Seanad Election 2016 – Agricultural Panel counts: Updates and Perspectives

Adrian Kavanagh, 26th April 2016 (This post will be (hopefully) updated, as and when counts proceed over the rest of the day.)

Counting for the 2016 Seanad elections commenced on 25th April 2016 with the counting of votes for the 5-seat Cultural and Educational Panel. The second of the panels to be counted would be the 11-seat Agricultural Panel, with counting for this panel set to commence at 9.30 on Tuesday 26th April.

The main trends evident in this contest included:

  • Three female candidates were elected on this panel – an increase on the level (just one) recorded at the 2011 elections.
  • The three traditional parties that have dominated Irish politics for most of the state’s history – Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour – all lost one seat each on this panel, with gains for Sinn Fein, the Green Party and Independents.
  • This contest pointed to the growing strength, influence and coherence of the Independent voting bloc. The larger seat numbers/smaller quota on this panel meant that Victor Boyhan was comfortably elected, ensuring he would be the first Independent candidate to be elected in a Seanad vocational panel contest (not including Seanad by-elections) since the 1973 election.
  • Smaller parties also fared better than would normally be the case at Seanad contests and Grace O’Sullivan subsequently made history in becoming the first Green Party candidate to win a seat in a Seanad (vocational panel) electoral contest.
  • The strength of Sinn Fein vote management was particularly noteworthy.

Agricultural Panel (11 seats – at least 4 “Inside”/at least 4 “Outside”)

The First Count for this panel was announced on the morning of 26th April 2016 and details for this and subsequent counts may be viewed here.

In the 2011 election, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael both won 4 seats on this panel, while Labour won two seats and Sinn Fein won one. Labour are already certain to lose one of their two seats, as only one Labour Party candidate is contesting this panel in 2016.

24 candidates were contesting this panel (see here for more details on these candidates) – including 15 on the “Outside” panel and 9 on the “Inside”. This is one of the two largest vocational panels, along with the Labour panel. As a result of this, the quota for this panel will be notably smaller than for the 5-seat Cultural and Educational Panel (which was 187.167 votes, or 16.6% of the first preference votes). The quota for this panel is likely to be 93.583 votes (or 8.3% of the first preference votes). Based on the earlier analysis of the number of Dail, Council and (outgoing) Senator votes controlled by the different parties and groupings, both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael will expect to win 3 seats here while Sinn Fein will be expecting to win 2 seats. Based on the stronger than normal support levels for independent candidates in a Seanad contest evident in yesterday’s election, there would be expectations that one or two Independents could win seats on this panel, but only one independent – Victor Boyhan – is contesting this panel (which may augur well for his prospects). This means that there are going to a significant pool of floating non-party votes to be won on this panel – effectively amounting to 1.4 quotas – which could act to the advantage of smaller party candidates, such as Jennifer Whitmore (Social Democrats) and Grace O’Sullivan (Green Party). This panel and the Labour panel both amount to the best chance that the Labour Party has of winning seats in these Seanad elections, but Dennis Landy will need to be able to attract vote transfers from outside his own party to ensure that he is elected – the number of Council, Dail and (outgoing) Seanad votes controlled by Labour amounts to just 0.7 quotas on this panel.

The Count: The First Count was announced around 10.00am. Sinn Fein’s Rose Conway-Walsh won 98.000 first preference votes – topping the poll and exceeding the quota 93.667, hence being deemed elected on this count. (This meant that both Mayo and Dublin accounted for two each of the first six Senators elected to the new Seanad!) Some very strong vote management on the part of Sinn Fein was evident, given that her running mate, Trevor O Clocharthaigh, was just 8.000 votes behind her (in third place). The growing influence/coherence of the Independent voting bloc was evident in the fact that the only independent candidate on this panel, Victor Boyhan, was in second place on the First Count – literally 0.667 of a vote off reaching the quota.  The number of votes won by the Green Party and Social Democrats – a record vote for both parties in a Seanad election contest! – were well in excess of what might have been expected based on the current strengths in terms of Dail, Council and (outgoing) Seanad numbers. This suggests that Jennifer Whitmore and Grace O’Sullivan both gained either from a floating non-party vote and/or a vote pact with (some) independent candidate groupings.

On the First Count, Fianna Fail candidates won 367 votes (32.7%, or 3.9 quotas), Fine Gael candidates won 316 votes (28.1%, or 3.4 quotas), Sinn Fein candidates won 188 votes (16.7%, or 2.0 quotas), while the Independent candidate won 93 votes (8.3%, or 1.0 quotas), the Labour candidate won 72 votes (6.4%, or 0.8 quotas), the Green Party candidate won 48 votes (4.3%, or 0.5 quotas) and the Social Democrat candidates won 40 votes (3.6%, or 0.4 quotas).

The number of first preference votes won by Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Sinn Fein and Independents were down on the levels won by these parties/groupings in yesterday’s Cultural and Educational panel contest. But the smaller quota for the 11-seat constituency means that these parties/groupings are better placed to win more seats on this panel.

Trevor O Clocharthaigh “only” needed to win 85% of Rose Conway-Walsh’s surplus votes to be deemed elected on Count 2. As it transpired, he actually won 4.180 of her 4.312 transferable votes – 97% of these! – and he was subsequently deemed to be the second candidate elected on this panel. What was even more striking about this was the fact that a proportion of the votes won by the two Sinn Fein candidates obviously came from outside the party, if one looks at the number of Dail, Council and (outfoing) seanad votes that Sinn Fein could command.

The distribution of O Clocharthaigh’s surplus of 0.513 votes on Count 3 made no significant changes to the candidate order and Fianna Fail’s Pat Hayes (4.000 votes) was eliminated at the end of that count. But only half of his transfers went to other Fianna Fail candidates – one vote each to Paul Daly and Brian O Domhnaill – with one of his votes being deemed non-transferable and the other going to the Green Party’s Grace O’Sullivan.

Three Fine Gael candidates were eliminated over the next three counts. Michael Comiskey (19.033 votes) was eliminated at the end of Count 4. His transfers generally tended to favour other Fine Gael candidates, with fellow Fine Gael candidates winning 17.022 of his 18.033 transferable votes (94.4% of these). The most successful candidates on this count, in terms of attracting vote transfers, were Paddy Burke and Colm Markey – both picking up 5.000 transfer votes. The Social Democrats’ Jennifer Whitmore did gain an extra vote, however, on this count. Anthony Lawlor (26.000 votes) was eliminated at the end of Count 5. There was evidence of even stronger Fine Gael party loyalty in terms of the transfer pattern on the following count, with all – bar one – of the Lawlor transfer votes going to fellow Fine Gael candidate (96.2% of the Lawlor votes). The most successful candidates on this count, in terms of attracting vote transfers, were Noel Coonan (gaining 6.000 transfer votes), as well as Colm Markey and Pat O’Neill (with both gaining 5.000 transfer votes). Grace O’Sullivan of the Green Party did gain an extra vote, however, on this count. This level of Fine Gael party loyalty in vote transfers was not evident to the same degree on the following count. John Sheahan (31.000 votes) was eliminated at the end of Count 6. Twenty six of his transfer votes went to other Fine Gael candidates (83.9%) – with Maria Byrne, Tim Lombard and Colm Markey especially faring well in this regard. But Munster-based Fianna Fail candidates (Michael Smith, Frank O’Flynn and Denis O’Donovan) gained five of these transfers votes – suggestignt hat geography, as well as party loyalty, was a factor shaping the Sheahan vote transfer patterns.

After Count 7, the remaining Fianna Fail candidates held 370.253 votes (32.9% of the remaining votes), the  remaining Fine Gael candidates held 308.110 votes (27.4%), while the Independent candidate (Boyhan) held 93.110 votes (8.3%), the Labour candidate (Landy) held 72.000 votes (6.4%), the Green Party candidate (O’Sullivan) held 50.132 votes (4.5%) and the Social Democrats candidate (Whitmore) held 41.011 votes (3.6%).

Count 8 (the transfer of Shane O’Reilly transfers) resulted in the elimination of Connie Gerrety-Quinn, meaning that four candidates were now left in the running to fill the two remaining guaranteed seats for “Inside Panel” candidates – the first two seats having been filled earlier by the two Sinn Fein candidates. With Victor Boyhan virtually guaranteed to be elected at this stage and with Noel Coonan likely to be eliminated on one of the following counts, this now meant that at least one seat was almost guaranteed to be won by either of the two smaller party candidates, Grace O’Sullivan or Jennifer Whitmore, with O’Sullivan having the advantage at the end of Count 8. So, even at this point, it looked almost certain that all the Inside Panel candidates elected would be drawn from Sinn Fein and the Independents and Others grouping, while all the Outside Panel candidates elected would be drawn from either Fine Gael or Fianna Fail (or Labour). This also meant that – between them – Fine Gael and Fianna Fail could now expect to win (at most) 7 seats on this panel – having both won 4 seats in the 2011 contest.

Not surprisingly, the transfers of Shane O’Reilly and Connie Gerrety-Quinn on Counts 8 and 9 strongly favoured the other (remaining) Fianna Fail candidates. 87.4% of the 32.044 O’Reilly transfer votes went to other Fianna Fail candidates, while 33.000 of the 34.044 Gerrety-Quinn transfer votes stayed within the party (96.9%). The Gerrety-Quinn transfers to Denis O’Donovan ensured he exceeded the quota on Count 9, becoming the first “Outside” panel candidate to be elected and also the third candidate on the Agricultural Panel to be officially deemed elected.  Apart from 0.003 non-transferable votes, all of the 8.355 O’Donovan surplus votes went to other Fianna Fail candidates on Count 10, but at the end of this count Frank O’Flynn was eliminated. He was sitting on 37.911 votes when he was eliminated and 1.022 of these votes proved to be non-transferable on the following count. 25.856 of the 36,889 transferable O’Flynn votes (70.1%) went to the other (remaining) Fianna Fail candidates on Count 11; a less stringent Fianna Fail vote transfer than the ones that had preceded this. Some Fine Gael candidates – most notably Tim Lombard, but also Maria Byrne – fared well in terms of winning transfers on this count. But this count also lead to the elimination of Fine Gael’s Noel Coonan, thus ensuring that the remaining two guaranteed “Inside” panel seats would be filled by Victor Boyhan and either Grace O’Sullivan or Jennifer Whitmore, thus also guaranteeing that no Inside panel seats would be won by the two largest parties.

After Count 11, the most transfer-friendly candidates left in the race were (in order): Brian O Domhnaill FF (having picked up 23.889 transfer votes from Count 1 onwards), Michael Smith FF (21.712), Paul Daly FF (20.950), Maria Byrne FG (18.000), Colm Markey FG (16.022), Tim Lombard FG (15.011), Paschal Mooney FF  (13.900) and Paddy Burke FG (10.055).

The transfer of the Noel Coonan votes on Count 12, in turn, lead to the elimination of the Social Democrat candidate, Jennifer Whitmore, thus guaranteeing that – with two Inside panel seats still to be filled and with just two Inside panel candidates remaining – Grace O’Sullivan of the Green Party would be guaranteed a seat (as well as Victor Boyhan, who was still slowly edging his way towards the quota at that point, in any case). There were 38.022 Noel Coonan votes to be distributed on this count (0.011 Coonan votes were non-transferable). A pretty impressive 89.4% of these votes transferred on to the other (remaining) Fine Gael candidates, with Paddy Burke (9.0000, Tim Lombard (9.000) and Maria Byrne (7.000) all faring very well in terms of the Coonan transfers.

The distribution of Jennifer Whitmore’s transfers on the following count (Count 13) finally confirmed the election of Victor Boyhan – the first independent candidate to be elected in these Seanad elections. Indeed, it would appear that Boyhan is the first independent candidate to win a seat in a Seanad vocational panel contest for 43 years – the last one being Sean Brosnahan who won a seat, as an independent, on the Labour panel at the 1973 9and in the three previous elections during the 1960s).

12.011 of the 41.011 votes that Jennifer Whitmore stood on at the previous count proved to be non-transferable. A good chunk of the 29.000 transferable Whitmore votes went to Grace O’Sullivan (13.000 – 44.8%), with Boyhan (4.000) finally attaining a significant transfer vote on this count also. Apart from the Independents and smaller parties grouping, Denis Landy of Labour also proved relatively successful in winning vote transfers (4.000) on this count. The distribution of the Boyhan transfers on Count 14 edged Paddy Burke over the line, with him becoming the first Fine Gael candidate to be elected on this panel – and the second of the “Outside” panel candidates to be deemed elected. The remaining 2.454 votes from the Boyhan surplus proved to be non-transferable.

After Count 14, the four Fianna Fail candidates remaining in contention for the final seats to be decided held 265.462 votes between them (41.6% of the remaining votes/2.83 quotas), the four remaining Fine Gael candidates held 308.110 votes (35.4%/2.41 quotas) and the Labour candidate (Landy) held 81.011 votes (12.7%/0.86 quotas). The Green Party candidate (O’Sullivan) held 65.154 votes (10.2%/0.7 quotas) after this count, but – as noted earlier – the “Inside”/”Outside” rule had already effectively guaranteed her – and the Green Party – a Seanad seat.

After Count 14, the level of vote transfer won by the ten candidates remaining in the race* were as follows (in order): Brian O Domhnaill FF (having picked up 26.889 transfer votes from Count 1 onwards), Maria Byrne FG (26.000), Tim Lombard FG (24.011), Colm Markey FG (23.022), Michael Smith FF (22.273), Paul Daly FF (21.950), Grace O’Sullivan GP* (17.154), Paschal Mooney FF  (14.900), Pat O’Neill (12.000) and Denis Landy LAB (9.011).

(* Even though Grace O’Sullivan’s votes/transfer continue to be counted, the Inside rule had effectively guaranteed her election following the elimination of Jennifer Whitmore on Count 13.)

On Count 15, Paddy Burke’s surplus of 0.388 votes was distributed, with the entirety going to Denis Landy. At the end of this count, Pat O’Neill (then standing on 46.000 votes) was eliminated. A very strong Fine Gael vote transfer transfer was evident on the following count, with 41 of his 45 transferable votes being distributed (almost evenly!) between the three remaining party candidates – Byrne (15.0000, Markey (13.000) and Lombard (13.000). Three of the other four transfer votes went to Labour’s Denis Landy (2.000) and Grace O’Sullivan (1.000), with just one transfer vote going to a Fianna Fail candidate (O Domhnaill). This left Maria Byrne just 3.667 votes short of the quota at the end of Count 16, with Paschal Mooney (than standing on 50.9000 votes) being eliminated at the end of this count.

After Count 16, the level of vote transfer won by the ten candidates remaining in the race* were as follows (in order): Maria Byrne FG (having picked up 41.000 transfer votes from Count 1 onwards), Tim Lombard FG (37.011), Colm Markey FG (36.022), Brian O Domhnaill FF (27.889), Michael Smith FF (22.273), Paul Daly FF (21.950), Grace O’Sullivan GP* (18.154) and Denis Landy LAB (11.399).

Brian O Domhnaill exceeded the quota following the transfer of the Mooney votes on Count 17 and was deemed elected – the second Fianna Fail candidate to be elected on this panel at this point, as well as the third “Outside” panel candidate. O Domhnaill took the largest number of transfer votes (20.000) from Mooney, with Paul Daly (14.928) also faring well. However, Michael Smith’s number of transfer votes (8.928) fell well below those of his Fianna Fail running mates. The transfer of the O Domhnaill surplus (of 11.222) was more favourable towards Smith (who gained 5.940 votes – over half of the O Domhnaill surplus) but this also pushed Daly over the quota, ensuring that he would be the third Fianna Fail candidate to be elected on this panel and the fourth “Outside” panel candidate to prove successful. With just a small (1.171 votes) Daly surplus to be distributed, however, there were now very few Fianna Fail transfers left to be won in order to help the remaining Fianna Fail candidate, Michael Smith. Smith took just 0.702 votes from the Daly transfer on the following count, leaving him well over twenty votes short of the quota and with no more Fianna Fail party transfers left to be won/distributed.

At the end of Count 19 Colm Markey was eliminated and it was expected that his transfers would ensure the election, first of all, of Maria Byrne (who was just 1.433 votes short of the quota at this point) and then the other remaining Fine Gael candidate, Tim Lombard. It was also expected that the Markey transfers and the subsequent transfer of the Fine Gael surpluses would help Denis Landy stay well clear of Michael Smith. (At this point, in any case, Landy enjoyed a not-insignificant 16.66 vote lead over Smith.) This count also left a gap of 3.128 votes between Smith and O’Sullivan, raising the prospect that O’Sullivan – if she could overtake Smith – could end up being elected as the 11th candidate “over the line” and not just because of the Inside Panel candidates rule…

Maria Byrne, Tim Lombard and Denis Landy were indeed all deemed elected on the following count (Count 20). Byrne’s election ensured that three female candidates would be elected on this panel – up from the one successful female candidate (Labour’s Susan O’Keeffe) on this panel at the 2011 contest.  The Markey transfers particularly favoured Lombard, with 22.011 vote transfers going to him, proving enough to push him over the quota for this panel. Maria Byrne also fared well and comfortably exceeded the quota on this count, thanks to a 13.000 vote transfer from Markey. The next most successful candidate in attracting transfers was Landy and the 7.000 transfer from Markey proved enough to narrowly edge him over the quota. Smith only took one transfer vote, with four going to O’Sullivan, thus ensuring that there would be a gap of just 0.128 votes between Smith and O’Sullivan on this count. (The likelihood would have been that the transfers of the Byrne, Lombard and Landy surpluses would have edged her past Smith – although there are no figures to back this claim up, to be honest – which would have meant that her election would not have been solely down to a quirk of the Inside/Outside Panel candidates rule.)

The candidates who were elected on this panel include:

  • Rose Conway-Walsh Sinn Fein
  • Trevor O Clocharthaigh Sinn Fein
  • Denis O’Donovan Fianna Fail
  • Victor Boyhan Independent 
  • Paddy Burke Fine Gael
  • Brian O Domhnaill Fianna Fail
  • Paul Daly Fianna Fail
  • Maria Byrne Fine Gael
  • Tim Lombard Fine Gael
  • Denis Landy Labour Party
  • Grace O’Sullivan Green Party

Three female candidates were elected on this panel – an increase on the level (just one) recorded at the 2011 elections. (Female candidates won 23.8% of the first preference votes on this panel.)

The three traditional parties that have dominated Irish politics for most of the state’s history – Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour – all lost one seat each on this panel, with gains for Sinn Fein, the Green Party and Independents.

This contest, as with yesterday’s Cultural and Educational panel count, pointed to the growing strength, influence and coherence of the Independent voting bloc. In yesterday’s election, the larger size of the quota (in that 5-seat panel) effectively cost the Independents a seat, but the larger seat numbers/smaller quota on this panel meant that Victor Boyhan was comfortably elected (having to wait for a number of counts for the “part” of a vote that he needed to be officially deemed elected). This ensured that he would be the first Independent candidate to be elected in a Seanad vocational panel contest (not including Seanad by-elections) since the 1973 election.

Probably as a knock on effect of the growing importance of the Independent vote bloc in these Seanad elections, smaller parties fared better than would normally be the case, as evident in the Whitmore and O’Sullivan votes on this panel. Grace O’Sullivan subsequently made history as the first Green Party candidate to win a seat in a Seanad (vocational panel) electoral contest.

The strength of the Sinn Fein vote management in this panel contest was particularly noteworthy, ensuring both their candidates were deemed to be elected after the first two counts. Yet again, the party’s candidates proved to be successful in winning vote from outside Sinn Fein itself.

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About Adrian Kavanagh

Lecturer in Maynooth University Department of Geography.
This entry was posted in Seanad election and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Seanad Election 2016 – Agricultural Panel counts: Updates and Perspectives

  1. Cllr Frank Mc dermott says:

    Powerfull reporting, Well done

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