The results of Irish local elections have now come through, for all 943 of the 949 council seats to be elected this year. There were also two by-elections to the Dail, the Irish Parliament, on the same day, 23 May 2014.
I am very pleased to say it has been a good year for parties on the Irish left-not only Sinn Fein but also People Before Profit and the Socialist Party. The Irish Green Party appear to have redeemed themselves as well-but they need to be careful not to get in bed with Ireland's establishment parties in future (i.e. no alliance with Fine Gael, Fianna Fail or Labour).
Eirigh, Sinn Fein. Ga Eire agat anois.
That phrase by the way means in Irish Gaelic, 'arise, Sinn Fein. Ireland needed you now.' Sinn Fein performed very well in Irish local elections, and deserved to for its opposition towards the vicious austerity being imposed by the current Fine Gael-Labour coalition. The fact that Eamon Gilmore has now resigned as Irish Labour Party leader is a sign that the coalition might dissolve early-although it will be too late for Labour at that point.
With most of the seats filled (apart from the Ballybay-Clones electoral area in Monaghan where a candidate has died, leading to the election there being delayed), the final results are out of 943 council seats whose polls have been declared, Fianna Fail have 266, mostly in rural areas, Fine Gael have 232 councillors, Sinn Fein have 157 councillors, and Labour have a measly 51 councillors out of 943, even though Ireland uses STV and all of the electoral areas had at least six council seats-some had 10! There were also 237 independents and councillors from other parties combined. My analysis of Irish local elections in major areas is this:
Out of the major Irish cities, Cork was quickest to reject the establishment's austerity policies. The left had a very good night in Cork, which not having the prominence and also a fraction of the population of the Irish capital, Dublin, was not as fortunate in the Celtic Tiger years as Dublin was, and is certainly much worse off now. In total, 'hard left' parties won 4 of the 31 seats in Cork City, with hard working and respectable councillors Mick Barry and Ted Tynan of the Socialist Party and older Workers' Party being reelected and joined by Lil O'Donnell and Marion O'Sullivan. Meanwhile, Sinn Fein won 8 councillors in Cork, and only 15 councillors from neoliberal capitalist parties were elected in Cork-Cork elected just 10 Fianna Fail councillors, just 5 Fine Gael councillors, and not a single councillor in Labour. Note that Labour has deputies (TDs) in Cork City's constituencies.
Dublin City, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, Fingal Dublin, South Dublin:
In Dublin City, the establishment parties did even worse, with Fianna Fail ,Fine Gael, and Labour only electing 25 councillors between them out of the 63 seats available in Dublin City, where there have been strong anti-austerity and anti-water tax protests. Meanwhile, People Before Profit got 5 councillors elected in Dublin, including unsuccessful European candidate and current PBP councillor Brid Smith. However, their sectarian approach, rather than united left approach, meant that the Socialists only won one seat in Dublin, with even their splinter United Left opponents also winning 1 seat. Even though Sinn Fein's vote was being split by an extremist offshoot, Eirigi,who did well from a standing start in LEAs they stood candidates in, it still won 16 Dublin council seats. (Eirigi is to Sinn Fein what ANTARSYA is to SYRIZA) The Irish Greens meanwhile won 2 council seats, meaning they have not recovered that much in what was once their strongest area.
Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, meanwhile, despite the hard work of Richard Boyd Barrett TD, who represents the Dun Laoghaire constituency, was more accepting of the three main parties, who won 26 out of 40 Dun Laoghaire seats (11 Fine Gael, 8 Fianna Fail, 7 Labour). People Before Profit could only win 3 seats, the same number as Sinn Fein won there; Sinn Fein does not have as strong a base in urban areas of Ireland as it does in rural areas of Ireland. The Irish Greens gained 2 seats, the same number they gained in Dublin City, and the council results there overall suggeststhat Dun Laoghaire seems not to be suffering from austerity as much as inner Dublin itself.
Fingal Dublin is to the Socialists what Dun Laogihaire is to People Before Profit- the Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA), most of whose candidates are members of the Socialist Party of Ireland, won 4 council seats there to PBP's one. On the same day in Fingal Dublin, part of the Dublin West Dail Eireann constituency, Ruth Coppinger was elected as a deputy in a by-election for Dublin West, which happened after ex-TD Patrick McNulty resigned over inappropriate Facebook comments. Labour meanwhile fell from first place in the 2011 Dublin West by-election (which elected Mr. McNulty) in terms of 1st preference votes, straight down to seventh place! Fine Gael did not do much better in this by-election either, finishing fifth, and Fianna Fail candidate David McGuinness failed a second time to get elected. In Fingal Dublin, only 17 of the 40 elected councillors were from Fianna Fail, Fine Gael,or Labour, whilst SInn Fein won six council seats and the Irish Greens won two, which was good compensation for their Dublin West by-election candidate, Roderick O'Gorman.
I am pleased to say six hard left councillors were elected in South Dublin-three from PBP and three from the AAA. That is more than the number of councillors elected this year in South Dublin from Fianna Fail (5), or Labour (4), and only one behind Fine Gael (7). Sinn Fein were easily the winners in South Dublin, electing 9 councillors out of 40 and gaining 24% of the 1st preference votes cast. The Irish Greens gained one seat via Francis Duffy, meaning they have representation in all of Dublin's 4 councils.
Now the city of Galway is one that bucked the anti-austerity trend that was present in most of Ireland's local elections (I will say of course that the Dublin metropolitan area alone elected 183 of the 949 local councillors across the whole of Ireland). It must however be said that Galway has generally been one of the more conservative cities in the Irish Republic, alongside Limerick just to the south of it. Indepedent candidates were the big winners in Galway, topping the poll in all 3 Galway City local electoral areas (LEAs), with 6 independent councillors, 4 Fine Gael councillors, 3 Fianna Fail councillors, and 2 Labour councillors being elected. Meanwhile, Sinn Fein won only 3 out of Galway City's 18 council seats and not a single candidate from the AAA or PBP was elected in Galway City.
Okay, Limerick City only covers 21 of the 40 council seats in this area, if you ask. But Limerick is notable in terms of this year's Irish elections as it shows the best chance of revival for Fianna Fail, even though if it returns to power in 2016 (the latest date the next Irish general election can take place), it will do no better than the Fine Gael-Labour coalition is doing now. Even though Fianna Fail did not top the poll in Limerick County, it elected 13 councillors to Fine Gael's 12, with 6 of them being in Limerick City. Labour meanwhile elected 3 councillors, the same number the AAA elected, and Sinn Fein elected only 6 across Limerick County.
Good news for Independent candidates- bad news for anti-austerity campaigners. Only a few candidates of hard left parties stood in Waterford County's LEAs, and none came close to being elected, even in Waterford City itself where the Workers' Party once had local strength-Davy Walsh of the Workers' Party only managed 4.9% of the 1st preference votes in the Tramore-Waterford City East LEA. Sinn Fein only elected 6 councillors across the county. Meanwhile, 9 independent councillors were elected, and 8 Fianna Fail and Fine Gael councillors were elected apiece, with only 1 Labour councillor elected. The minority Direct Democracy Party of Ireland, which had gained some fame last year after beating the Labour candidate in the Meath East by-election, got one of their best results in Waterford County.
The two Dail by-elections of 23 May 2014- Dublin West and Longford-Westmeath
I have already spoken of the Dublin West by-election here mostly, but I can say that Sinn Fein did well in both the Dublin West and Longford-Westmeath by-elections. However, in neither case did their candidate get elected. They only achieved third place in Longford-Westmeath and even though their candidate in Dublin West, Paul Donnelly, actually got 79 more 1st preference votes than Ruth Coppinger, he did not get enough transfers to make it to the final count. Independent David Hall performed well in the Dublin West by-election, finishing fourth ahead of Fine Gael, the best result for any Independent candidate in this Dail Eireann constituency. Meanwhile in Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael candidate Gabrielle McFadden, sister of Nicky McFadden (whose death caused this by-election) won, with Aengus O'Rourke, son of former Fianna Fail TD Marian O'Rourke, coming second. Three of the five independent candidates beat Labour, who finished 7th in 1st preference votes just as they did in Dublin West. Labour meanwhile did not even contest any council seats at all in the Longford part- although as much of the 'Irish Midlands' is very rural this is not that surprising.
I hope my analysis of the Irish local elections and two Irish Dail by-elections has been useful.