I had a great time on Friday. I got to vote three times, in the European election, in the local council election for my area, and in a Dáil by-election for my Dublin-South constituency.
I’ll report on the Irish local elections now, but much of the coming week will be taken up with reports on the European election in every SP country. It may take some time!
Briefly, the context is that the Irish economy is just … awful (at best). So, the incumbent government (Fianna Fáil and the Greens) was always likely to lose out.
In the local elections, Fianna Fáil did worse in the cities, particularly Dublin, than in rural areas where politics is often very local. Overall, Fianna Fáil polled 25.4%, which is about down 7% on its 2004 local election score. The Greens did very badly too, and is now likely to have only about 3 councillors in the whole country! The main opposition party, Fine Gael, came top overall with about 32.2%, an increase of about 5%. The Labour party’s support also rose by about 5% to 14.6%, which was their best ever local election result. Labour is now the largest party in the Dublin area. Results are available here.
The two parliamentary by-elections were both in Dublin – Dublin South and Dublin Central – and both were caused by the death of an incumbent TD. Fianna Fáil previously held Dublin South and an independent held Dublin Central. In my constituency, the Fine Gael candidate was elected on the first count, which is almost unheard of. He was a former TV journalist and had celebrity appeal. Labour came second and Fianna Fáil came third, which was a poor result for them. In Dublin Central, another independent candidate won and Fianna Fáil did even worse, coming fifth! So, while governments rarely win by-elections, both represent very bad results for Fianna Fáil and both were consistent with Fianna Fáil’s poor performance in Dublin locally.
Overall, Fianna Fáil was expected to do badly. Given its vote held up in quite a few county council areas, there was a sense in which the outcome wasn’t quite as bad as it might have been. However, it was still very bad. Whether or not the Greens decide to leave the coalition before the next election, which is scheduled for 2012, is another question. I would expect so. And whether or not Brian Cowen is still the Fianna Fáil leader at the next election is also a moot point. I would think it’s 50/50 at the moment. There will be a lot of worried Fianna Fáil TDs who think that they might lose their seat if the party’s support doesn’t increase and a change of leader, they might calculate, could help in that regard.