Estimating 2011 General Election seats levels using new Constituency Commission 2012 election boundaries

Adrian Kavanagh, 6th July 2012

Last month’s Constituency Commission report and the decision to reduce the number of Dail seats by 8 will have a profound impact on the result of, and the number of seats won by different parties at, the next general election. But what would the result of last year’s general election have been had these boundaries been in place for that contest. Similar to Sean Donnelly’s analysis on electionsireland.org this analysis suggests that the extent of Fianna Fail losses in that election would have been tempered somewhat and that Labour and independents would have been the groupings most disproportionately affected in terms of lower seat levels. Unlike Sean Donnelly’s analysis, which exclusively uses the figures for the old constituency units, this analysis is based on amended constituency support figures taking account of party support level changes arising from movements of territory in and out of constituencies based on tally figures/educated guesstimates of such support figures.

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.

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.

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.

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, would be most affected by these changes.

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 and would have made it easier to win a second second seat in this constituency than it was in the actual contest.

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.

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).

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 (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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 and 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.

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.

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 those who are based in 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.

Dublin South Central (4): Dublin South Central loses a seat, as well as the losing the Terenure area to neighbouring Dublin Bay South.

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 adjacent 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.

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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Based on the considerations as outlined above, the analysis estimates that the final party seat levels in the 2011 General Election, had the 2012 Constituency Commission report general election boundaries been employed, would have been: Fine Gael 74, Labour Party 34, Fianna Fail 22, Sinn Fein 12, United Left Alliance 5, Green Party 0, Independents and Others 11.      

The constituency by constituency breakdown of the newly allocated seat levels would have been as follows:

FF FG LAB SF ULA IND
Carlow-Kilkenny 1 3 1 5
Cavan-Monaghan 1 2 1 4
Clare 1 2 1 4
Cork East 2 1 1 4
Cork North Central 1 1 1 1 4
Cork North West 1 2 3
Cork South Central 1 2 1 4
Cork South West 2 1 3
Donegal 1 2 2 5
Dublin Central 1 1 1 3
Dublin Mid West 2 2 4
Dublin Fingal 1 2 1 1 5
Dublin Bay North 1 2 2 5
Dublin North West 2 1 3
Dublin Rathdown 2 1 3
Dublin South Central 1 2 1 4
Dublin Bay South 2 2 4
Dublin South West 2 2 1 5
Dublin West 1 1 1 1 4
Dun Laoghaire 2 1 1 4
Galway East 1 2 3
Galway West 1 2 1 1 5
Kerry 2 1 1 1 5
Kildare North 2 1 1 4
Kildare South 1 1 1 3
Laois 1 1 1 3
Offaly 1 1 1 3
Limerick City 1 2 1 4
Limerick 1 2 3
Longford-Westmeath 1 2 1 4
Louth 1 2 1 1 5
Mayo 1 3 4
Meath East 2 1 3
Meath West 2 1 3
Roscommon-Galway 2 1 3
Sligo-Leitrim 1 2 1 4
Tipperary 2 1 1 1 5
Waterford 2 1 1 4
Wexford 1 2 1 1 5
Wicklow 3 1 1 5
Total 22 74 34 12 5 11 158
14% 47% 22% 8% 3% 7%
Actual 20 76 37 14 5 14 166
12% 46% 22% 8% 3% 8%
Difference 2 -2 -3 -2 0 -3

As with all “what if” scenarios, some of the seat allocations here are open to debate, some of which I’ll go through here.

Cork North Central: Billy Kelleher’s strength in rural parts of Cork North Central, which would now be moved into Cork North West, along with the addition of urban areas south of the Lee, would have put more pressure on his attempts to retain his seat. This could well have amounted to a second Fine Gael seat at the expense of Fianna Fail had these boundaries been in effect, although Kelleher’s closest rival for the final seat, Fine Gael’s Pat Burton, was strongest in the same areas of the constituency as Kelleher was and would have been equally disadvantaged by these boundary changes.

Donegal: The combined vote for independents would have been sufficient for them to win one seat in the new Donegal five seat constituency area, but this would have been a vote fractured between one strong candidate, Thomas Pringle, and a four candidates in the old Donegal North East constituency who each won between 1,000 and 2,000 first preference votes. Pringle’s own vote share in the new constituency area would have amounted to just 7% of the vote. Pringle would have been reliant on a strong transfer from other independents to stay in contention but, as transfers patterns in Laois-Offaly, where the combined independent vote had also exceeded the quota, showed, transfers from independent candidates are more likely to be shaped by local factors as opposed to amounting to independent to independent vote transfers. As such, Fine Gael would have been better placed to take a second seat here as against one seat being won by an independent candidate (Pringle).

Dublin Central: A hard one to call, especially given the lack of tally figures for this constituency. On paper this would have looked like a toss up between Maureen O’Sullivan and Mary Lou McDonald for the final seat here, but Paschal Donohoe may well have also been in the mix here given that the loss of Drumcondra and Ashtown would have been expected to impact on his number of first preference votes (it could at least be expected that Joe Costello would have topped the poll here). The destination of vote transfers from Fianna Fail would have been decisive here (although the number of these would have been reduced due to the loss of the old Ahern Drumcondra bailiwick and part of the Fitzpatrick Navan Road bailiwick) and these may well have edged the final seats towards Paschal Donohoe and Maureen O’Sullivan, but the margins between these and Mary Lou McDonald on the final count would have been very narrow. Indeed it could well have been a case of Sinn Fein taking the seat here instead of Fine Gael and Fine Gael taking the seat assigned to Sinn Fein in Dublin North-West as noted below.

Dublin Bay North: A similar scenario to Donegal in that the combined independent vote would have been higher than that of the combined Fianna Fail vote, but again Finian McGrath would have been reliant on a very good transfer from independents (although he would have accounted for a much more significant chunk of the total independent vote here, as opposed to Pringle in Donegal, especially when the transferring of Portmarnock and Baldoyle out of the constituency would have been factored in), which could not have been guaranteed, and stronger intra-party Fianna Fail transfers could well have just edged Averil Power or Sean Haughey ahead of him to take the final seat here. The big fly in the ointment here however would have been the destination of Sinn Fein vote transfers on the final count, which could well have swung the pendulum back in McGrath’s favour. This really would have been a 50-50 call between Finian McGrath and Averil Power/Sean Haughey as to who would have won out here.

Dublin North West: The transfer in of territory in Drumcondra equivalent to a population of 11,506 people into the constituency would have increased Fine Gael prospects of winning a seat here at the expense of the second Labour seat or even the Sinn Fein seat, although the inclusion of this area on the other hand would have added to the number of votes won by Labour’s Roisin Shortall. Again a similar case to Dublin Central, with Fianna Fail transfers likely to have had a decisive impact on the final allocation of seats, in which there would be very little between the second Labour candidate, Sinn Fein and Fine Gael in the battle for the final two seats.

Dublin Rathdown: Shane Ross (although he may have narrowly missed out on exceeding the quota on the first count here, given the reduction in seat numbers and the resultant increase of the percentage share of the vote required to reach the quota from 16.7% to 25%) and one of the Fine Gael candidates would have certainly won seats here, but it would have been a close contest between a second Fine Gael candidate and Labour (not necessarily Alex White, who may have been moved into Dublin South West following the transfer in of the Rathfarnham electoral area into that constituency) for the final seat here. Fine Gael’s strong vote management, as evidenced in the party’s ability to translate a support base of just over two quotas into three seats here in the actual contest, may well have shaded it for the second of their candidates. But Green Party and Fianna Fail transfers would have had a crucial impact on the result here.

Dublin South Central: The two Labour seats would have still been won although the loss of the Terenure area would have made it harder for Fine Gael to win their seat here. Effectively this would have boiled down to a head to head contest between two left-wing candidates, Sinn Fein’s Aengus O Snodaigh and the United Left Alliance-People Before Profit candidate, Joan Collins, for the final seat here. I’,m calling this for Joan Collins on the basis that Collins finished 740 votes ahead of O Snodaigh in the actual contest and on the basis that Michael Mulcahy (Fianna Fail) transfers would have proved crucial here and the geography of the constituency would dictate that these would have favoured Collins over O Snodaigh.

Dun Laoghaire: The areas moved (back) in from the old Dublin South constituency would have been strong Fianna Fail areas in 2007 and the inclusion of these would at least have narrowed the margin between Richard Boyd-Barrett and Mary Hanafin in the contest for the final seat here; probably not by enough to effectively erase a margin of 1,374 votes but it would have made for an especially close contest. The territory transfer could well have increased the number of Bacik votes here relative to Boyd-Barrett and – given the narrow margin between her and Boyd-Barrett on the ninth count when she was eliminated – actually seen her take a second vote for Labour here at the expense of the United Left Alliance candidate. The territory transfer would also have strengthened the position of the two Fine Gael candidates here.

Galway East: Given party support levels in this constituency, this would appear to be a straight forward enough 2 Fine Gael and 1 Fianna Fail call, but the concentrating of Labour support in eastern parts of this constituency and away from the areas being moved out would have given that party some hope of still winning a seat here.

Kerry: Fine Gael would have won two seats here and Labour would have taken one, assuming strong intra-party transfers between their candidates. The concentration of independent support in the south of the county would have ensured a strong transfer between the main independents who were all based in this part of the constituency and assured that either Michael Healy-Rae or Tom Fleming (but probably not both) took a seat here. The last seat would have involved a close contest between Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein; there would have been more Fianna Fail votes, but shared between two candidates and with some leakage expected when it came to the vote transfer between the two of these and this could have edged Martin Ferris to a narrow victory here.

Kildare South: No changes in party seat numbers probably involved in this case, but Sean Power may well have taken the one Fianna Fail seat arising from the significant loss of votes to Sean O Fearghaill in the areas in the south-west of the constituency that are being moved into Laois.

Laois: Charlie Flanagan would have topped the poll comfortably and Sean Fleming would have ensured a Fianna Fail seat, but four political parties would have enjoyed some prospects in relation to the destination of the final seat here. I’d still edge this slightly towards Sinn Fein’s Brian Stanley. But Fine Gael, on the weight of total vote numbers, may well have been better placed to take a second seat here though party prospects would not have been helped by John Moran’s significantly lower first preference vote tally relative to Flanagan which would have left him below the other serious contenders on the first count. While the total Fianna Fail vote would have been lower than the Fine Gael vote, the fact that Fleming and his running mate, John Moloney, were relatively close together on first preference tallies would have left Moloney somewhat ahead of Moran in terms of first preference numbers. Labour candidate, John Whelan, would have been somewhat lower than Brian Stanley in terms of votes from Laois but the addition of territory from Kildare would have increased the Labour vote here and a good transfer from Fine Gael to Labour could well have made for a close contest between Whelan and Stanley for the final seat here.

Offaly: The local/Offaly-based strength of Fianna Fail’s Barry Cowen and Fine Gael’s Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy would have ensured at least one seat for both of these parties, while the combined vote tally of a number of strong Offaly-based independent candidates would seem to edge the extra seat towards one of these, probably John Leahy following the return of the south Offaly area (which also would have further strengthened the Corcoran-Kennedy support base here). The big imponderable here would be the impact of the addition of the northern party of Tipperary into this constituency. Given that their 2011 candidates were both Laois-based, the 2011 vote share won by Labour or Sinn Fein in Offaly would not have sufficed to have put either of these parties into contention here.

Tipperary: Michael Lowry would have had sufficient support to win a seat here, while Fine Gael could still have expected to win two seats and Labour to win one seat. The final seat would have involved a contest between the stronger of the two Fianna Fail candidates and Seamus Healy (United Left Alliance-Workers and Unemployed Action Group). The combined vote of the two Fianna Fail candidates would have been greater than Healy’s vote but some vote leakage would have arose when it came to the vote transfer from the weaker of the two Fianna Fail candidates to the stronger one. The destination of Mattie McGrath transfers would have been decisive here, while the loss of territory in north Tipperary to the new Offaly three-seater would have had an impact, probably to the disadvantage of Fianna Fail’s Maire Hoctor, Fine Gael’s Noel Coonan and Labour’s Alan Kelly.

This analysis suggests that Fianna Fail would have won two more seats at the 2011 General Election had that election been fought on the basis of the new Constituency Commission election boundaries, despite overall seat numbers being reduced by eight. The overall reduction in seat numbers would have seen the party lose out on of their two seats in Cork South Central, but it is estimated that that party could have won extra seats in Dublin Fingal, Dublin Bay North and Sligo Leitrim. The Dublin Bay North seat could well have fallen to independent, Finian McGrath, admittedly, while more pressure would have been placed on the Fianna Fail seat in Cork North Central, but on the other hand the party would have had a strong chance of challenging for the final seats in the Tipperary and Kerry constituencies and possibly would have had an outside chance of winning another seat in the Laois constituency. The likelihood of Fianna Fail winning out in these close call contests would have, of course, been dependent on the party getting some luck in terms of vote transfers, but of course little luck was heading Fianna Fail’s way in the 2011 contest.

Fine Gael would have been expected, based on this analysis, to have won one fewer seat in Cavan-Monaghan, Dublin Rathdown and Mayo but to have gained one extra seat in Dublin South West, amounting to a net reduction of two seats. The party would have also been  well placed to challenge for extra seats in the new Laois and Offaly constituencies and possibly win another seat off Fianna Fail in Cork North West, arising from the territory transfers involving that constituency, while a seat gain in Dublin North West would have become a more likely prospect. However, party seats in Dublin Central and Dublin South Central, in addition to the assigned second seats in Donegal and Dublin Rathdown, would have been rendered more vulnerable by these boundary changes.

The analysis suggests that Labour would have won three fewer seats, with the party missing out on seats due to seat reductions concerning the Dublin Bay North, Dublin Rathdown and Galway East constituencies, although the party might have enjoyed some outside prospects of taking seats in the latter two should vote transfers and the order of candidate eliminations have broken favourably for Labour in these. Labour seats in Tipperary and Kerry would have been somewhat more vulnerable, although the party would have been expected to still hold these unless the vote transfer from the weaker Labour candidate to the stronger turned out to be less significant than expected.

Sinn Fein would have been expected to have gained little advantage from the boundary changes had these applied in the 2011 contest, although it may have raised the prospect somewhat of another Sinn Fein gain in the Dublin North City area (Dublin Bay North). Against that, if the boundary changes had been applied to the 2011 contest the party would have been likely to have missed out on seats won in Dublin Central and Dublin South Central due to seat losses involving these constituencies, while the party’s seats in Kerry and especially Laois would have been rendered more vulnerable.

In the case of the United Left Alliance candidates, the seat prospects of the Socialist Party’s Claire Daly (Dublin North) and Joe Higgins (Dublin Central) would not have been unduly affected, though boundary changes affecting Dublin West may have reduced the Higgins share of the vote there to some degree. The seats of People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd-Barrett (Dun Laoghaire) and Joan Collins (Dublin South Central) would have been rendered more vulnerable, although both of these would have been likely to have narrowly taken these seats, with a similar scenario applying in the case of Seamus Healy in Tipperary. Cork North Central becoming a decidedly more urban constituency in addition to Dublin South West gaining a seat would have seen the Socialist Party’s Mick Barry and Mick Murphy respectively winning a somewhat larger proportion of the quota in these constituencies but not to the extent that they would have been in contention to pick up seats.

Independent seats would have been lost out on in Donegal, Dublin Bay North, Kerry and Tipperary, as is suggested by this analysis, although the Finian McGrath seat may well have been retained as discussed above, while there would have been a strong prospect of an independent gain had the Offaly three-seat constituency been in existence at the 2011 contest.

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About Adrian Kavanagh

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

56 Responses to Estimating 2011 General Election seats levels using new Constituency Commission 2012 election boundaries

  1. Pingback: The new Bounaries put to the 2011 General Election « The Cedar Lounge Revolution

  2. Pingback: The slow Fianna Fail march continues apace – Commentary on the Paddy Power-Red C poll (10th January 2013) « politicalreform.ie

  3. Pingback: Labour pained: Sunday Business Post-Red C and Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes polls of 27th January 2013 « politicalreform.ie

  4. Pingback: Ireland’s Banking Fiasco, Midnight Parliamentary Madness – and Mass Media Self-Delusion « Tomás Ó Flatharta

  5. Pingback: Fianna Fail’s long march forward halted…for now? But is Labour’s decline? Late March polls | politicalreform.ie

  6. Pingback: Good news for Fine Gael in latest Paddy Power-Red C opinion poll | The Irish Politics Forum

  7. Pingback: Better news for government parties in latest Sunday Business Post-Red C poll | The Irish Politics Forum

  8. Pingback: So what for Silly Season politics? Looking at the August opinion polls | The Irish Politics Forum

  9. Pingback: Autumnal Shifts? A constituency-level analysis of the early Autumn opinion polls | The Irish Politics Forum

  10. Pingback: Après la guerre: Constituency level analyses of post-Budget opinion polls | The Irish Politics Forum

  11. Pingback: New Year, New Opinion Polls… | The Irish Politics Forum

  12. Pingback: March in like a lion for largest parties: Sunday Independent-Millward Brown poll | The Irish Politics Forum

  13. Pingback: March in like a lion but not out like a lamb for the larger parties: Analyses of March and April opinions polls | The Irish Politics Forum

  14. Pingback: “When the hurly-burly’s done…”: Constituency-level analysis of the June 20th Red C-Paddy Power opinion poll | The Irish Politics Forum

  15. Pingback: Love’s Labour Not Entirely Lost?: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes poll (17th August 2014) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  16. Pingback: “When the hurly-burly’s done…”: Constituency-level analyses of the post-Local and European elections opinion polls | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  17. Pingback: Good news for Fine Gael and Sinn Fein: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Business Post-Red C poll (14th September 2014) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  18. Pingback: Mixed fortunes for the government parties: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Independent-Millward Brown opinion poll (21st September 2014) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  19. Pingback: Mixed fortunes for the Opposition parties! Constituency-level analysis of the Irish Times-Ispos MRBI opinion poll (9th October 2014) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  20. Pingback: Independents Day again: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Business Post-Red C opinion poll (26th October 2014) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  21. Pingback: Their Day Has Come – Sinn Fein’s surge: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Independent-Millward Brown opinion poll (2nd November 2014) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  22. Pingback: How low can it go for the three main parties? Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Business Post-Red C opinion poll (22nd November 2014) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  23. Pingback: Independents Day again but disaster for the government parties. Constituency-level analysis of the Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI opinion poll (4th December 2014) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  24. Pingback: Shortest day and longest night for Labour. Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes and Sunday Business Post-Red C polls (21st December 2014) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  25. Pingback: Shortest day and longest night for Labour. Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes, Sunday Independent-Millward Brown and Sunday Business Post-Red C polls (21st December 2014) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analy

  26. Pingback: Shortest day and longest night for Labour. Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes, Sunday Independent-Millward Brown and Sunday Business Post-Red C polls (21st December 2014) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analy

  27. Pingback: Shortest day and longest night for Labour. Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes, Sunday Independent-Millward Brown and Sunday Business Post-Red C polls (21st December 2014) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analy

  28. Pingback: The Empire strikes back?: Constituency-level analysis of the Paddy Power-Red C opinion poll (14th January 2015) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  29. Pingback: Sinn Fein feeling the love on Valentines Day. Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Independent-Millward Brown opinion poll (15th February 2015) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  30. Pingback: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!”: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Business Post-Red C opinion poll (22nd February 2015) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  31. Pingback: And more good news for the Government Parties: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes opinion poll (15th March 2015) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  32. Pingback: Sinn Fein and the Government Parties make gains: Constituency-level analysis of the Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI opinion poll (26th March 2015) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  33. Pingback: What’s Another Poll?: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes opinion poll (17th April 2015) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  34. Pingback: Civil War politics lives on?: Constituency-level analysis of the Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI opinion poll (18th May 2015) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  35. Pingback: Ne’er cast a clout till May be out: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Business Post-Red C opinion poll (31st May 2015) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  36. Pingback: Midsummer Night’s Dream for Fianna Fail: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes opinion poll (21st June 2015) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  37. Pingback: Good weekend for Fine Gael and Fianna Fail: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Business Post-Red C and Sunday Independent-Millward Brown opinion polls (28th June 2015) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  38. Pingback: Independents and Others surge anew: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes opinion poll (19th July 2015) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  39. Pingback: Swings and Roundabouts: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Business Post-Red C opinion polls (26th July 2015) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  40. Pingback: Autumnal Blues for Fine Gael?: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Independent-Millward Brown opinion polls (2nd August 2015) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  41. Pingback: Summer Labour brings no profit: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes opinion poll (16th August 2015) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  42. Pingback: Government Red-y to Return?: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Business Post-Red C opinion poll (13th September 2015) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  43. Pingback: November election looking less likely?: Constituency-level analysis of the Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI opinion poll (24th September 2015) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  44. Pingback: Independents and Others still to the fore: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes opinion poll (18th October 2015) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  45. Pingback: Clocks go forward, as do Fine Gael and Fianna Fail: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Business Post-Red C opinion poll (13th September 2015) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  46. Pingback: Gains for Sinn Fein, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitiudes opinion poll (15th November 2015) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  47. Pingback: Labour gains and Fine Gael pains : Constituency-level analysis of the Paddy Power-Red C opinion poll (3rd December 2015) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  48. Pingback: Tidings of Joy for the Government Parties?: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitiudes opinion poll (13th December 2015) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  49. Pingback: Little change heading into the Summer Recess…: Constituency-level analysis of Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes opinion poll (26th June 2016) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  50. Pingback: Good poll for largest parties, but a bad one for the independents: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Independent-Millward Brown opinion poll (3rd July 2016) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  51. Pingback: Fianna Fail surge confirmed: Constituency-level analysis of Sunday Business Post-Red C and Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes opinion polls (18th July 2016) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  52. Pingback: AAA-PBP SBB ina Shuí?: Constituency-level analysis of Sunday Business Post-Red C opinion poll (30th October 2016) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  53. Pingback: Back to the Feb-ture?: Constituency-level analysis of Sunday Business Post-Red C opinion poll (27th November 2016) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  54. Pingback: Festive joy for Fianna Fail and Fine Gael: Constituency-level analysis of Irish Times-Ipsos-MRBI opinion poll (8th Dcember 2016) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  55. Pingback: Happy New Year for Fianna Fail: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Business Post-Red C opion poll (29th January 2017) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  56. Pingback: Heading towards a three-party system?: Constituency-level analysis of the Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI opinion poll (2nd March 2017) | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

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