Let’s Talk About Limerick (General Election 2011)

For the politically unaware: Limerick is changing in the next election.

In 2007 there were three constituencies: Kerry North (which was, surprisingly enough, North Kerry), Limerick West (most of rural Limerick to the west and south of the city) and Limerick East (the city and the rural areas to the east of it).

Now, due to boundary changes, things are different. Limerick West and Limerick East are being split. The far west of County Limerick will be merged with North Kerry to form “Kerry North-Limerick West”. The rest of Limerick West will be merged with Limerick East to form “County Limerick”. That is, except for the city itself and the immediate surrounding area, which becomes “Limerick City”.

Clear? Limerick City is considered the successor of Limerick East and all TDs of the latter will be standing in the former. But, where there was five, there will now be four.

So, let’s talk about Limerick. Here’s the baseline, the percentage of the first count in Limerick East in 2007 (the blue line representing quota and the end order of candidates from left to right):

Six of the people there, the five sitting TDs and Maurice Quinlivan, have confirmed they will stand again, along with two others (so far): Labour Councillor and former Mayor Joe Leddin and 21 year-old ULA candidate Cian Prendiville. No others have announced yet, but I’m sure we’ll see a few Independents pop up.

The vital thing about Limerick City is the population change. Going by the 2006 Census figures, roughly 16% of the population of Limerick East is gone. According to my (again, very rough) calculations, we’re looking at an electorate of around 65’000. Going by trends, I’ll predict a turnout of around 41’000.

That population change is nearly all from rural areas. That’s very important.

So, lets take those confirmed candidates one at a time briefly, before I make a (very preliminary) prediction.

Willie O’ Dea made the constituency his bitch last time, getting more then double the quota on the first count. That’s something anybody or any poll predicting doom for him in the coming election should remember: he could lose over half of his support and he would still be elected on the first count. What are the chances he doesn’t get back in, on a second or third count if necessary? Willie has that local appeal and support that FF will be lacking all over the country. He’s got a high public profile and he’s essentially been canvassing for months.

You have to weigh that against FFs general unpopularity and O’ Dea’s fairly awful last year, booted out of the cabinet due to a dispute with the Sinn Fein candidate Maurice Quinliven.

I don’t think he’ll top the poll, not this time. I also don’t think it’ll be a first count seat. But he will get re-elected.

Which brings us to Peter Power, the other FFer. He’s screwed. Look at that graph above again, and the amount of the first preference he got and realise he actually finished second overall.  It was O’ Dea’s gigantic surplus that got him there the last two times and that is gone in 2011. Power is smart enough to realise this, and I believe he’ll make a good go of it (he and O’ Dea will be trying to gobble up each others votes bigtime, the two are not buddies).

Power is one to watch for the future. When O’ Dea retires (which can’t be too far off I suppose) or FF bounce back, he’ll go for it again and probably win again. He’s a FF baby, someone they’ve groomed for future positions.

This election is Michael Noonan’s big moment. A fairly devout servant to Limerick City and Fine Gael, he’s got to be the favourite to top the poll. He looked down and out after leading his party to a terrible result in 2002, but since his appointment as Finance spokesmen after the failed heave, he’s been an excellent public presence for FG, with the very easy (and rewarding) job of being the guy on station to trash the government economic policy.

He doesn’t have many terms left in him, and this is the last bow I think. He’ll top the poll, something he has never done in nine elections (elected every time by the way) and gain an important ministry. No more than he deserves. And from there, the question of how many votes he’ll have to transfer to Kieran O’ Donnell becomes crucial.

Jan O’ Sullivan is a quandary. A former Mayor and constant presence in Limerick politics for 20 years, her stands in defence of hospitals in the region have always made her popular. Her shock 1997 defeat lasted only a year (bye-election) and she’s been the most visible Labour representitive in the mid-west region all that time, a region that has not been especially open to Labour candidates.

To that end, I’m stumped by how much the party ignores her. It’s no secret that Labour are very Dublin-centric, but if anything, that should make her more important to Labour’s plans. Instead, she’s kind of frozen out, rarely gets her face on the news. She’s spokesperson for health, but that doesn’t count for much. Even as a woman, her place in the party is out done by Joan Burton.

Anyway, yes she’ll be re-elected. I’m guessing second overall. The crucial thing is how much support she gets and whether it will be enough to get her running mate, Joe Leddin, in with her.

Which brings us to Kieran O’ Donnell, FG. He’s in a spot of bother. A first time legacy TD, someone who kicked out long-standing PD Tim O’ Malley last time, he was on the wrong side of the attempted Kenny heave, and that was after Kenny had given him a plum role in the shadow cabinet. The only one of the five TDs based outside of the city, a lot of his vote would have been from the rural part of Limerick East, rural parts that are no longer there for him. I wonder if he didn’t consider abandoning Limerick City and going into the County Limerick constituency, but maybe the party wouldn’t let him.

So, his only hope of getting elected is if Noonan has enough transfers to get him over the line. He might, but he will be in direct competition with Joe Leddin and the transfers he will receive from Jan O’ Sullivan. Like Power, O’ Donnell is another person with Dail positions in his future regardless of the outcome of this election, someone FG rate highly. But he will be hard pressed to outdo the next guy.

Joe Leddin is a former Mayor and one of the younger candidates. He’s got O’ Donnell’s seat in his sights and I have to give him the nod at this point in the campaign, because, if nothing else, he’s better known in the city then O’ Donnell is. Leddin’s one of the few I’ve actually met recently. Nice guy, seemed honest, though a little flustered and rambly on some issues like the Limerick regenration scheme.

Then there is Maurice Quinlivan, SF. His claim to fame, and something I’m sure he will harp on about ceaselessly, is his role in the downfall of Willie O’ Dea earlier in this year. Apart from that, he really has nothing. Limerick is not a Sinn Fein town. The entire county elected one Sinn Fein councillor, Quinlivan, out of 45 seats in 2009. He has a support base really only in the Moyross (what does that tell you?) area and was elected a Councillor in 2009 after an astonishing 13 counts, well short of quota.

Quinlivan knows he hasn’t got much of a chance, though the boundary changes will benefit him (he will get a higher percentage of votes, since it’s just the city). It’s his transfers that will be important. Will it be Labour they’ll go to? You would think so, unless his supporters prefer to drift further left then that (more in a sec). Combined with O’ Sullivan’s surplus, that might be enough to get Leddin over the line.

And lastly, Cian Prendiville, for the ULA. He’s 21, he’s a socialist, and he hasn’t got a prayer. I’m sure he’ll play up the youth angle big time, but he’s in way over his head, he must be running to make a point. I imagine his votes will go Quinlivan’s, then Labour’s, way. Mine won’t be one of them. I make it a policy not to vote for people younger than I am, at least until I’m significantly older.

So, here’s my current prediction. On the first count (Current TDs in bold):

1. Noonan (FG)
2. O’ Sullivan (Lab)
3. O’ Dea (FF)
4. O’ Donnell (FG)
5. Leddin (Lab)
6. Power (FF)
7. Quinlivan (SF)
8. Prendiville (ULA)

And when it’s all said and done (those elected in bold).

1. Noonan (FG)
2. O’ Sullivan (Lab)
3. O’ Dea (FF)
4. Leddin (Lab)
5. O’ Donnell (FG)
6. Power (FF)
7. Quinlivan (SF)
8. Prendiville (ULA)

In my view, the transfers from O’ Sullivan, Quinlivan and Prendiville/others will be more the enough to get Leddin ahead of Power (who can really only expect them from O’ Dea) and O’ Donnell (who can really only expect them from Noonan). So there’s my current prediction. Limerick becomes a red town for the next term, after many years of light green.

This entry was posted in General Election 2011, Ireland, Limerick, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Let’s Talk About Limerick (General Election 2011)

  1. Gail says:

    Ok I’m convinced. Prendiville it is.

  2. HandsofBlue says:

    When you say “Prendiville it is”, i assume you meant to continue “…to get less then 400 votes.”

  3. Pingback: NFBs General Election Index | Never Felt Better

  4. Pingback: NFB’s Top Ten For The Year | Never Felt Better

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