Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fantasy All Ireland Dail

Seeing as the glorious twelfth has just passed, I thought it might be time to have a little cross-border shenanigans. At some point in the future, 10 years or maybe 100 years, the Good Friday agreement will bring about a united Ireland. When that happens we will have an all-island parliament in the Dáil in which parties from North and South will have to come to some sort of arrangement. So I thought I'd have a look at what a combined parliament would look like.

Firstly, the constitution states that there should be a TD for between every 20k and 30k people. With about 4.2M people in the Republic being represented by 166 TDs that gives a rate of just over 25k per TD, right in the middle of the required limits. Given there are about 1.8M people in the 6 counties, on that ratio there would be 72 northern TDs bringing the total Dáil size to 238 and meaning a coalition would need 119 deputies to take power.

Based on the results of the recent general election results in the north, the 72 seats might be distributed something like the following
  • Sinn Fein, 25.5%, 19 seats
  • DUP, 25%, 18 seats
  • SDLP, 16.5%, 12 seats
  • Conservatives/Unionists, 15.2%, 11 seats
  • Alliance, 6.3%, 4 seats
  • Traditional Unionists, 3.9%, 2 seats
  • Others, 7.6%, 6 seats
Of course, in a unified Ireland it would be expected that the SF/SDLP vote would be higher as a majority would have voted for unification already. But lets just stick with these numbers.

The next question is with which southern parties would these groups align themselves? Sinn Fein are the most obvious as they would join their existing 4 deputies. SDLP are members of the PES like Labour and so would most likely join them, but at the same time they have had links with FF in the past and would be heavily courted. We'll place the Others (which might include an extra Green) with the existing independents and leave the Alliance as a stand alone unit for now.

That leaves the 31 seats representing the Unionist parties. All three would be somewhat aligned with FG on the christian democrat front, but are actually more hostile to each other than most of the other parties, therefore it is impossible to see a situation where they all join with one southern grouping. Therefore I'm going to add the Con/U to FG and then merge the Traditionals with the DUP and leave them as another new grouping. I'm also assigning the by-elections as 1FG, 1Lab, 1SF. This would leave the Dáil looking as follows
  • Fianna Fáil - 72
  • Fine Gael - 63
  • Labour - 32
  • Sinn Féin - 24
  • DUP/TradU - 20
  • Green - 6
  • Alliance - 4
  • Others - 17

Now to look at the horse-trading to form a coalition. Lets assume that FF and FG will still avoid each other and that the DUP will not join with SF (even though they work together in Stormont) but that any other combination is fair game. The simplest option for FF is to rope in Lab and SF and run with a 9 person majority. Alternatively swapping SF for DUP still gives a comfortable majority and has the benefit of being inclusive of the unionist community. FG on the other hand need to cobble together a rainbow of some sort. FG/Lab/SF scrapes in at 119 and so would need to rope in the Greens, Alliance or a smattering of Others to provide stable government. No other combinations get close to the magic figure.

It should be noted, of course, that on current opinion polls, the representation in the South would be drastically different to what is currently in place. Perhaps in another post I'll have a look at how a united Dáil in 2012 would look.

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