Adrian Kavanagh, 29th February 2016.
As of this morning, counting is still continuing in a number of constituencies, but at this stage it is clear that there will be a significant increase in the number of seats won by female candidates relative to the level won in 2011, while there will also be a notable increase in the number of votes won by female candidates. At the 2011 General Election, female candidates won just 25 of the 166 Dail seats (or of the 165 Dail seats being contested). Female candidates won 332,821 first preference votes nationally, amounting to 14.8% of the national first preference votes. The low female vote levels/seat levels were, in part, due to the small number of female candidates contesting that election, with only 86 female candidates (out of a total of 566) contesting this election – 15.2% of the total.
As has been well flagged already, and as discussed in detail in the 2016 General Election Candidates post, the introduction of a gender quota resulted in a significant increase in female candidate levels, with 163 female candidates contesting the election (out of a total number of 551, amounting to 29.6% of the total number of candidates). Did this also result in an overall increase in support levels and seat levels for female candidates? Why, yes. At this stage, it looks as if 35 female candidates will win seats in this election – amounting to 22.3% of the 157 seats being actually contested over the weekend, or 22.2% of the 158 seats in the next Dail. The overall support level for female candidates also increased notably. At this stage (and this number is likely to be amended slightly following some final recounts), it can be be stated that female candidates won over half a million votes (531,800 votes) for the first time in a Irish general election – amounting to 24.9% (almost one quarter) of the first preference votes cast in this election. This amounts to an increase of almost 200,000 in the total number of first preference votes won by female candidates between the 2011 and 2016 General Elections (see Figure 2 below).
Female candidates fared best in the Dublin region, where they won 38.8% of all the first preference votes and 18 of the 44 seats (40.9%). Outside of Dublin, female candidates accounted for 20.4% of all the first preference votes. The notable urban-rural divide, or East-West divide, in female success levels is further underpinned by the fact that the next strongest region for female candidates was Leinster (25.3%), followed by Connacht-Ulster (23.6%) and Munster (15.2%).
As Figure 1 (above) shows, female candidates fared especially well in some constituencies, but particularly in the Dublin region. Female candidates had accounted for over half of the candidates (5 out of 9) in the Kildare South constituency. But in this election, female candidates won over half of the first preference votes in two Dublin constituencies – Dublin South-Central (59.4%) and Dun Laoghaire (57.9%). They came very close to winning half of the votes in the Dublin Central (49.3%) constituency. Outside of Dublin, the best constituency for female candidates in terms of first preference votes was Cavan-Monaghan (44.6%).