Political impacts of the 2012 Constituency Commission report: 2011 General Election party support estimates and changing political landscapes in the new constituency areas

Adrian Kavanagh, 25th June 2012 

The creation of new election boundaries for the next general election, associated with the reduction in the number of Dail seat numbers by eight, in the 2012 Constituency Commission report has fundamentally altered the rules of the electoral game and sets in play the stage on which the next election campaign will be fought. Party’s base levels of support by constituency, as related to their results in the 2011 General Election, have been changed with changes to these electoral boundaries. This post will attempt to decipher, based on tally figures in local newspapers where these are available, what these support levels would have been if the last general election had been fought in these new constituency areas. Where tally figures have not been published, there will be a discussion relating to the potential impacts of the changes being made to the constituencies in question.

Donegal (5 seats): The new five-seat Donegal constituency area largely comprises of an amalgamation of the old Donegal North East and Donegal South West constituencies, encompassing all of the Donegal county territory with the exception of the southern part of the county (including Bundoran, Ballyshannon and Ballintra) which now is part of the new four-seat Sligo-Leitrim constituency. Based on tally figures published on the local Donegal newspapers, the main vote winners in the area being moved into Sligo-Leitrim would have been Pearse Doherty (with roughly 1,700 votes), Dinny McGinley (with roughly 1,200 votes) and Mary Coughlan (with roughly 1,000 votes). The votes lost by Mary Coughlan (roughly one-fifth of her total first preference votes in the constituency in that election) account for a much higher share of her 2011 vote than would have been the case for McGinley (14%) and Doherty (12%) and especially her party running mate, Brian Ó Domhnaill (3%). Adding the 2011 votes won in the two Donegal constituencies while excluding the figures for the south Donegal area being moved into Sligo-Leitrim leads to a calculation of the 2011 party share share of the vote in the new Donegal constituency as follows: Fine Gael 25.2% (1.52 quotas), Labour 7.7% (0.46 quotas), Fianna Fail 20.3% (1.21 quotas), Sinn Fein 29.1% (1.75 quotas), Green Party 0.9% (0.06 quotas), United Left Alliance DNC, Independents and Others 16.8% (1.01 quotas) – the votes won by the main independent candidate, Thomas Pringle, in the part of Donegal South West remaining in the Donegal constituency would amount to 7.2% (0.43 quotas) of the total number of votes cast in this new constituency in 2011.

Sligo-Leitrim (4): The recreation of the four-seat Sligo-Leitrim constituency has been facilitated by the addition of the aforementioned part of south Donegal as well as a significant part of west Cavan (resulting in the remaining part of Cavan-Monaghan becoming a four seat constituency). This part of west Cavan includes part of the local bases of former Fianna Fail minister, Brendan Smith, and Fine Gael candidate, Peter McVitty, meaning that there would have been strong levels of support for these parties in this area relative to the rest of the Cavan-Monaghan constituency. In addition to the west Cavan and south Donegal areas, the new constituency includes the old Sligo-North Leitrim constituency area as well as the part of south Leitrim that was part of the old Roscommon-South Leitrim constituency. Combining party support levels across these different areas, leads to a calculation of the 2011 party share share of the vote in the new Sligo-Leitrim constituency as follows: Fine Gael 35.9% (1.79 quotas), Labour 8.2% (0.41 quotas), Fianna Fail 22.8% (1.14 quotas), Sinn Fein 17.6% (0.88 quotas), Green Party 1.3% (0.06 quotas), United Left Alliance 3.4% (0.17 quotas), Independents and Others 10.7% (0.54 quotas).

Cavan-Monaghan (4): A significant chunk of west Cavan has been moved in to the new, or rather re-created, Sligo-Leitrim constituency, as discussed above, and the remaining part of Cavan-Monaghan loses a seat and now becomes a four seat constituency. Former Fianna Fail minister, Brendan Smith, and Fine Gael candidate, Peter McVitty, were both especially strong in this area – McVitty would lose a very large percentage of his first preference votes as a result although Smith would not have been effected to the same degree as he was able to pick up a party vote in the rest of Cavan county as the only Cavan-based Fianna Fail candidate contesting this constituency in the 2011 election. Sinn Fein’s Kathryn Reilly would lose out on some votes, but not to the same extent as Smith and McVitty, while candidates based in east Cavan and especially Monaghan county would be less effected in terms of lost votes by this boundary change. Excluding the area of west Cavan that is being moved into Sligo-Leitrim, the 2011 party share share of the vote in the smaller Cavan-Monaghan constituency as follows: Fine Gael 39.2% (1.96 quotas), Labour 5.6% (0.28 quotas), Fianna Fail 19.4% (0.97 quotas), Sinn Fein 27.2% (1.36 quotas), Green Party 0.7% (0.04 quotas), United Left Alliance NC, Independents and Others 7.8% (0.39 quotas).

Mayo (4): Mayo loses most of the Ballinrobe electoral area to Galway West and loses one of its five Dail seats in the process. Candidates with bases in the southern part of the constituency, such as Michael Ring, Lisa Chambers, John O’Mahony and Enda Kenny. The  biggest number of votes lost due to the moving of this territory out of the constituency is by Ring, losing over 1,800 of the first preference votes he won in February 2011 as result of this boundary, with Kenny losing over 1,200 votes, O’Mahony losing almost 1,000 votes and Lisa Chambers losing just under 500 votes. Party wise the biggest losses would be made by Fine Gael, with that party having won over 75% of the votes cast in the areas affected in the February 2011 election, but given the party’s strenght in Mayo in 2011 they would still be expected to win three out of four seats on the basis of this as the calculation of the 2011 party share of the vote in the reduced Mayo constituency shows, with the details on this being as follows: Fine Gael 64.1% (3.21 quotas), Labour 5.0% (0.25 quotas), Fianna Fail 16.2% (0.81 quotas), Sinn Fein 6.7% (0.34 quotas), Green Party 0.3% (0.02 quotas), United Left Alliance NC, Independents and Others 7.5% (0.38 quotas). Despite the loss of votes to Galway West, and the reduction in seat numbers in the constituency (meaning that the percentage share of the vote required to reach the quota increases from 16.7% to 20.0%), Enda Kenny would still have enough vote (23.7% of the votes cast in the areas remaining in the Mayo constituency) to exceed the quota on the first count while Michael Ring (16.5%) would be relatively close to this (0.82 quotas). With the territory being lose in south Mayo, Michelle Mulherin (12.7%) would have a significant advantage over John O’Mahony (11.3%) in what would appear to be a head-to-head battle for the third of three potential Fine Gael seats.

Galway West (5): The inclusion of part of south Mayo, as discussed above, within this constituency encompasses a significant increase in the overall Fine Gael share of the vote in this constituency (Fine Gael candidates having won a combined total of over 4,000 of the c. 5,500 votes cast in the affected area at last year’s general election.) Combining party support levels for the old Galway West constituency and the part of south Mayo being moved into this constituency leads to a calculation of the 2011 party share share of the vote in the enlarged Galway West constituency as follows: Fine Gael 34.6% (2.08 quotas), Labour 11.7% (0.70 quotas), Fianna Fail 19.9% (1.19 quotas), Sinn Fein 6.1% (0.37 quotas), Green Party 1.7% (0.10 quotas), United Left Alliance NC, Independents and Others 25.9% (1.56 quotas).

Galway East (3): The constituency has lost a signficiant chunk of territory in eastern and north-eastern Galway county to the new Roscommon-Galway constituency, including Ballinasloe town as well as other areas such as Glenamaddy and Ballygar. The constituency now once again becomes a 3-seat constituency (it was a four seat constituency in the 2011 election and indeed had been at the 1997 and 2002 elections also), meaning that the share of the vote required to reach the quota increases from 20% to 25%. The extent of the area being moved out is quite significant, amounting to almost one fifth (c.18%) of all the votes that were cast in this constituency in the 2011 contest. Candidates who polled strongly in Ballinasloe Town, as well as the more rural parts of eastern and north-eastern Galway, lose a significant amount of their first preferences arising from this boundary change. Fine Gael’s Paul Connaughton loses over 2,200 first preference votes due to the boundary change (roughly 31% of his total first preference tally), Connaughton’s running mate Tom McHugh loses over 1,300 votes (roughly 22% of his total first preference tally), while Fianna Fail’s only TD in this constituency, Michael Kitt,  loses over 1,800 first preference votes due to the boundary change (roughly 28% of his total first preference tally). Also adversely affected by the boundary change are Sinn Fein’s Dermot Connolly who loses around 1,200 first preference votes due to the boundary change (roughly 33% of his total first preference tally) and independent candidate, Tim Broderick, who loses over 1,700 first preference votes due to the boundary change (roughly 34% of his total first preference tally). These changes would alter the order in which candidates stood based on first preference votes. Connaughton who topped the poll in Galway East would only have finished in third place with just over five thousand votes had the 2011 election been fought on the basis of the new constituency area, behind party running mate, Ciaran Cannon, and independent candidate, Sean Canney (who was in 5th place on first preference votes in the actual election), and would have been less than one hundred votes ahead of the fourth ranked candidate, his other Fine Gael running mate, Jimmy McClearn. Taking party support levels for the old Galway East constituency and exlcluding the eastern/north-eastern parts of the constituency which have been moved into Roscommon-Galway leads to a calculation of the 2011 party share share of the vote in the now much smaller Galway East constituency as follows: Fine Gael 43.4% (1.74 quotas), Labour 14.2% (0.57 quotas), Fianna Fail 17.6% (0.70 quotas), Sinn Fein 5.1% (0.20 quotas), Green Party 0.7% (0.03 quotas), United Left Alliance NC, Independents and Others 19.0% (0.76 quotas).

Roscommon-Galway (3): Significant changes here. While all of Roscommon county – formerly part of the Roscommon-South Leitrim constituency – remains intact, the south Leitrim area has been reunited with the rest of that county in the new Sligo-Leitrim four-seater, with north-eastern and eastern parts of the Galway East constituency (as discussed above) now being amlgamated with Roscommon to create the new three-seat constituency. Candidates in the old Roscommon-South Leitrim who would lose a signficant proportion of their 2011 first preference votes due to this boundary change of course includes the Leitrim-based candidates (all of whom would be highly unlikely to contest the new constituency and would be contesting Sligo-Leitrim if they are candidates at the next election) – Fianna Fail’s Gerry Kilraine won over three-quarters of his total first preference votes (c. 2,300 votes) in the south Leitrim area, while Sinn Fein’s Martin Kenny won almost two-thirds of his total vote (just under 3,0000 votes) and Green candidate, Garreth McDaid, won around one-third of his total vote in south Leitrim. The worst affected of the Roscommon-based candidates (i.e. those likely to contest Roscommon-Galway) by the boundary change would be Fine Gael’s Frank Feighan, who would lose over 3,000 votes (roughly one third of his total vote) as a result of south Leitrim being moved out of this constituency. Luke Ming Flanagan would not be as adversely affected, losing c. 750 first preference votes or c. 8% of his total first preference votes due to this boundary change. Labour’s John Kelly would lose c. 10% of his first preference votes (c. 450 votes) due to the change. Candidates with bases in central or south Roscommon, such as Denis Naughten, hospital candidate John McDermott and Fianna Fail’s Ivan Connaughton, would only be losing between 1% and 2% of their first preference votes and hence would probably be gaining due to the boundary change (in the expectation that they would be better placed/located to win votes in east Galway (an area much closer to their local bases) than would have been the case for them in south Leitrim). Combining party support levels across the Roscommon county and east Galway areas leads to a calculation of the 2011 party share share of the vote in the new Roscommon-Galway constituency as follows: Fine Gael 41.3% (1.65 quotas), Labour 10.3% (0.41 quotas), Fianna Fail 14.2% (0.57 quotas), Sinn Fein 5.9% (0.23 quotas), Green Party 0.4% (0.02 quotas), United Left Alliance NC, Independents and Others 27.9% (1.12 quotas).

Kerry (5): The new five seat Kerry constituency is comprised in its entirety of the Kerry county area and basically involves an amalgamation of the old three seat Kerry North and Kerry South constituencies, with the part of western Limerick that was joined with Kerry North in the 2007 boundary revisions now being moved back to join with the rest of the Limerick constituency. Limerick-based Fine Gael candidate, John Sheahan, won just over half of the votes cast in this west Limerick area in 2011, with Sinn Fein’s Martin Ferris winning almost 1,400 votes and Fianna Fail’s Tom McEllistrim winning just over 1,100 votes in the same area. Combining party support levels across the Kerry North and Kerry South constituency areas, while excluding the part of western Limerick that was part of Kerry North-West Limerick at the last election, leads to a calculation of the 2011 party share share of the vote in the new Kerry constituency as follows (Note – Sinn Fein did not contest Kerry South in 2011, but results of the previous general election and vote patterns from the 2009 European elections suggest there is a party vote in this area. In light of this, the 2007 party vote share in Kerry South has been included in that party’s support estimate calculation): Fine Gael 34.0% (2.04 quotas), Labour 16.1% (0.97 quotas), Fianna Fail 11.9% (0.71 quotas), Sinn Fein 11.3% (0.68 quotas), Green Party 0.7% (0.04 quotas), United Left Alliance NC, Independents and Others 25.9% (1.56 quotas).

Limerick (3): The Limerick constituency (re)gains the part of western Limerick lost to Kerry North-West Limerick in the 2007 revisions, but loses most of the areas of eastern Limerick gained from the Limerick City in those same revisions; as such the constituency area is again quite similar to that of the old Limerick West constituency. These changes will shift the focus of this constituency somewhat westwards and will no doubt favour candidates with local bases in this part of the constituency, such as Fine Gael’s Patrick O’Donovan and Dan Neville. Candidates with stronger support in the east of Limerick may well lose out on significant levels of support – indeed a number of candidates would be losing c. 1,000 votes due to the boundary change, including Labour’s James Heffernan, independent candidate John Dillon, Fianna Fail’s Niall Collins and Fine Gael’s William O’Donnell, although Collins would also have a significant support base in the west of the county as well. The calculation of the 2011 party share of the vote in the redrawn Limerick constituency would be as follows (Sinn Fein did not contest Limerick in 2007 (or indeed Limerick West in previous elections) – the Sinn Fein figure includes a guesstimation of their base support based on the last election contested by the party in Limerick West in addition to the votes won by Martin Ferris in west Limerick in 2011.): Fine Gael 51.8% (2.07 quotas), Labour 15.4% (0.61 quotas), Fianna Fail 19.3% (0.77 quotas), Sinn Fein 3.8% (0.15 quotas), Green Party 0.6% (0.03 quotas), United Left Alliance NC, Independents and Others 9.1% (0.37 quotas).

Limerick City (4): Just as the aforementioned boundary changes mean that the Limerick constituency now more closely resembles the old Limerick West constituency, the transfer of territory in rural areas close to Limerick City out of the Limerick constituency and into the Limerick City constituency means that the latter constituency now more closely resembles the old Limerick East constituency. The calculation of the 2011 party share of the vote in the redrawn Limerick City constituency would be as follows: Fine Gael 41.9% (2.09 quotas), Labour 20.4% (1.02 quotas), Fianna Fail 21.6% (1.08 quotas), Sinn Fein 7.7% (0.38 quotas), Green Party 1.2% (0.06 quotas), United Left Alliance 1.5% (0.15 quotas), Independents and Others 5.7% (0.29 quotas).

Cork North West (3): The boundary changes here involves the return of electoral divisions which had been moved out of the constituency into Cork North Central in the 2007 Constituency Commission report. This is an area that offered strong support for Fianna Fail’s Billy Kelleher and Fine Gael’s Pat Burton in the 2011 and was an especially strong area for both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael when it was also part of Cork North West in the 2007 General Election, with combined support for those parties amounting to over 90% of the votes cast in these electoral divisions with Fianna Fail deputy, Michael Moynihan, polling especially well here with over 30% of the 2,510 votes (over 750 votes) cast in these electoral divisions in that election, somewhat ahead of Fine Gael’s Gerald Murphy on just over 20% of the vote.

Cork North Central (3): The focus of this constituency shifts to a decidedly more urban one, with a significant part of the south-western part of Cork City being moved into the constituency from Cork South Central, while four electoral divisions in the more rural (Cork County) part of the constituency are being moved out of the constituency and returned to Cork North West as is discussed above. The area being moved out of the constituency offered crucial support to Bill Kelleher in the 2011 contest with the number of votes won here helping him to retain his seat by a relatively narrow margin, although the candidate that lost out, Pat Burton, also polled strongly in this area.

Cork South Central (4): This constituency is losing a seat in these boundary revisions as well as the north-western corner of the constituency (south-western parts of Cork City) to Cork North Central, as noted above. The loss of a seat would be of most concern to Fianna Fail, given that the party took the last of the five seats in this constituency at the last election, while the Cork South Central candidates losing out on the most signficant number of votes due to the boundary change would be Fine Gael’s Jerry Buttimer and Fianna Fail party leader, Micheal Martin.

Waterford (4): A slight territory transfer into the constituency of the electoral divisions in north-western Waterford that had been part of the old Tipperary South constituency means that this constituency now comprises of the entire Waterford county territory. The area involved was located close to the local bailiwicks of independent deputies, Seamus Healy and Mattie McGrath, meaning that these both lose a couple of hundred votes due to the territory transfer. The calculation of the 2011 party share of the vote in the redrawn Waterford constituency would be as follows: Fine Gael 37.8% (1.89 quotas), Labour 18.8% (0.94 quotas), Fianna Fail 13.9% (0.70 quotas), Sinn Fein 9.9% (0.49 quotas), Green Party 0.9% (0.04 quotas), United Left Alliance NC, Independents and Others 18.7% (0.94 quotas).

Tipperary (5): This new constituency unit comprises of most of the territory covered by the two three-seat Tipperary constituencies, Tipperary North and Tipperary South, but with the exception of the Waterford electoral divisions that were included in Tipperary South and the south Offaly electoral divisions that were added to the Tipperary North revisions, in addition to the a significant chunk of north Tipperary which now joins the south Offaly area in the new three seat Offaly constituency. Without tally figures for these constituencies it is difficult to glean what the exact party support levels in the 2011 General Election would have been for the new constituency unit – the following figures would simply be for an amalgamation of the two Tipperary constituency (and probably over-estimates the figures for parties who would have had candidates polling well in the north Tipperary and south Offaly areas in the 2011 contest, such as Maire Hoctor (Fianna Fail), Noel Coonan (Fine Gael) and Alan Kelly (Labour) whose local bases in the Tipperary North constituency would have been located close to these areas): Fine Gael 28.7% (1.72 quotas), Labour 15.8% (0.94 quotas), Fianna Fail 15.0% (0.90 quotas), Sinn Fein 5.5% (0.32 quotas), Green Party 0.9% (0.05 quotas), United Left Alliance 9.7% (0.58 quotas), Independents and Others 24.5% (1.47 quotas).

Offaly: In the absense of publicly-available tally figures and mindful of the fact that voters in the old two-county Laois-Offaly constituency generally tended to support candidates from their own counties, based on vote trends for Offaly-based candidates in the 2011 contest we can suggest that there were relatively strong support levels for Fianna Fail and Fine Gael in Offaly, resulting in the election of Barry Cowen and Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy in that contest, while support levels for Sinn Fein and Labour would not have been as strong as in the rest of the constituency due to the candidates for these parties having been from the Laois end of the constituency. The most striking factor here was the strong support levels for Offaly-based independent candidates – most of the independent candidates in this constituency hailed from Offaly, including the better supported independent candidates (John Leahy, John Foley, Eddie Fitzpatrick) – with the combined level of support for Offaly-based independents amounting to 18.5% of the total votes cast in this constituency (and probably between 30% and 35% of the votes cast in Offaly alone). This would suggest a strong challenge from independents for one of the three seats in this new constituency. The return of the south Offaly area will strengthen the prospects of candidates based in the south and west of the county, most notably Leahy and Corcoran-Kennedy, as also will the inclusion of a significant chunk of north-west Tipperary within this constituency given this area’s proximity to the southern parts of Offaly county.

Laois (3): Strong support for Portlaoise-based Fine Gael chairman, Charlie Flanagan, in addition to relatively strong support levels for Fianna Fail Laois-based candidates Sean Fleming and John Maloney, in Laois-Offaly in the 2011 contest suggests that there is a good support base for Fine Gael and Fianna Fail in this constituency that would be sufficient to allow these parties their Laois seats at the next election unless there is a significant swing of support away from either of these parties. With their candidates being based in Laois, both Labour and Sinn Fein would have polled better in the Laois part of the Laois-Offaly constituency in 2011, with Sinn Fein TD, Brian Stanley, likely to have won a somewhat larger amount of Laois votes than Labour’s John Whelan; Stanley probably winning between 12%-16% of the votes cast in Laois and Whelan probably winning between 8%-12% of the Laois votes. The permutations in the new Laois constituency will be notably affected by in the inclusion of parts of the Kildare South constituency, including Monasterevin and a number of areas located along the north-eastern boundary of Laois strethching down almost to Athy. This will be to the benefit of candidates with strong support bases in the north eastern part of the county, while John Whelan could benefit from his ties with Monasterevin and also if the strength of the Labour support in this area in 2011 can replicated at the next general election.

Kildare South (3): The loss of electoral divisions in the south-western part of the constituency to the new Laois three-seater has been compensated for somewhat by the gaining of electoral divisions in the north-western part of Kildare county from Kildare North. In turn, this has shifted the focus of this constituency decidedly more northwards. This may be especially evident in the internal competition between the Fianna Fail candidates. Sean O Fearghail, who is currently the only Fianna Fail deputy in the Greater Dublin area (Dublin and its three neighbouring counties), would have polled especially well in the areas that are now being moved into Laois and will lose a couple of hundred votes due to this change, especially relative to his more colleague, Sean Power, who is based in the northern part of the constituency and who lost his seat at the last election. Given the narrow margin between the two candidates in the 2011 contest (and indeed in preceding general elections) the impact of this change might be to tilt the balance in favour of Power if both are fighting for just one Fianna Fail seat at the next general election. Athy-based Labour deputy, Jack Wall, will lose a significant number of first preference votes due to this change.

Kildare North (4): The area being moved out of this constituency into Kildare South is relatively small (with just under 1,500 votes cast in this area in 2011). The late Michael Fitzpatrick (Fianna Fail) would have polled especially well in the areas affected, as also would have Fine Gael’s Bernard Durkan and Labour’s Emmet Stagg.

Dublin Fingal (5): The old Dublin North constituency (the fastest growing constituency in Ireland based on 2011 Census figures) gains an extra seat – and a new name! – in these boundary revisions with the return of the Airport, Dubber, Kilsallaghan and Swords-Forrest electoral divisions from Dublin West and the Balgriffin, Portmarnock North and Portmarnock South electoral divisions from the old Dublin North East constituency. As Fianna Fail’s Darragh O’Brien was the candidate who was next in line after the successful candidates in Dublin North in 2011. As his running mate, Michael Kennedy, sees the return of part of his Swords base in the same vein to how O’Brien’s chances are improved by the return of Portmarnock, Fianna Fail would entertain strong hopes to winning this extra seat. The increase in the number of seats would also offer potential for the Green Party to regain its seat here, especially if the party can muster a strong performance in the local elections in Fingal. The incumbents’ hopes of retaining their seats are of course also improved by the addition of an extra seat, pushing down the share of the vote required to reach the quota from 20.0% to 16.7%. The return of the western part of Swords Town will further assist Clare Daly (Socialist Party-United Left Alliance) in retaining the seat she won for the first time in 2011, while another first time deputy, Fine Gael’s Alan Farrell, will benefit from the return of Portmarnock.

Dublin Bay North (5): This new constituency is effectively an amalgamation of the old three-seat Dublin North Central and Dublin North East constituencies, but with the loss of the Balgriffin and Portmarnock areas to the new Dublin Fingal constituency. This effectively means a loss of a seat here and it may well be Labour  who loses out, as the party would find it difficult to retain their three seats here even on their 2011 support levels. The creation of a five seat constituency does also present an opening for parties who did not win seats in the old Dublin North East and Dublin North Central to win seats. The combined Fianna Fail vote across the two constituencies would have given the party a chance of retaining a seat in 2011 had these boundaries been used then, while this new constituency also offers Sinn Fein hopes of a gain here. Combining party support levels across the old Dublin North Central and Dublin North East constituencies (while also recognising that this does include figures for areas now moved into another constituency) leads to a calculation of the 2011 party share share of the vote in the new Dublin Bay North constituency as follows: Fine Gael 33.5% (2.01quotas), Labour 28.7% (1.72 quotas), Fianna Fail 12.2% (0.73 quotas), Sinn Fein 8.9% (0.53 quotas), Green Party 1.6% (0.09 quotas), United Left Alliance 1.1% (0.07 quotas), Independents and Others 14.1% (0.85 quotas).

Dublin North West (3): The low population per Dail deputy ratio in this constituency is addressed by the transfer in of the Drumcondra area into this constituency from Dublin Central, amounting to a transfers in of an area equivalent to a population of just over 11,500. Given the association between this area and the Ahern organisation in past elections, this may offer some hope of regaining a seat here to Fianna Fail but the inclusion of a mainly middle class area into North West also improves Fine Gael prospects of regaining the seat that the party lost here in the 1997 election. Given that her local base is effectively enlarged by this boundary change, Labour’s Roisin Shortall is probably the incumbent with the most to be cheerful about.

Dublin West (4): Concerns over the political division of Swords have been addressed by means of the return of the Swords Forrest area to Dublin North, or Dublin Fingal as it is now to be known as. To make up for this loss of territory and population, the Ashtown area in Dublin Central has been moved into this constituency.  This probably rebalances the constituency in favour of candidates with a base in the Castleknock part of the constituency as opposed to the Mulhuddart area.

Dublin Central (3): In some ways, in addition to the changes that impacted on the Galway constituencies, the loss of a seat by Dublin Central was one of the bigger surprises for me associated with this Constituency Commission report. The area has lost Bertie Ahern’s old bailiwick of Drumcondra (including Fagan’s Pub!) to Dublin North West (a move that potentially would probably mean that a member of the Ahern family would be focusing on Dublin North West, not Dublin Central, if they were planning to contest the next election, especially given the fact that Noel Ahern was a TD for Dublin North West for a number of years up the 2011 election). The Ashtown area, including much of the local base of Fianna Fail councillor, Mary Fitzpatrick, has been moved into the Dublin West constituency. As the areas being moved out were two of the more middle class areas within the old Dublin Central constituency, Fine Gael’s Paschal Donohoe will probably be losing out on a signficant degree of his personal support base here. While this change would appear to be bad news for both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, the fact that this constituency is becoming a decidedly more working class one will no doubt benefit Sinn Fein and Labour, as well as independent deputy, Maureen O’Sullivan.

Dublin South Central (4): Dublin South Central loses a seat, as well as the losing the Terenure area to neighbouring Dublin Bay South. Although Labour were the strognest party by some degree in the 2011 contest, Fine Gael were decidedly stronger in Terenure and the boundary change may cost that party a significant number of first preference votes here. The increase in the percentage of the vote required to reach the quota (up from 16.7% to 20.0%) will render a number of the sitting deputies as vulnerable, while also millitating somewhat against Fianna Fail (and the party did hold 2 seats here before the 2011 contest) hopes for a recovery in Dublin South Central at the next election.

Dublin Bay South (4): The old Dublin South East retains its four seats, but the name of the constituency has been changed to Dublin Bay South and it also gains the Terenure area from neighbouring Dublin South Central. This boundary change will no doubt be of no little benefit to candidates with a base in the adjancent Rathmines, Rathgar and Ranelagh areas within this constituency, while it also renders what was already one of the more middle class constituencies in the state as being more middle class.

Dublin South West (5): In what I consider to be one of the more praiseworthy initiatives taken by the Commission in this boundary review, the Commission are now explicitly trying to avoid mismatches between general election boundaries and county boundaries, though admittedly the only case in which this change in approach had a bearing related to changes involving Dublin South West and the old Dublin South constituency. Moving an area approximating to the present day Rathfarnham local election constituency between Dublin South (now Dublin Rathdown) and Dublin South West means that the latter constituency gains an extra seat. The new boundary between these constituencies now approximates to the local authority boundary between the counties of South Dublin and Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown. Given that Fine Gael were the party to miss out on the last seat here in 2011 and given that the party polled well in the area affected in the 2011 contest, Fine Gael would seem to be well placed to pick up the extra seat here (although as the party is likely to lose a seat or two seats due to changes impacting on the old Dublin South, such a gain may effectively amounted to a Fine Gael seat between transferred across constituency boundaries). The reduction in the percentage share of the vote required to reach the quota (down from 20.0% to 16.7%) will no dount also enkindle Fianna Fail hopes of regaining at least one of the two seats the party lost here at the 2011 election.

Dublin Rathdown (3): The old Dublin South constituency probably experienced the most dramatic changes in the 2012 Constituency Commission report as this former five-seat constituency lost two seats, as well as significant levels of territory in the west of the constituency to Dublin South West and in the east of the constituency to Dun Laoghaire. Given that this is traditionally one of the more volatile constituencies in the country and the effective increase in the share of the quota required to reach the quota from 16.7% to 25.0%, there will be significant pressure on the incumbents to retain their seats while there is now less scope for other parties and candidates to make a breakthrough here to gain, or rather regain, seats, including Fianna Fail and Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan. The reduction in seat numbers means that at least two of the incumbents will lose their seats here at the next general election, unless some decide to follow the territory transfers and move into Dublin South West or Dun Laoghaire to contest the next election there.

Dun Laoghaire (4): This constituency seemed likely to lose a seat in these boundary revisions but instead gained sufficient territory from the old Dublin South constituency to warrant retaining its four seats (most of this was territory that the constituency had lost to Dublin South in the 2007 revisions). Effectively, unless Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett decides to retire at the next election, only three seats will be contested at the next contest. This effectively increases the share of the vote needed to reach the quota from 16.7% to 25.0%, putting increased pressure on the incumbents to retain their seats. But it also makes it more difficult for other parties to make a breakthrough in this constituency, including Fianna Fail  who would be hoping to regain one of the two seats lost by the party in this constituency in the 2011 election although the area being returned to the constituency was a strong area for the party when this area was last part of the Dun Laoghaire constituency in the 2007 election.

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About Adrian Kavanagh

Lecturer in Maynooth University Department of Geography.
This entry was posted in Constituency Commission, Constituency information, Election boundaries, Election data, Tally figures and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Political impacts of the 2012 Constituency Commission report: 2011 General Election party support estimates and changing political landscapes in the new constituency areas

  1. Pingback: Changing support trends and changing electoral boundaries: Analysis of the Sunday Business Post-Red C poll (24th June 2012) « politicalreform.ie

  2. Pingback: Estimating 2011 General Election seats levels using new Constituency Commission 2012 election boundaries | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

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