How did the Younger Ones (candidates aged between 21 and 35) fare at General Election 2016

Adrian Kavanagh, 1st March 2016

Figure 1: Percentage of younger candidates (aged between 21-35) by Dail constituency (2016 General Election)

Figure 1: Percentage of younger candidates (aged between 21-35) by Dail constituency (2016 General Election)

In an earlier post, I listed all eighty four candidates in the 21-35 age category (15.2% of the total number of General Election candidates) who contested Friday’s general election contest. This post reviews how these candidates fared in the election and finds that only 13 (15.1% of the younger candidates’ grouping) went on to win seats in the election. This contrasts starkly with the trends observed at the 2011, as discussed in an earlier post. In this election, twice as many younger candidates proved to be ultimately successful – 27 younger candidates, amounting to 39.7% of the younger candidates contesting that election. There is no sense that the expected boost in youth turnouts, following on the strong mobilisation of younger voters at the 2015 Marriage Equality Referendum, acted to improve the electoral prospects of younger candidates in the February 2016 election. As of now (with the Longford-Westmeath count still to be concluded), the successful younger General Election 2016 candidates (candidates aged between 21 and 30/35) includes:

Dail constituency Candidates Aged 21-35
Carlow-Kilkenny Kathleen Funchion SF
Cork East
Cork North Central
Cork North West
Cork South Central Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire* SF
Cork South West
Dublin Central
Dublin Mid West
Dublin Fingal
Dublin Bay North
Dublin North West Noel Rock* FG
Dublin Rathdown
Dublin South Central
Dublin Bay South Eoghan Murphy FG
Dublin South West Paul Murphy AAA
Dublin West Jack Chambers* FF
Dun Laoghaire
Galway East
Galway West
Kerry County Brendan Griffin FG
Kildare North
Kildare South
Offaly Carol Nolan SF
Limerick City
Limerick County
Longford-Westmeath Robert Troy FF, Peter Burke FG
Mayo Lisa Chambers* FF
Meath East Helen McEntee* FG
Meath West
Wicklow Simon Harris* FG

(Successful candidates in the 21-30 age category are highlighted by a *)

This election did mark an increase in the number of younger female candidates being elected – up from just two at the 2011 election to four at the 2016 General Election – including Fianna Fail’s Lisa Chambers (Mayo) and Fine Gael’s Helen McEntee (Meath East), as well as Sinn Fein’s Carol Nolan (Offaly) and Kathleen Funchion (Carlow-Kilkenny).

Why did the younger candidates not fare so well in the 2016 General Election, especially in relation to the 2011 contest? Here are some of my suggestions:

  • Age cycle effect: A large number of the younger candidates (in the 31-35 age category) who won seats in the 2011 election, and went on to hold these seats in the 2016 contest, were now (in 2016) no longer part of this younger age group. This group included Michael McGrath (FF, Cork South-Central), Charlie McConalogue (FF, Donegal), Leo Varadkar (FG, Dublin West), John Paul Phelan (FG, Carlow-Kilkenny), Joe Carey (FG, Clare), Alan Farrell (FG, Dublin North), Sean Kyne (FG, Galway West), Patrick O’Donovan (FG, Limerick), Damien English (FG, Meath West), Alan Kelly (LAB, Tipperary North), Pearse Doherty (SF, Donegal South West) and Stephen Donnelly (SocDem, Wicklow).
  • Bad luck: A number of candidates (probably 9) in the younger age category ended up losing out on Dail seats by narrow margins; none more so than Fianna Fail’s Catherine Ardagh in Dublin South-Central. In addition to Cllr. Ardagh, a number of other younger candidates were the runners-up in their Dail constituency contests, including Barbara Ahern (FF, Cork East), John Paul O’Shea (IND, Cork North-West), Gary Gannon (SocDem, Dublin Central), Anne-Marie McNally (SocDem, Dublin Mid-West), Paul Connaughton (FG, Galway East), Thomasina Connell (FG, Laois), Darren O’Rourke (SF, Meath East) and Maura Hopkins (FG, Roscommon-Galway) – and possibly also Paul Hogan SF or Peter Burke FG (Longford-Westmeath).
  • Victims of the tide: A number of the younger Labour and Fine Gael candidates who were successful in 2011 lost out in these elections. This group of candidates included Labour’s Ciara Conway(Waterford) and Derek Nolan (Galway West), as well as Fine Gael’s Paul Connaughton (Galway East).

About Adrian Kavanagh

Lecturer at the Maynooth University Department of Geography. Email:
This entry was posted in Candidates, General Election, Young candidates and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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