Seanad Election 2016 – Labour 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 to commence at 9.30 on Tuesday 26th April. Once counting for this panel is concluded, then counting for the next of the vocational panel contests – the Labour panel – is scheduled to commence soon after.

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

The First Count for this panel was announced on the evening of 26th April 2016 and details for this and subsequent counts may be viewed here. The main trends evident in this count included the following:

In the 2011 election, Fine Gael won 5 seats on this panel, while Fianna Fail won three seats, 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.

22 candidates are contesting this panel (see here for more details on these candidates) – including 11 on the “Outside” panel and 11 on the “Inside”. This is one of the two largest vocational panels, along with the Agricultural panel. As a result of this, the quota for this panel will be notably smaller than was the case 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. While only one independent candidate is contesting the Agricultural Panel, there are four independents are contesting this panel. The only “smaller” party/grouping to contest this panel are the Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit, although the AAA-PBP do control a significant number of Dail/Council votes, amounting to roughly one third of a quota – this does, of course, suggest that Cian Prendiville will need to win votes from other parties/groups in order to be successful in this contest.  This panel and the Agricultural panel both amount to the best chance that the Labour Party has of winning seats in these Seanad elections, but Ged Nash 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 First Count/Second Count vote and transfers details pointed to a remarkable degree of deja vu on the part of the two Sinn Fein candidates. Maire Devine topped the poll with 98.00 votes, exceeding the quota and being deemed elected (just as Rose Conway-Walsh had done on the Agricultural panel). Running mate, Paul Gavan, won 90.000 votes on this count (the same number that Trevor O Clochartaigh won on the Agricultural panel) and was deemed elected on the following count with vote transfers from the Maire Devine surplus. The very strong party loyalty evident in the Sinn Fein transfers on the second count of the Agricultural Panel was again evident here, with 4.095 of the 4.333 Devine surplus votes (94.5%) being transferred to her running mate, ensuring his election.

On the First Count, Fianna Fail candidates won 357 votes (31.8%, or 3.8 quotas), Fine Gael candidates won 307 votes (27.3%, or 3.3 quotas), Sinn Fein candidates won 188 votes (16.7%, or 2.0 quotas), while Independent candidates won 146 votes (13.0%, or 1.6 quotas), the Labour candidate (Nash) won 74 votes (6.6%, or 0.8 quotas) and the Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit candidate won 52 votes (4.6%, or 0.6 quotas).

Following the transfer of the 0.428 surplus Gavan votes on Count 3 – a large proportion of these going to the Independents and Others grouping – the lowest placed candidate, Madeline Spiers (then standing on 8.021 votes), was eliminated. With 2.021 of her votes being deemed non-transferable, six candidates each picked up a vote each from the Spiers transfers – Jerry Buttimer, Joe Neville, Maurice Cummins and Terry Brennan (Fine Gael), as well as Ged Nash (Labour) and Jennifer Murnane-O’Connor (Fianna Fail). Daithi de Roiste was eliminated at the end of this count – he was standing on 16.014 votes at this point.

The de Roiste transfers on Count 5 tended to favour the Fianna Fail candidates, with Paul McAuliffe (5.000) and Kate Feeney (4.000) faring especially well in winning vote transfers. In all, 15.007 of the de Roiste transfers went to the (remaining) Fianna Fail candidates – Neale Richmond being the only candidate outside of Fianna Fail to gain a vote in this count. Standing on 24.014 votes on this count, John Campbell was eliminated at the end of this count. The bulk of these votes did not go to other independents, but instead fifteen transfer votes were divided between Labour and the Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit: Ged Nash (gaining 9.000 votes) proved to be significantly favoured by the Campbell transfers, as was Cian Prendiville (6.000). At the end of this count (Count 6), Tony Mulcahy (then standing on 30.000 votes) was eliminated. It was expected that this count and/or the subsequent two or three counts would ensure the election of both Jerry Buttimer and Gerard Craughwell, but Ged Nash was also moving closer to the quota. The Mulcahy transfers largely stayed within the Fine Gael grouping – 28.000 of the 30.000 transferable votes going to other Fine Gael candidates – with Buttimer (6.000), Richmond (6.000) and Cummins (5.000) all faring especially well on this count. Count 7 led to the elimination of Noel Cribbin, who was then standing on 31.052 votes.

Underpinning the growing strength/coherence of the Independent voting bloc (albeit not a trend that was evident in the Spiers or Campbell transfer particularly), a large chunk of the Cribbin transfer (20.000) went to Craughwell, who was deemed to be elected at the end of this count (Count 8) after comfortably exceeding the quota. Fianna Fail candidates did relatively well in relation to this transfer, picking up 7.000 between them. However, the next most successful candidate after Craughwell in terms of winning Cribbin transfers was Cian Prendiville (2.000 transfer votes). Prendiville subsequently won the most transfers (2.139) from the Craughwell surplus of 13.563 votes on Count 9, with Nash (1.426) winning the second largest number of transfer votes. However a large number of the Craughwell transfers were shared out between the remaining Fianna Fail candidates (7.130 votes), as was evidenced in the previous count. Maurice Cummins, then standing on 35.007 votes, was eliminated at the end of this count.

28.007 of the 35.007 Cummins votes (three quarters of these) were transferred on to the remaining Fine Gael candidates. The transfer of the Cummins transfers on Count 10 secured the election of Jerry Buttimer, with Buttimer winning 9,000 transfer votes to reach 101,713 votes, comfortably exceeding the quota and being deemed elected on this count. Other Fine Gael candidates faring well on this count and the subsequent count in terms of winning Cummins transfer votes and votes from the subsequent transfer of the Buttimer surplus included Joe O’Reilly, Joe Neville and Terry Brennan. However, Neville – then standing on 43.795 votes -was eliminated at the end of this count. The transfer of his votes on Count 12 gave a major boost to Neale Richmond (gaining 19.894 transfers votes), but also to Joe O’Reilly (14.000).

Colm Keaveney, then standing on 45,720 votes, was eliminated at the end of Count 12. With seven Fianna Fail candidates still remaining in the field prior to his elimination, this would amount to the first of a series of crucial Fianna Fail transfers that would effectively determine which four (or possibly three) Fianna Fail candidates would go on to win seats in this panel. Jennifer Murnane-O’Connor (9.000) and Paul McAuliffe (9.000) proved to be especially successful in winning Keaveney transfers, as well as Robbie Gallagher (5.713). 37.713 of the 44.729 transferable Keaveney votes were shared between the remaining Fianna Fail candidates (84.3%) of these. However, Ged Nash, who Keaveney was a former Labour Party colleague of, also fared well in terms of winning transfers on this count, picking up an extra four transfer votes. At the end of this count, Ged Nash was just over two cvotes short of the quota. Fianna Fail’s Kate Feeney, then standing on 50.426 votes, was eliminated at the end of this count. Count 14, which would commence on the following morning (27th April) would involve the transfer of her votes.

Only 2.426 of the Feeney transfers were lost by Fianna Fail (one transfer vote going to Fine Gael’s Neale Richmond and 0.713 votes going to Nash and Prendiville. 95.2% of the Feeney transfers (48.000 votes) went to the other remaining Fianna Fail candidates, with Jennifer Murnane-O’Connor (14.000), Ned O’Sullivan (14.000), Terry Leyden (9.000) and Robbie Gallagher (8.000). At the end of this count, Fianna Fail’s Paul McAuliffe was eliminated – he was standing on 61.734 votes at this stage.

The McAuliffe transfers would be expected to push the lowest placed Fianna Fail candidates, Robbie Gallagher and Terry Leyden, clear of their main rivals for the final two seats – Cian Prendiville and Terry Brennan. This turned out to be the case, but the McAuliffe transfers also officially confirmed the election of Jennifer Murnane-O’Connor and Ned O’Sullivan, who both exceeded the quota on this count (Count 15). 56.000 of the 60.000 transferable McAuliffe transfers stayed with Fianna Fail on this count (93.3%). The surpluses of Murnane-O’Connor (Count 16) and O’Sullivan (Count 17) both went to the two remaining Fianna Fail candidates, Gallagher and Leyden, and these transfers were sufficient to ensure Gallagher exceeded the quota at the end of the 17th Count. The 3.732 transferable votes from the Gallagher surplus all went to Leyden, leaving him in a very strong position on 84.102 votes. Fine Gael’s Terry Brennan (then standing on 62.501 votes) was eliminated on this count, with his transfer expected to strongly favour Joe O’Reilly and Neale Richmond on the following count, thus ensuring three Fine Gael votes. Ged Nash, still on 92.040 votes, still remained just off the quota, but was practically guaranteed a seat at this stage, once the number of non-transferable votes were factored in. Indeed, Count 19 confirmed the election of Ged Nash, but also Joe O’Reilly and Neale Richmond. 44.000 of the 53.000 Brennan transferable votes (9.000 of these were non-transferable) were evenly shared out between O’Reilly and Richmond, thus ensure both exceeded the quota. Nash received a much lower transfer (2.000) but this was enough to ensure he exceeded the quota. With no transfers to Prendiville and an 8.000 vote transfer to Leyden, this ensured that Leyden was now too far ahead of Prendiville to be caught given the limited number of surplus votes left to be transferred (and he was just over a vote short of the quota at this point in any case) – Leyden standing on 92.102 votes on this count as against Prendiville’s 65,974.

With counting now concluded,  the candidates who have been elected on this panel include:

  • Maire Devine Sinn Fein
  • Paul Gavan Sinn Fein
  • Gerard Craughwell Independent 
  • Jerry Buttimer Fine Gael
  • Jennifer Murnane-O’Connor Fianna Fail
  • Ned O’Sullivan Fianna Fail 
  • Robbie Gallagher Fianna Fail
  • Joe O’Reilly Fine Gael
  • Neale Richmond Fine Gael
  • Ged Nash Labour Party
  • Terry Leyden Fianna Fail

About Adrian Kavanagh

Lecturer at the Maynooth University Department of Geography. Email:
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