Sunday, 24 May 2015

By-elections, diversity and song

Yesterday was rather an interesting day, not just because of Eurovision 2015's final-it was also due to the Carlow-Kilkenny by-election over in Ireland (caused by the resignation of Fine Gael's Phil Hogan when he was appointed European Commissioner) and two referenda, one to approve same-sex marriage and one to lower the minimum age for presidential candidates.

The Carlow-Kilkenny by-election was won by Fianna Fail's Bobby Aylward, probably due to being able to receive useful transfers from Fine Gael, whose first preference vote share plummeted from 39.2% to just 20.6%, partly due to the intervention of Renua Ireland's Patrick McKee. These preference transfers were probably also advocated to keep Sinn Fein's Kathleen Funchion out-and it worked. Labour probably advocated similar tactical voting-their base in Carlow-Kilkenny is not that strong at all and their poll ratings are still very poor, hovering around 8%.

Renua Ireland, created by former Fine Gael TD Lucinda Creighton, is in reality similar to the old Progressive Democrats in many ways, and like the PDs will probably not last very long. With thirteen candidates, it was rather a tight squeeze for progressive and left-wing candidates, although the Greens' Malcolm Noonan did achieve 5.3%, marking good signs of a Green recovery in Ireland, and Conor Mac Liam also achieved 3.3% (double his vote share of 2011) even though this time the far-left vote was split by People Before Profit, whose candidate, Adrienne Wallace, managed 3.6% of the first preference vote.

More important, though, was the referendum to approve same-sex marriage-and the people of Eire voted yes by a margin of 62% to 38%. However, one constituency, the rural Roscommon-South Leitrim, voted no to same sex-marriage, though narrowly. The Yes margin was much wider in the 'Greater Dublin' area; all the highest Yes voting constituencies in this referendum were in Dublin, where progressive political parties have done well for some time. Of the three provinces of Ireland entirely within Ireland, Leinster came out most in favour of same-sex marriage, Connaught the least in favour in spite of Fine Gael also speaking in favour of same-sex marriage (Connaught is Fine Gael's strongest base). Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan (in Ulster) also only narrowly voted in favour despite their strong support for Sinn Fein, who also advocated a Yes vote, possibly due to their rural and older voter base (the shy No vote).

This is an important step for equality, but the disparity in the Yes vote also shows a widening divide socially and economically within Ireland-the no vote was highest in areas with stronger support for Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, or Sinn Fein, and in rural areas; the yes vote was highest in areas with good support for the Green Party or the Anti-Austerity Alliance, and in areas where the Labour Party of Ireland have traditionally polled better than average, generally in large towns or cities. A similar divide was shown in 2013 when an attempt to abolish the Irish Seanad (Senate) narrowly failed; rural areas were less favourable towards the Senate than urban areas.

Meanwhile, Eurovision 2015's final was going on, and despite some people worrying that Russia would win the Eurovision vote due to CIS countries being more favourable to Russia, it was Sweden who emerged the clear winner of Eurovision 2015. Amidst all this, Britain's entry, 'Still In Love With You' by Electro Velvet, scored only 5 points (1 from Malta, 1 from Ireland, 3 from San Marino, surprisingly enough), which is our worst Eurovision performance since 2003 (when our entry scored the dreaded nul points, which this time was achieved by the German and Austrian entries)

Politics has a notable influence in Eurovision voting (even though it should not) which is partly to explain for Britain's poor performance in Eurovision contests when it comes to the voting, and for Russia taking an early lead. However, I know the real reasons why our entry scored so low-the song's lyrics were not very imaginative and dated, the mix of styles was a bit mismatched and more American than European, and it was not well-composed. It is probably a good basis for a parody, though, on the upside.



  1. Of the three provinces of Ireland entirely within Ireland - I think you meant of the three provinces wholly in the Republic since a large chunk of Ulster is the 6 counties of British Governed/Occupied Northern Ireland. - be interesting to see what happens as Stormont now since the 6 counties are the only part of the EU member part of the British Isles to ban Gay Marriage - obviously many Crown Dependencies still do including place like the Isle Of Man that still frown on gay relationships full stop.

  2. on Eurovision. It is no surprise we got Votes from San Marino it has consistently given the UK votes since entering the contest in 2008. It also has an economy based on package tourists from the Adriatic Riveria taking advantage of it's low tax rates on Spirits and Cigarettes and it's customs union with Italy. - which attract my UK, Dutch and German coach tourists on excursions from Rimini. On our song a strong song on the radio that was complex to stage in the arena. - and an awkward draw placing at 5th meant we were doomed from the start. - Also our arrogance at the EU and poor quality MEP's [Keith, Molly, Jean & our EFA colleagues excluded] meant that we were largely ignored. BUT with Conservative budget cuts to the in their eyes "leftie" BBC means we couldn't afford to host it, and spare a thought for Germany & poor Austria- they get the bill for hosting the event then "Nil" points on home soil. - that teach then to set a Piano on fire in times of Austerity