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.

Continue reading

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

Stamping out corruption


The RTÉ Prime Time Investigates report on corruption among some councillors broadcast last night inevitably draws a reaction of how do we rid a country of corruption. A simple answer might be to stop electing probably corrupt candidates. Charles Haughey continued to get elected even though rumours that he amassed his fortune corruptly were rife. Michael Lowry continues to get elected despite the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal, and if a fellow with the nickname ‘Stroke’ later gets convicted for corruption, surely his electors knew what they were doing.

Another reaction is to Continue reading

Irish Polling Indicator: good autumn for Fine Gael


Estimated party support with shaded 95% uncertainty margins

Fine Gael has strengthened its position in the polls over the last few months. At 29% it polls about 3% higher than in July of this year. Independents and small parties went down, however, from 27% to 22% over the same period of time. These are the most important findings from the new Irish Polling Indicator, which aggregates all available opinion polls. Continue reading

OECD Report on Dáil Reform.

Published by Elaine Byrne 13 November 2015

The OECD published a preliminary draft of its Review of Budget Oversight by Parliament: Ireland this week.

The report can be accessed here

Key points:

  • Budget oversight by the Irish parliamentary chambers is under-developed by international standards.
  • 17 recommendations which include –
  1. Ex ante parliamentary input to medium-term fiscal planning;
  2. Ex ante parliamentary input on budget priorities;
  3. Early publication of full budgetary information and legislative proposals;
  4. Timely consideration of the Estimates of Expenditure;
  5. Performance Dialogue with joint committees in early year;
  6. Re-introduce “Pre-Budget Estimates” showing “no policy change” expenditure baselines;
  7. Establish an Irish Parliamentary Budget Office to support parliamentary engagement and budget scrutiny;
  8. Continuing Professional Development of parliamentarians and officials;
  9. “Performance hearings” with joint committees in early part of the year (February-March);
  10. Power for joint committees to recommend changes to performance information;
  11. Systematic review of existing performance metrics;
  12. Estimates Performance Reports;
  13. Promotion of IrelandStat as an authoritative portal for public performance;
  14. Linkages to higher level strategies and articulation of a “National Performance Framework”;
  15. Establishment of a “National Performance Quality Panel”;
  16. Role for Irish Parliamentary Budget Office in supporting performance scrutiny;
  17. Selective Audit of Performance Information by the Office of the Comptroller & Auditor General in reports to the Public Accounts Committee and other committees.