The first results of the Political Party Database project were published recently in Party Politics. Irish political parties were included in this international audit of the state of party politics in 19 democracies. In summary, the data show Irish parties in pretty good health: they’re well funded (in large part by the state) and well staffed. But membership numbers are low, and there is a mixed record in terms of how democratic they are internally.
The report can be downloaded for free from here. The key findings are as follows:
The Irish party system is the sixth best funded of the 19 countries (based on income per registered voter)
- Over two-thirds of Irish party income comes from the state, placing Ireland seventh overall
- Ireland is third highest (based on numbers of party members) in terms of numbers of party staff in party headquarters and third highest in terms of numbers of staff supporting members of the Oireachtas
- Irish parties are low on average in terms of numbers of party members per voter (11th overall)
- Irish parties are about average in how much strength is focused on the party leader (though in the detail there is some dispersion around the mean)
- Irish parties are among the highest (fourth) in terms of how much influence members are given at party meetings but have a long way to go (13 out of 19) in giving members a direct voice (e.g. via one-member-one-vote type ballots).
The Irish data for this international project were gathered by myself and Dr Conor Little of the University of Copenhagen.