DL they should be safe in winning one. To be in with a shout of the second in DS they need a heavy hitter and who better than the current minister, Mary Hanafin, to be the main vote getter on a two candidate ticket, or if they feel suicidal put all three on the ballot and hand the seat to FG or the Greens.

Thanks to Elections Ireland for the raw data and OpenOffice for doing the sums.

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