Whenever the counting has finished I will offer some elongated thoughts on the election result for every party, but knowing Ireland that could take several days. I will also be taking an in-depth look at the Dublin West count whenever it is finished. For now, I wanted to offer some quick thoughts.
In Dublin West, Paul Donnelly’s huge return is one of the key signs of Sinn Fein’s rise, and bodes well for other left candidates down the line. Leo Varadkar’s reduced vote total is concerning for Fine Gael, as is the non-performance of his running mate, Emer Currie. Jack Chambers has survived an iffy campaign for Fianna Fail, and benefited from having no in-party competition.
For the last seat, Roderic O’Gorman of the Greens has the 4th position, but probably isn’t far enough ahead of Sol-PBP’s Ruth Coppinger to be considered in any way secure. She’ll benefit the most from Donnelly’s massive surplus, and that will likely prove the difference.
Everyone else is an also-ran, including Labour’s Joan Burton, whose career is now over, the Aontu candidate Edward MacManus, the Soial Democrat’s Aengus O’Maolain, and the three Independents, who will be holding up everyone else.
Nationally, well it is a stunning success for Sinn Fein, obviously. Mid-thirties in terms of seats is now very achievable. Conversely, it is a bloodbath for the two largest parties pre-election, with both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail floundering with reduced vote share and split votes, that will leave a few constituencies without a rep from one of the parties for the first time ever.
Labour’s disastrous campaign is resulting in disastrous seat levels, and Howlin really should be gone by this time next week: the party are only ahead of Aontu in terms of the youth vote, which is a damning indictment of the malaise that has infected them over the last three years. As for Aontu, they are mildly competitive in a few areas, but still look likely only to return Toibin in Meath West. Remember, when you hear Toibin trumpet that as a success that he was predicting seven seats for the party at one point pre-election.
Solidarity-People Before Profit will be rescued from their own poor showing by Sinn Fein, but might still end up with less seats than they had a month ago. It’s real touch-and-go for the Social Democrats, who could get five, but could conceivably still end up with two. The Greens will certainly double their representation, and should get a bit beyond that, but ten or more may be beyond them. That will actually be disappointing, considering how much they were being touted before the campaign started. Independents are, as ever, hard to call, but might do a bit better than expected. The other parties are, as they always tend to be, nowhere.
Government formation out of this is going to be difficult. A Fine Gael/Fianna Fail administration, backed up by the Greens and like-minded Inds, strikes me as the most likely outcome, since both seems o hellbent on keeping Sinn Fein out of government. A short-term grand coalition between the “big three” has been posited, but seems unrealistic in my estimation. A broad left coalition will be too short.
We’ll be back at the polls within this year unless something gives in those purported coalition red lines. That reality, where Sinn Fein might well soar even higher, could well focus some minds in Fine Gael and Fianna Fail towards compromise.
Some more thoughts to come after the counting is over.