Sunday, August 9, 2009

Where to now for Sinn Fein in Dublin?

adams THE President of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams MP MLA, in a interview with Michael Moriarty Northern Editor of The Irish Times on 8 August stated that regaining lost ground in Dublin “is ultra-important because if you can get a critical active campaigning organisation there you are likely to get more publicity, to get the media exposure and so on”. What’s been happening to Sinn Féin in Dublin?

The 2002 general election was the first since The Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Féin won 40,450 first preference votes in Dublin and won Dáil seats in Dublin South-Central, Dublin South-West and the successful candidate there topped the poll and surpassed a quota. Candidate stood in all 11 Dublin constituencies. Two of these, Larry O’Toole and Dessie Ellis, were established members of Dublin City Council. O’Toole polled 3,003 votes in Dublin North-East to secure fifth place in that 3-seater. Ellis polled 4,781 votes to secure fourth place in the Dublin North-West 3-seater – not a breakthrough on their local council vote.

The party polled 51,943 votes in the 2004 local elections in Dublin and secured 12.2% of all votes cast in the three Dublin local authorities. They performed slightly better north of the Liffey securing a 14.5% share of the vote compared to a 10.5% share south of the Liffey. Top vote getters O’Toole polled 4,497 votes in Artane and Ellis polled 4,300 votes in Finglas. Sinn Féin won 10 seats on Dublin City Council, 3 seats on South Dublin County Council, 1 seat on Fingal County County Council and none on Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. However, four of their winners, O’Toole, Ellis, Kehoe and Forde surpassed a quota in 2002 but Ellis was the only one to emulate this in 2004.

The 2004 European Parliament Election enticed a higher turnout in Dublin than in 1999. The valid poll increased from 286,684 votes to 421,897 votes. Mary Lou McDonald polled 60,395 votes and won the fourth of four seats. When McDonald stood as a candidate in Dublin West in the 2002 general election she polled 2,404 votes. She stood as a candidate in Dublin Central in the 2007 general election and polled 3,182 votes.

The 2007 general election resulted in a significant shrinkage in support for Sinn Féin. The party won 35,256 votes in the 11 Dublin constituencies – representing a 7% share of the Dublin vote and 16,687 fewer than in the previous general election. They secured just one Dáil seat that of Aengus Ó’Snodaigh in Dublin South-Central. He won the fifth seat with 4,825 votes, 776 fewer than in 2002. The vote of the star performed in 2002, Seán Crowe plummeted to 5,066. They lost ground in 9 of the 11 constituencies and particularly so in Dublin South-West (-8.1%), Dublin Central (-5.4%) and Dublin West (-3.2%). The extent of the overall downturn was consistent, north and south of the Liffey.

There was a further contraction in support in the 2009 local elections. A total of 36,241 votes were won in the three Dublin local authority areas compared to 51,953 votes in the previous local election – a 30% reversal in voter support.

Larry O’Toole’s star waned when he polled just 2,702 votes in Artane, just shy of a quota. Dessie Ellis also took a hit at the polls in Finglas when he won 3,263 votes compared to the 4,300 he won in 2004. They have five seats on Dublin City Council and would have had five if Councillor Christy Burke had not abandoned his 25-year stint as a Sinn Féin councillor and Councillor Louise Minihan had not opted to become an Independent on the grounds that she “no longer supports or believes in the party”.  While they had a winner in Cabra-Glasnevin in 2009, possibly as a consequence of the electoral travails of ‘the brudder’, Maurice Ahern, their vote in this area was down by 12.5%.  The endured a similar haircut in South-East Inner City and in Tallaght-Central, although Sean Crowe won a seat on the 9th count.

Mary Lou McDonald lost her bid to secure one of the 3 seats in the Dublin European Parliament election. Her vote dropped to 47,928 despite her elevation to the role of Vice President.

Summary of Sinn Votes in Dublin


1st Preference Votes

2002 – General Election


2004 - Local Election


2004 – European Parliament Election


2007 – General Election


2009 – Local Election


2009 – European Parliament Election


Dublin by-elections

The two Dublin by-elections in 2009 did not any relief to the prevailing trend. While Councillor Christy Burke picked up 588 more votes than Mary Lou McDonald did in Dublin Central in the 2007 general election that compares to the 138 votes lost in the Dublin South by-election.

Floating Vote, general elections.

The floating vote in each of these elections caries quite significantly from one to another.

The floating vote between the two general elections as 13.4%. An extra 17,842 voters turned out in 2007 and 43,414 who voted in 2004 changed their vote in 2007.

The floating vote between the two sets of local elections was 85,357 – 20.1%. The losers were Fianna Fáil (30,490), Greens (13,871), Sinn Féin (15,702), Progressive Democrats – now obsolete (24,631), Socialists (663) and a lower turnout of 17,037 voters. Those who gained were Fine Gael (20,151) and Labour (27,157)

The floating vote between the two Euro elections was 16.3% in Dublin. The turnout was lower by 15,257 and the losers were Fianna Fáil (23,648), Labour (11,580), Sinn Féin (12,467) and Greens (21,359).


Vote transfer patterns, general elections

  2002 2007
North of the Liffey    
Received 3,003 2,410
Gave 10,857 12,145
South of the Liffey    
Received 3,831 3,708
Gave 11,974 9,233



This is a function of when a candidate is eliminated but the message is that there are relatively few votes being transferred to Sinn Féin. 


Mr Adams refers to future ambitions in the context of they being ‘a long haul’. I wonder do the electorate in the State have the same attitude to Sinn Féin as the electorate in Northern Ireland have to candidates sponsored by the Tories and the Labour Party.

ferris There is much soul searching to be done and I reckon that the electorate need more to stimulate them than the sight of Martin Ferris TD greeting and facilitating two convicts on their release from Castlerea Prison at the conclusion of their sentence for killing Garda Jerry McCabe on duty.

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