Wednesday 2 March 2016

Ireland: the end of Centre-Left

The Irish Election of last Friday is all over bar the shouting and tears. 156/158 seats are filled and two remain undecided.
That indecision lies in Longford-Westmeath a 4-seat constituency plunk in the middle of the country and full of small towns and farmers.  The local Fianna Fáil magnate Robert Troy was comfortably elected on the 1st Count. The minority interest candidates were eliminated in turn: Independent Donal Jackson scrabbled just 53 votes and Stephanie Healy [no relation!] of the DDI-woowah alliance got 132.  More serious candidates went, one after the other, and their votes redistributed until only two 'Longford' candidates remained: one for each of the major parties and having less than 1% in the vote difference.  It was eventually agreed that Connie Gerety-Quinn FF was Out and her votes sorted preferentially to James Bannon FG, despite the fact that he was from The Other Party.  Voting local is more important in Ireland than voting for policy.  Although everyone agrees that you can't slip a piece of toilet paper between the political policies of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

But poor Mr Bannon, on whose shoulders the hopes of Longford now exclusively lie rest [be very careful using the word lie, lying, liar in the context of Pols - it's not always true], is looking pointedly at the dustbin of history. "Boxer" Moran, the Independent Alliance leftie, is assured of the 2nd seat and now we have four men [all men!] in contention for 2 remaining seats.  It looks like Burke FG and Hogan SF will snag them but Willie Penrose has asked for a complete recount because he is only 19 votes adrift from Bannon. The fact that he is even thinking about recounting, with both Penrose and Bannon being 300 votes behind the obvious taker of the 4th and final seat, shows just how fallible the system is known to be.  You're asking human beings to tally up thousands and thousands of tea-towel sized ballot papers without getting confused, losing count or losing the will to live. If Penrose fails in his bid here, that will leave Labour with only 6 TDs in parliament - down from 33 - and losing the speaking rights that accrue to parties with at least 7 members. If Burke FG is elected it will slide Fine Gael from N=49 over the mystical 50 members line. With Fianna Fáil polling 44, and 44+50=94 will make a stable coalition (80 seats will be enough) that will suit a majority of the electorate.  It's not going to happen because, as my pal Kevin Byrne pointed out, the tribalism of the civil war is still not resolved.

Note added in press: The point about the recount is that, under the Irish STV system, you have to eliminate the bottom candidate and redistribute their votes until their are no more candidates to eliminate.  So the fight is between Bannon FG at 7077 and Penrose Lab at 7058.  Rumour has it that Penrose is a handful ahead on the recount.  But why should that count be privileged above the first one?  Will it be like children in a playground where one asks "Best of three?".  If Bannon is eliminated most of his transfers with go to party-pal Burke but  the rest are more likely to go to softish-left Labour than hardish-left Sinn Féin and it just takes 5% to lift Penrose (Lab) above Hogan (SF)

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