Adrian Kavanagh, 12th June 2014
Apart from the successes associated with the Independents and Others groupings, there is no doubt that Sinn Fein were the big winners in the May 23rd 2014 elections, winning seats in each of the European constituencies (having held no European Parliament seat in the Republic of Ireland coming into the May 23rd contest) and coming very close to trebling their level of representation at the local authority level (increasing their number of City and County Council seats from 54 to 157 between 2009 and 2014). Indeed, further seat gains at the local authority level may have transpired had the party nominated more candidates (as in electoral areas such as Tallaght South and Clondalkin).
Sinn Fein won 259,309 first preference votes at the 2014 Local Elections. This was up by over one hundred and twenty thousand votes on the number won by the party (138,405) at the 2009 contest. 81,392 of these votes were won by female candidates (31.4% of the Sinn Fein total) and the remaining 177,917 votes (68.6%) won by male Sinn Fein candidates. This overall number of votes amounted to 15.3% of the votes cast nationally at these elections. This share of the vote was well up on the 7.4% vote share won by the party at the 2009 Local Elections. The number of seats won by Sinn Fein almost trebled between the two local election contests – increasing from 54 seats in 2009 (6.1% of the total number of City/Council seats at that election) to 159 in 2014 (16.8% of the seats).
Regionally, Sinn Fein fared best in the Dublin region at the 2014 Local Elections, winning 19.0% of the first preference vote in this region and taking 34 of the 183 Council seats there. But the party also polled strongly in the other regions of Leinster (15.3%), Connacht-Ulster (14.2%) and Munster (13.4%).
Sinn Fein won nearly three times as many votes as the Labour Party did in these more working class Dublin constituencies at the 2014 Local Elections contest, thus establishing it firmly as the party with the highest levels of support amongst working class voters. While Labour won more votes than Sinn Fein in the more middle class electoral areas (Figure 3), the average Sinn Fein support level in these areas was much higher than in previous contests and was sufficient to see the party gain seats in constituencies such as Castleknock, Dundrum and Rathfarnham at these elections. Sinn Fein also polled reasonably well in the more rural electoral areas, although polling strongest in the more western and northern electoral areas (as opposed to the Labour geography of support, which tends to be more focused on the more southerly and easterly rural areas).
While Sinn Fein fared better in Dublin than in the other regions, the party’s highest shares of the vote at a local authority area level were recorded in Monaghan (34.3%) and Louth (31.2%). The party succeeded in winning more than twenty percent of the vote in a number of other local authority areas, including Dublin City (24.2%), Cork City (24.0%) and South Dublin County (24.0%), while they fell just short of that twenty percent support level in Donegal (19.6%), Leitrim (19.2%) and Cavan (18.2%) as well as Wicklow (16.5%) and Waterford (16.0%) to a lesser degree. The weakest Sinn Fein performances at the local authority level came in Clare (4.2%), Longford (6.6%) – the only county where Sinn Fein failed to win a Council seat – Galway County (7.5%), Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown (7.7%), Galway City (9.5%) and Kilkenny (9.9%).
Sinn Fein’s share of the vote in the Dublin region increased by 10.2% between the local elections of 2009 and 2014. The level of the increase in party support in the other regions – Leinster (8.9%), Munster (7.8%) and Connacht-Ulster (4.5%) – was not as dramatic. As Figure 4 shows, the most significant gains were made in Dublin, as well as the counties located in its immediate commuter hinterland, in addition to Offaly and some of the Munster counties. At the local authority level, the greatest level of increase in party support levels between 2009 and 2014 came in Offaly (14.2%). The party’s share of the vote increased by over ten percent between 2009 and 2014 in a number of other local authority areas, including Louth (14.0%), Cork City (13.2%), South Dublin County (12.9%), Dublin City (11.6%), Kildare (11.2%), Carlow (10.7%) and Limerick (10.0%). The least dramatic levels of support increase were to be found in Sligo (2.4%) and Mayo (3.1%).
The best result at the constituency, or electoral area, level for Sinn Fein at the 2014 Local Elections came in Tallaght South, where the party won more than half the number of valid votes cast in that electoral area (51.3%). The next best party performance came in Carrickmacross-Castleblaney, where Sinn Fein won 42.0% of the total valid poll. Sinn Fein succeeded in winning more than thirty percent of the total valid poll in a number of other electoral areas, including Clondalkin (37.5%), Cork City North West (37.4%), Cabra-Finglas (36.9%), Dundalk-Carlingford (36.7%), Dundalk South (36.6%), Beaumont-Donaghmede (34.7%), Monaghan (33.4%), Tallaght Central (32.1%), Mulhuddart (30.3%) and Tralee (30.0%). Sinn Fein did not contest the Killaloe electoral area in Co. Clare and failed to win more than five percent of the vote in eight electoral areas, including Ennis (3.0%), Tuam (3.2%), Blackrock (3.6%), Killarney (4.0%), Ballymote-Tubbercurry (4.1%), Longford (4.4%), Stillorgan (4.6%) and Loughrea (4.8%).
If the local elections were to prove an excellent set of contests for Sinn Fein, the European elections proved even better for them. As Figure 2 above shows, the party’s share of the vote at the European contests proved to be notably higher than that won by them in the local elections. Early candidate selection may have played a role here, as well as clever decisions in terms of selecting presidential-style candidates who were well placed to do well in the heavily personality driven European contests. Lynn Boylan won the largest vote share of the three candidates, taking 23.6% of the vote in the three-seat Dublin constituency, with the party also winning close to a quota in the other two constituencies – Liadh Ni Riada winning 19.1% in the South constituency and Matt Carthy winning 17.7% in the Midlands-North-West constituency.