Monday 18 December 2017

What results tell us about Greens, gender and reform

Adrian Kavanagh

WITH counts from the 136 different constituencies and with roughly 2,040 candidates, some interesting patterns have emerged.

Voter Turnout:

With some counts still to come in, the national turnout for the local elections stood at 51.6pc, marking a significant drop in turnout levels on 2004 and 2009, and representing the second lowest turnout for a local election contest since the foundation of the State – being overshadowed only by the abysmal turnout level at the 1999 contests.

There has been much talk of political reform in the last few years, but voter turnout as an issue has been largely ignored. Low turnout is bad for the health of the Irish democracy and something needs to be done – ultimately the body that should be doing that "something" should be an Electoral Commission, but that doesn't seem to be happening any time soon ...

Female Candidates:

It might be stretching things to suggest that May 23 was "la na mna" but these elections did mark a significant improvement in female candidate numbers and vote levels for female candidates relative to the female candidate/vote levels associated with the most recent local election contests. Female candidate numbers increased from 314 to 441 between 2009 and 2014, while the share of the vote won by female candidates nationally increased by roughly 5pc.

There were some very strong performances by a number of female candidates, but perhaps the performances of some of Labour's female candidates warrant some comment here, with Lettie McCarthy topping the poll in Glencullen-Sandyford and with candidates such as Deirdre Kingston, Grace Tallon, Jane Horgan-Jones and Rebecca Moynihan surviving in very tough local election battles.

Female candidates did especially well in Dublin, where they nearly accounted for one-third (32.1pc) of all the votes cast there.

However, given the introduction of gender quotas at the next general election, there is still a lot of work to be done to improve female electoral participation levels.

The party's (not necessarily) over:

In the wake of Friday's vote and a number of recent opinion polls, many commentators are predicting the electoral demise of the Labour Party, but it is worth remembering that the party has emerged from the ashes of electoral disaster on a number of occasions in the past.

It is also worth remembering that the same words were being used about Fianna Fail and the Green Party in the wake of the 2009 and 2011 electoral contests. As noted elsewhere, Fianna Fail has bounced back from these to make a number of gains at these elections and looks likely to be the largest party at a local authority level.But the recovery of the Green Party – a party largely forgotten about in the wake of 2011 – has been equally notable, with the party making a number of gains at these elections, including in the Castleknock electoral area, where Roderic O'Gorman, also its Dublin West by-election candidate, made a notable breakthrough.

Adrian Kavanagh is lecturer in the Department of Geography, NUI Maynooth, with a special interest in Irish elections from a geographical perspective

Irish Independent

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