How to predict the result of an Irish election

2012consts-752x501By Michael Gallagher

Election campaigns feature extensive, some would say excessive, discussion of the horse-race aspects: in short, how many seats will the parties win? Until the votes are cast and counted, all we have to go on are the findings from opinion polls, and the challenge is to make accurate seat predictions from these.

One issue is the accuracy of the polls themselves, an issue highlighted by shortcomings shown up in the British election last May. This is an interesting subject in itself, but for the moment the question is how confident we could be, even if we knew for certain exactly how many votes each of the parties will win on 27 February, about being able to predict seat numbers.

Basically, there are two broad approaches to this:

(i) make predictions for every constituency and aggregate the totals;

(ii) make national-level seat predictions from national-level vote shares.

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The Politics of Remembrance: Commemorating 1916

By Timothy J. White and Denis Marnane


Assessing a significant anniversary of an important historical event such as commemorating 1916 is like a juggler keeping three balls in the air. There is the event itself, very likely not something about which there is consensus in terms of interpretation; there is the period of time between then and now in which the event is remembered, in this instance a century; and finally there is the present with its competing agendas for commemoration. These three: history, memory, and commemoration Continue reading

At last, some real Dáil reform!


Last week the Dáil passed a government motion to make three important changes to Standing Orders (in typical Dáil fashion with little debate). In summary, the changes that will be in operation from the start of the next Dáil session are:

  • A secret ballot to elect the Ceann Comhairle,
  • Use of d’Hondt formula to allocate Oireachtas committee chair positions proportionate to party size in the chamber (with the tradition remaining that the main opposition party controls the Public Accounts Committee), and
  • A requirement that twice a year the Taoiseach appear before the Working Group of Committee Chairs.

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Independents; More for Tipperary/South Kerry/Wicklow is less for everyone else

Independents are back in the news this week, specifically Michael Lowry and his ‘will-he won’t-he’ be in the mix for government formation in a few weeks.

2011 was a peak election for non-party candidates but it looks like the numbers running in 2016 might exceed that previous high point. Independent candidates are not a new phenomenon in Irish politics. In fact, they have been one of the unusual features of the Irish party system for decades. The label independent is applied loosely and it covers a wide variety of candidates.

The first group of independents are those that are disaffected with their political parties. Usually they have been ‘shafted’ by the mother ship, to use the colloquial description and as a result, they choose to run as independent candidates. The Healy Rae dynasty is the epitome of this group.

Often, there is overlap between the disaffected party candidates and the next group of independents who might be classified as local community representatives or local promoter independents. This group includes community activists, who very often campaign on a set of specific local issues. They usually make up a large component of the independent candidates on the ballot. Local hospital candidates tend to be prominent among this group and a new collection are contesting in 2016 on the banner No GP, No Village. Continue reading

Final report card on the government’s reactions to the Irish Constitutional Convention

Last week — in the closing days of the 31st Dáil, and long past the agreed time for a government response — the government finally found some time to deal with the remaining reports of the Irish Constitutional Convention. This provides an opportunity for a final report card on the government’s reactions to the ICC, a body that it established in the first place. Continue reading

Irish Polling Indicator: too soon to cheer for Fianna Fáil


Two new polls were hailed as good news for Fianna Fáil this weekend. A Red C poll put the party up 2 points to 19 per cent, while B&A put the party up 1 point to 20 per cent. In fact, neither change is statistically significant on its own – with the December poll of Red C seemingly an ‘outlier’ on the low side (see below). Even if we combine all of the polls, as the Irish Polling Indicator does, we find no change in support: Fianna Fáil remains stable at 20 per cent. Support for Micheál Martin’s party has not been statistically significantly different from current levels since May 2014. Continue reading

How should candidates for the position of Ceann Comhairle be nominated?

More hints are emerging about the government’s intentions relating to the election of the next Ceann Comhairle.  As reported in a recent post, the government is about to propose a change to Dáil standing orders so that the Ceann Comhairle of the next Dáil will be elected by a secret ballot of all members.  As a number of us have argued for some time, this is an important first step towards making future governments more accountable to the Dáil. (My colleagues and I will be setting out more detailed proposals on Dáil reform this coming Wednesday morning.)

But in order to make this reform meaningful careful thought also needs to be given to the nomination procedure, and here — unfortunately — the reports of government intentions are not promising.   Continue reading