Losing the battle but winning the war: General Election successes for by-election losers

Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

Adrian Kavanagh, March 6th 2013

What do Tomas MacGiolla, Dick Roche, Joe Higgins, Brian Hayes and Paul Gogarty all have in common? All of these candidates lost in by-election contests – MacGiolla (Dublin West 1982), Roche (Wicklow 1995), Higgins (Dublin West 1996), Hayes (Dublin South Central 1994) and Gogarty (Dublin West 1996). But they all went on to win seats in subsquent general election contests – MacGiolla (Dublin West November 1982), Roche (Wicklow 1997), Higgins (Dublin West 1997) – and in some cases won these in different constituencies, namely Hayes (Dublin South-West 1997) and Gogarty (Dublin Mid-West 2002). Indeed, over the past thirty years and twenty-five different by-elections, a total of 28 candidates have lost by-elections but went on win seats in subsequent general elections.

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One thought on “Losing the battle but winning the war: General Election successes for by-election losers

  1. Interesting analysis.
    But I fail to see the relevance of this to what I understand to be the main theme of this web forum – political reform. By-elections distract people from the real work of governance.

    As a political issue, the only question about by-elections is that raised by Michael Gallagher almost three years ago here


    If it is raised an issue on the forthcoming Constitutional Convention sessions on the Electoral System, will it be discussed then?
    or as part of AOB – given that it is not specified in the Constitution

    IMO, our need for checks and balances to limit the scope for excess by the powerful would be better served by the last person eliminated – prior to all the seats in the particular constituency being filled – should simply be deemed to fill the vacancy arising, regardless of how that vacancy arises.

    BTW, the same method should apply to replacing councillors and MEPs who resign their seats.

    This would mean that the link with constituents would be preserved.
    It also means that political parties have less power to override the legitimate basis on which we last transferred our power to representatives.

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