Adrian Kavanagh, 31st May 2016
Following on earlier posts, which tried to identify potential target constituencies for the Labour Party, for Sinn Fein, for Fianna Fail and for Fine Gael at the next general election based on an analysis of the 2016 General Election constituency figures, this post will involve a similar analysis for the only other political party that contested each one of the 40 Dail constituencies at the February 2016 elections (it should be of course noted here that Labour contested only 34 of these 40 constituencies). None of the unsuccessful Green Party candidates were runners-up in the 38 constituencies that they failed to win seats in, while none of these unsuccessful candidates came especially close to winning seats. But how large was the margin between success and defeat in the constituencies that Green Party candidates missed out on seats by?
It is worth noting that the two seats that the Green Party hold at the moment remain highly marginal – especially Dublin Rathdown – and a drop in the party’s national support level at the next general election contest would probably mean that one, or both, of these seats would be lost. If one 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 to the independent ranks), this could see Green Party 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 Green Party to “blood” – or further “blood” – new election candidates, as the 2014 elections already did in the case of that party (e.g. Catherine Martin), as well as number of other Opposition parties and groupings (and, indeed, some Fine Gael candidates, such as Noel Rock (Dublin North-West)). The successful Seanad election campaign for Grace O’Sullivan may also give a boost to the party’s chances in the Waterford constituency. 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 the case that boundary changes in a subsequent Constituency Commission report could work in favour of/against the chances of Green Party candidates at the next general election (assuming a new set of election boundaries are passed into law before the next election takes place). As a classic example of a smaller party, an increase in seat numbers in constituencies located within the party’s traditionally stronger areas (i.e. middle class urban areas) could significantly improve the Green Party’s chances of making gains. However, a reduction in seat levels in such constituencies could significantly reduce the potential of Green Party seat gains.
These preliminaries having been 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 the Green Party 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 Green Party candidate and the lowest placed of the successful candidates and then calculate this as a percentage of the total valid poll for that constituency. In all of these cases, the Green Party candidate was eliminated at an earlier count (before the last count) and hence the number of votes the Green Party 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. I also estimate the percentage of the total valid poll that was held by the unsuccessful Green Party 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 the Green Party’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.)
- Louth – 4.0% gain required (Dearey stood on 6.7% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Dublin Fingal – 4.0% gain required (O’Brien stood on 6.2% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Dublin South-West – 4.9% gain required (Duffy stood on 2.0% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Galway West – 5.7% gain required (Sheridan stood on 2.8% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Dublin Central – 5.9% gain required (Smyth stood on 2.9% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Dublin Bay North – 6.1% gain required (Cooney stood on 1.4% of the TVP when she was eliminated )
- Longford-Westmeath – 6.9% gain required (Magan stood on 2.5% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Dublin South-Central – 7.0% gain required (O hAlmhain stood on 3.5% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Donegal – 7.9% gain required (Flanagan stood on 0.6% of the TVP when she was eliminated)
- Clare – 8.0% gain required (Smith stood on 3.8% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Tipperary – 8.1% gain required (Fitzgibbon stood on 1.7% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Cork East – 8.6% gain required (Harty stood on 1.5% of the TVP when she was eliminated)
- Kildare North – 9.1% gain required (Ni Fhalluin stood on 4.9% of the TVP when she was eliminated)
- Carlow-Kilkenny – 9.4% gain required (Noonan stood on 5.2% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Cork South-Central – 9.4% gain required (Bogue stood on 5.9% of the TVP when she was eliminated)
- Wicklow – 9.8% gain required (Matthews stood on 2.5% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Offaly – 9.9% gain required (Fettes stood on 1.2% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Wexford – 10.0% gain required (Walsh stood on 1.5% of the TVP when she was eliminated)
- Dublin North-West – 10.2% gain required (Conroy stood on 3.0% of the TVP when she was eliminated)
- Limerick City – 10.2% gain required (Gaffney stood on 2.3% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Dun Laoghaire – 11.0% gain required (Smyth stood on 8.0% of the TVP when he was eliminated) Dun Laoghaire was effectively a 3-seat constituency at the February 2016 as Sean Barrett was automatically re-elected due to holding the position of Ceann Comhairle. It should revert back to being effectively a 4-seat constituency at the next general election, assuming that boundary changes do not result in a change in seat number allocations. The figures quoted here do take account of this.
- Dublin West – 11.1% gain required (O’Gorman stood on 5.0% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Dublin Mid-West – 11.3% gain required (Kivlehan stood on 0.9% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Kerry – 11.6% gain required (Fitzgerald stood on 1.5% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Mayo – 12.1% gain required (Sheehan stood on 1.1% of the TVP when she was eliminated)
- Waterford – 12.3% gain required (O’Sullivan stood on 5.8% of the TVP when she was eliminated)
- Cork North-West – 12.4% gain required (Manning stood on 3.2% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Cavan-Monaghan – 13.3% gain required (Callaghan stood on 2.6% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Cork South-West – 13.9% gain required (O’Mahony stood on 1.7% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Meath East – 14.8% gain required (O Buachalla stood on 2.1% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Cork North-Central – 14.9% gain required (Moran stood on 4.9% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Kildare South – 15.3% gain required (McEneaney stood on 2.3% of the TVP when she was eliminated on the final count) 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 Green Party gain would increase quite significantly.
- Galway East – 17.0% gain required (Ni Chroinin stood on 1.7% of the TVP when she was eliminated)
- Sligo-Leitrim – 17.0% gain required (O’Hora stood on 1.0% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Limerick – 17.8% gain required (Cosgrave stood on 0.7% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
- Laois – 19.0% gain required (Moore stood on 5.6% of the TVP when she was eliminated)
- Roscommon-Galway – 19.8% gain required (Hennessey stood on 0.7% of the TVP when she was eliminated)
- Meath West – 21.2% gain required (McMenamin stood on 5.6% of the TVP when he was eliminated)
Here it can be seen that there is really no constituency here where a relatively small swing to the Green Party would result in a seat gain for that party. It is, however, worth noting that the extent of the gains – or indeed losses – made by a party, such as the Green Party, can vary notably between constituencies. It may well be the case that a relatively small gain in terms of national support levels could be translated into larger gains in a small number of constituencies, which could render the Green Party as being much more competitive in some of these constituencies.
Constituency size is also a factor here. Even though Green Party candidates may have stood at higher levels of support on their elimination in some three-seat or four-seat constituencies, the analysis suggests that Green Party 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. Variations in party/candidate competition levels between constituencies also need to be factored in here. The extent of the gains required tends to be higher in constituencies where the seats were filled by a group of candidates who were notably stronger than the other contenders. Thus, three-seat constituencies such as Laois and Meath West, which were largely dominated by the three successful candidates, tend to be located towards the end of the ranking here, even though the Green Party candidates in these constituencies fared relatively well as compared to Green Party candidates in a large number of the other constituencies. By contrast, very competitive five-seat constituencies, which featured a number of relatively strong candidates and relatively few candidates who exceeded, or came close to exceeding, the quota on the first count, tend to be located higher up the ranking.
This means that – given that Green Party support levels were relatively low when compared with those of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein, as well as Labour – the model used here may not be especially effective in this particular case. To some extent, it could be argued that the percentage of the total valid poll that Green Party candidates stood on at their elimination may act as a more effective indicator of potential seat gains. If this was to be used as the basis for detecting potential Green Party seat gains, then the constituencies that would be ranked the highest would be (in order):
- Dun Laoghaire
- Dublin Fingal
- Cork South-Central
- Dublin West
- Kildare North
- Cork North-Central
And it is worth noting that all of these are constituencies where the Green Party candidate was either over or at, or at least very close to, five percent of the total valid poll on their elimination, suggesting that there is a basis in these constituencies, in terms of potential Green Party support levels, for Green Party candidates to challenge for seats at future general elections, especially if some work can be done in the interim period to build up the local party organisation and to prepare for a strong performance at the 2019 Local Elections.