Adrian Kavanagh, 23rd June 2014
A month has now passed since the holding of the 2014 Local and European elections and the spoils of victory have now been fought over and divided in most cases (although the first meeting of Monaghan County Council does not take place until this evening). But which parties or groupings have fared the best in terms of the division of these spoils? And could the patterns emerging in terms of the alliances formed to garner control of different councils pose some hints as to which parties or groupings may come together at the national level to form the next government after the next Dail/general election (probably in Autumn 2015).
Based on the evidence of alliance-formation in order to control City and County Councils following the May 23rd elections, there is a strong likelihood that the next government will be a Fine Gael-Fianna Fail coalition, which would effectively mark the end of “Civil War politics” just ahead of the centenary of the 1916 Rising. (It is worth noting that Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein have not assumed control jointly of any of the different local authorities, even though this would have been a feasible prospect in a number of City and County Councils. They do, of course, join in such alliances in those councils that have used a rotating chair approach to determine control of these. The same trend of course also applies in the case of Fine Gael and Sinn Fein). It is worth noting that Fine Gael and Labour would have taken control of a number of councils after the 2009 election and prior to going into coalition after the 2011 General Election. Fine Gael would also have solely controlled a number of councils, including Mayo, after the 2009 contest. No party was in a position to do so on any local authority after the 2014 elections however; a testament to the increasingly fractured political landscape in the Republic of Ireland.
At this point in time (and acknowledging the face that these alliances may break down in some cases) Fianna Fail and Fine Gael members are involved in the alliances controlling 21 of the 31 different local authorities – over two-thirds of these (67.7%) – and have assumed sole control of 11 of these councils (35.5%), with most of these being County Councils in the more rural parts of the state, with the notable exception of Limerick City and County Council. Fianna Fail, the largest party in the state at the local authority level, is involved in alliances controlling 26 of these local authorities (well over eighty percent of these – 83.9%). But Fine Gael surprisingly fares nearly as well in that this party is involved in alliances controlling 24 of the City or County Councils (over three quarters of these – 77.4%) despite the party’s disappointing performance at the 2014 City and County Council elections. In all, there are only two local authorities across the state that do not involve either Fianna Fail or Fine Gael as part of the political alliances controlling these. These outliers are Dublin City and South Dublin County, with left-leaning alliances involving Sinn Fein, Labour and other left-of-centre parties and candidates, controlling these. Just as the main trend in terms of the political control of City and County Councils may offer some hints as to what shape the next government may take, it could be argued that the patterns relating to the control of South Dublin and Dublin City may pose some hints as to the shape of political opposition at the next Dail, should a Fine Gael-Fianna Fail coalition government emerge.
|City/County Council||Control of Council|
|Carlow||Fine Gael, Labour and some Independents|
|Cavan||Rotating Chair on a d’hondt basis (Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Sinn Fein)|
|Clare||Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Independents|
|Cork County||Fianna Fail, Labour and (some) Independents|
|Cork City||Rotating Chair on a d’hondt basis (Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Sinn Fein, some Independents)|
|Donegal||Rotating Chair on a d’hondt basis (all Council members)|
|Dublin City||Sinn Fein, Labour, Green Party and (11) Independents|
|Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown||Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Green Party|
|Fingal County||Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour|
|South Dublin County||Sinn Fein, Labour, Green Party and Independents|
|Galway City||Fine Gael, Labour and Independents|
|Galway County||Fianna Fail and Fine Gael|
|Kerry||Fianna Fail and Fine Gael|
|Kildare||Fianna Fail and Fine Gael|
|Kilkenny||Fianna Fail and Fine Gael|
|Laois||Fianna Fail and Fine Gael|
|Leitrim||Fianna Fail and Fine Gael|
|Limerick||Fianna Fail and Fine Gael|
|Longford||Fianna Fail and Independents|
|Louth||Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Labour, Greens and some (two) Independents|
|Mayo||Fianna Fail and most Independents|
|Meath||Fine Gael and Independents|
|Monaghan||Rotating Chair on a d’hondt basis (Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael)|
|Offaly||Fianna Fail and (some) Independents|
|Roscommon||Fianna Fail and Independents|
|Sligo||Fianna Fail and Fine Gael|
|Tipperary||Fianna Fail and Fine Gael|
|Waterford||Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour|
|Westmeath||Fianna Fail and Fine Gael|
|Wexford||Fianna Fail and Fine Gael|
|Wicklow||Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and some Independents|
Table 1: The parties and groupings that control the different City and County Councils across the state
Despite their strong performance in the May 23rd elections, Sinn Fein are involved in relatively few (only 6 – 19.4%) of the governing alliances controlling the different councils and most of these cases involve councils that are rotating the chair between all/most of the different parties and groupings on a local authority, with the notable exceptions of South Dublin County and Dublin City. By contrast, Labour, despite winning less than a third of the number of Council seats that Sinn Fein won at the May 23rd (and June 7th) contests, are involved in alliances controlling 8 of the different City and County Councils (25.8%). (The Green Party is involved in 4 different governing alliances (12.9% of the different local authorities).) The Independents grouping fares better than Sinn Fein (and indeed Labour also) does in terms of the number of councils that members of this grouping are involved in (part) controlling – 15 in all (48.4%). But they fare decidedly less well than Fianna Fail or Fine Gael does, despite the fact that the Independents grouping accounted for the largest vote share of all parties/groupings and the fact that the number of seats won by Independent candidates came relatively close to the numbers won by Fine Gael and (to a lesser degree) Fianna Fail.
The extent to which parties or groupings have managed to gain control of different councils is of course a reflection of how well these fared at the local election contests within those different local authority areas. But this is not a hard and fast rule. The mismatch between Sinn Fein (and Independents and Others, to a lesser degree) success levels and the degree to which they attained, or rather did not attain, controlling positions on the different councils is an obvious example. But the same rule also applies in certain cases to the larger parties. An obvious example here relates to Longford. This is the county that Fine Gael fared best in at the local elections. But the Council is now controlled by Fianna Fail and Independents – the relatively smaller seats numbers held by these making each other a more attractive partner than Fine Gael would have been, no doubt. Sometimes a party can be just too successful!
(Thanks to Claire Noble for providing information on the Monaghan political landscape. Thanks to Laura McGonigle for updates on the Cork City situation and to Dermot Looney for updates on South Dublin County.)