Adrian Kavanagh, 23rd May 2016
Following the previous post, which tried to identify potential target constituencies for the Labour Party at the next general election based on an analysis of the 2016 General Election constituency figures, this post will involve a similar analysis for Fine Gael. Fine Gael candidates were runners-up in 18 of the 40 constituencies at the 2016 election, but how large was the margin between success and defeat in the constituencies that Fine Gael missed out on seats in?
However, it is important to remember that some of the 18 Fine Gael “runners-up” candidates, referred to above, were losing out to other Fine Gael candidates, as in the case of constituencies such as Cork South-Central, Cork South-West, Galway East, Laois, Meath East and Waterford.
It is also worth noting that a number of the seats that Fine Gael hold at the moment remain highly marginal and the party cannot afford any further drop in its national support level at the next general election contest, otherwise further seat losses will ensue. The party is also highly unlikely to hold its three seats in the Dun Laoghaire constituency (where it picked up an extra seat due to Sean Barrett holding the position of Ceann Comhairle, as well as due to a strong local performance there by Maria Bailey and Mary Mitchell-O’Connor), when this constituency reverts back to being effectively a 4-seat constituency at the next general election. (And this is based on the assumption that this constituency does not lose a seat following the next seat of general election constituency boundary amendments.) The party was also helped by vote transfers from the Labour Party, which might not be so significant at the next general election given that these parties are no longer coalition partners and given that the potential pool of vote transfers from Labour candidates may not be as extensive at the next election if Labour fare better at this contest as an Opposition party. If some of the party’s current group of TDs decide to step down ahead of a future general election contest (or defect to another party or the independent ranks), this could see Fine Gael losing out on a seat in the relevant constituency, even if the party’s national support levels remain as they are, or improve slightly. On the other hand, should the new government remain in power for longer than a three-year term in office, the 2019 Local Elections could offer a strong basis for Fine Gael to “blood” new election candidates, as the 2014 elections did in the cases of Fianna Fail and the Green Party, but also other Opposition parties and groupings, such as Sinn Fein, the Anti Austerity Alliance and the People Before Profit Alliance. The successful Seanad election campaigns for some potential Fine Gael general election candidates may also give a boost to the party’s chances in some of these marginal constituencies (as also potentially might be the case with some of the Taoiseach’s Seanad nominees). With provisional population figures likely to be released in the coming weeks following Census 2016, a new Constituency Commission will soon be established – it might well be possible that boundary changes in a subsequent Constituency Commission report could work in favour of/against the chances of Fine Gael candidates at the next general election (assuming a new set of election boundaries are passed into law before the next election takes place).
These preliminaries concluded, it now time to try and identify the party’s potential target constituencies, based on an analysis of election count figures for the 2016 General Election. In this analysis, I estimate what percentage of the vote in a constituency that Fine Gael need to gain in order to gain a seat in that constituency. In doing so, in most cases I calculate the gap that existed between the unsuccessful Fine Gael candidate and the lowest placed of the successful candidates and then calculate this as a percentage of the total valid poll for that constituency. (Where two, or more, Fine Gael candidates missed out on seat in a constituency, I simply focus on the stronger of these candidates.) In cases where the Fine Gael candidate was eliminated at an earlier count (before the last count), the number of votes the Fine Gael candidate held on their elimination is related to the number of votes that the lowest placed of the successful candidates held on that particular count. However, if this candidate also had a running mate left in the race at the point in time that the Fine Gael candidate was eliminated, then the votes of the next lowest of the successful candidates are considered instead (unless this was in excess of the combined number of votes held by the lowest successful candidate and her/his running mate). I also estimate the percentage of the total valid poll that was held by the Fine Gael candidate on the final count, or on the count that they were eliminated on if they did not survive until the final count.
So, having made these preliminary clarifications, based on this analysis it can be claimed that Fine Gael’s target constituencies would be as follows: (Note that the percentage figures referred to here are percentages of the total valid poll for that constituency.)
- Longford-Westmeath – 0.01% gain required (Bannon stood on 12.8% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Dublin South-West – 0.2% gain required (Dermody stood on 14.1% of the TVP when she was eliminated on the final count)
- Sligo-Leitrim – 0.6% gain required (Reynolds stood on 16.7% of the TVP when he was eliminated on the final count)
- Limerick City – 0.7% gain required (O’Donnell stood on 16.8% of the TVP when he was eliminated on the final count)
- Cavan-Monaghan – 1.4% gain required (O’Reilly stood on 14.7% of the TVP when he was eliminated on the final count)
- Tipperary – 1.7% gain required (Hayes stood on 13.4% of the TVP when he was eliminated on the final count)
- Roscommon-Galway – 1.7% gain required (Hopkins stood on 20.4% of the TVP when she was eliminated on the final count)
- Cork North-West – 2.1% gain required (Collins stood on 15.7% of the TVP when she was eliminated)
- Kildare North – 2.2% gain required (Lawlor stood on 15.1% of the TVP when he was eliminated on the final count)
- Dublin Rathdown – 2.4% gain required (Shatter stood on 20.5% of the TVP when he was eliminated on the final count)
- Cork South-Central – 3.3% gain required (Buttimer stood on 16.4% of the TVP when he was eliminated on the final count)
- Mayo – 3.3% gain required (Mulherin stood on 15.1% of the TVP when she was eliminated on the final count)
- Dublin Bay North – 3.6% gain required (O Muiri stood on 4.6% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Cork East – 3.7% gain required (McCarthy stood on 11.7% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Kerry– 3.8% gain required (Deenihan stood on 12.3% of the TVP when he was eliminated on the final count)
- Dublin Fingal – 4.2% gain required (Reilly stood on 10.3% of the TVP when he was eliminated on the final count)
- Galway East – 5.4% gain required (Connaughton stood on 19.6% of the TVP when he was eliminated on the final count)
- Donegal – 5.8% gain required (Harte stood on 4.4% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Cork South-West – 6.6% gain required (Harrington stood on 19.0% of the TVP when he was eliminated on the final count)
- Carlow-Kilkenny – 7.0% gain required (Fitzgerald stood on 9.4% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Waterford – 7.6% gain required (Coffey stood on 17.3% of the TVP when he was eliminated on the final count)
- Dublin Mid-West – 7.7% gain required (Keating stood on 9.7% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Kildare South – 9.1% gain required (McLoughlin Healy stood on 9.6% of the TVP when she was eliminated) If Kildare South is effectively a two-seat constituency at the next general election, however, because Sean O Fearghail is automatically elected due to holding the Ceann Comhairle position, then the extent of the gain in support levels that would be required here to translate into a second Fine Gael seat would increase quite significantly – and to a level that is potentially not achievable.
- Cork North-Central – 10.9% gain required (O’Leary stood on 10.0% of the TVP when she was eliminated)
- Wexford – 12.2% gain required (Hogan stood on 1.8% of the TVP when she was eliminated)
- Galway West – 12.8% gain required (O’Mahony stood on 9.5% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Dublin West – 12.8% gain required (Noone stood on 2.7% of the TVP when she was eliminated)
- Clare – 13.1% gain required (Howard stood on 3.7% of the TVP when she was eliminated)
- Laois – 14.2% gain required (Connell stood on 13.2% of the TVP when she was eliminated
- Wicklow – 16.0% gain required (Cronin stood on 3.4% of the TVP when she was eliminated)
- Meath West– 17.0% gain required (Butler stood on 11.7% of the TVP when he was eliminated on the final count)
Here it can be seen that there are a number of constituencies where a relatively small swing to Fine Gael could see the party regain their lost seats. For instance, if the party was to gain 5%, or less, in the sixteen highest ranked constituencies here, the analysis suggests that Fine Gael could be well placed to make gains in those constituencies. On the other hand, the analysis shows that Fine Gael face more notable challenges in other constituencies in terms of potentially challenging for seat gains in these constituencies at a future general election. Constituency size is also a factor here. Even though Fine Gael candidates may have stood at higher levels of support on their elimination in some three-seat or four-seat constituencies, the analysis suggests that Fine Gael candidates in the five-seat constituencies stand at somewhat of an advantage to the other candidates as the percentage share of vote required to make the quota in these constituencies is lower than that for three-seat or four-seat constituencies.