Current Affairs Politics

Irish Local And European Elections 2019: Good For The Greens, Terrible For Sinn Féin

So it’s all over in the counts for the local government elections for 2019 with the final results from the European Parliament elections not far behind (bar the odd – and perhaps counterproductive? – recount). Two major stories have emerged from the vote. Firstly, the exit poll by RTÉ/TG4 which made such an impact last weekend seems to have been broadly within the margin of error, albeit exaggerating the levels of support for the Green Party while slightly downplaying the popularity of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Despite that, both the locals and the Euros have boosted the standing of Eamon Ryan’s Greens, giving the group a raised profile for a general election contest that might not be too far away. With environmental causes making the headlines both nationally and internationally, the GP has reaped the rewards of fighting the good fight over the last decade, likely aided by the excellent showing of the party’s regional branch during UK-administered local elections in the north-east of the country. That said, there remains the distinct possibility that the Greens were seen as a safe home for a “protest” or even a “virtue signalling” vote among some parts of the electorate and that this support may well swing back towards other options in a Dáil election. Especially as the leadership of the Green Party makes very conspicuous attempts to position itself as a future coalition partner for the parties of the right and centre-right. (Which brings back memories of the Greens’ reputation as neoliberalish “Eco-Tories” during their term in government with Fianna Fáil between 2007 and 2011.)

The second big story concerns the performance by Sinn Féin which suffered a bad election. Or rather, two bad elections. Its share of the vote in the EuroParl and the locals nose-dived, losing the party two MEPs – the ongoing recount in the South constituency notwithstanding – and a raft of councillors across the country. Despite much discussion and speculation over the last week, it’s not that hard to detect the reasons for SF’s poor showing in what has been an electoral perfect storm for the party.

There was the issue of guilt by republican associations following the fatal wounding of the journalist Lyra McKee during recent street protests in the city of Derry. The continuing impact of negative legacy matters from the conflict in the north of Ireland. A series of scandals and controversies involving local representatives in several parts of the country, often leading to press-hyped resignations or dismissals (with many former SF councillors successfully standing as independent candidates this time around). The loss of two big hitters on the national stage with the death of Martin McGuinness and the stepping down of Gerry Adams. The failure of Mary Lou McDonald to connect with voters, her popularity falling somewhere between the electoral territory of the middle- and working-classes. The move by the party towards more traditional centre-left and Labour-lite territory, occasionally to the confusion of its own policies and instincts. And in the EuroParls the stiff competition offered by two transfer-friendly candidates from the Independents 4 Change bloc who gained large personal votes at the polls pushing SF’s sitting MEPs out of the way.

While one should be cautious about extrapolating the votes in local government and European Parliament elections onto a general election, there is the strong possibility that Sinn Féin will find its representation in Dáil Éireann falling well below the twenty-plus mark in any future contest if this trend continues.

8 comments on “Irish Local And European Elections 2019: Good For The Greens, Terrible For Sinn Féin

  1. Been a bit busy – where can I find breakdowns by age, gender, constituency and transfers for the island of Ireland re those elections? Looking for a one-stop source, if possible.

  2. I see two possibilities tying in to part of what you say.

    One it could be that people are simply afraid of global warming. That barring certain extremes they want somebody who will act-even if that party has a history of less than ideal choices. It could also be that since a country like Ireland can MOSTLY act on global warming via The EU given its size, so that might make people more willing to consider continental ideals of Greens in a somewhat separate manner from Ireland’s own politics, and/or the quirks and strange politics (all nations have them) of the GP of other countries.

    It also seems to me that this is something a lot of countries *do* once fatigued enough by tough political situations. That when a country is in the middle of stressful uncertain times but also not done with it, people seem drawn to ecological questions. It’s been observed in a number of countries, for sure.

    It certainly proved one professor I had a while back wrong. She said that Ireland is just so hostile to Green Politics that local attitudes towards Cromwell could only pale by comparison. That between the sentence structure all of Celtic languages and the trauma of The Great Famine (she was using the term Potato Famine) there is no way that could change for at least 500 years-if they stopped teaching Irish in schools.

    I hope she’s following these elections and Brexit.

  3. gendjinn

    Great analysis as usual, thanks.

    You know, at some point environmentalists are going to take over the Green Party.

    Interesting times for FG: Dublin vote collapse, Maria Bailey, with BoJo as next PM and a hard Brexit. Children’s hospital, National Broadband, Homelessness, Healthcare.

    I wonder when does Martin decide to call the next GE?

    • I love that crack about the Greens!

      • gendjinn

        I wish it was a crack. I learned this bitter lesson, the hard way in the 80s. Almost every single environmental group was run by middle-class petite bourgeoisie that will eagerly do what the Greens did with FF. Turn neoliberal and abandon their environmental policies in a heartbeat.

        It’s the same here in the US. The only environmental solution will come with a socialist basis. Anyone not uniting the two is wasting your time and likely a fraud.

        • bradhar

          The 80s is almost 40 years ago now. Apart from the fear and craziness of the austerity years the Greens haven’t done much abandoning. Slowly, very slowly, their rhetoric and policies have been taken up from fringe/lunatic to almost mainstream. How much of that is down to the Green party and how is down to Ireland’s exposure to the wider world is probably debatable. But it’s 100% more of a success for the environmental movement that green policies are being adopted than that the party does well.
          Although the optics (and accents) are bad it makes sense that the middle-class suburbs are the heartland of the Greens. The working-class tend to focus on socailist or populist movements as it addresses their reality more directly. Socialism has a lot of priorities higher up the list than the green agenda.

          • gendjinn

            What I observed of 80s Greens in Ireland remained unchanged both in personalities & policies from the 80s right up through the 2007 crash. I don’t live in Ireland now so I cannot speak to what, if any changes, the Greens have had in the last 12 years.

            The German experience with the Greens parallels that of the Greens in Ireland.

            My experience and interactions with the Greens/SierraClub in the US the last 25 years have differed from the Irish & German experiences in accent and colloquialisms.

            These groups think that separating your glass recycling by color is about all we need to do to address the environmental catastrophe barrelling towards us. When nothing short of a Manhattan Project/Moon Landing re-organization of the global economies & political systems will save us.

            The Neoliberals took over all of these groups, I saw it happen in the 80s. They are not our allies and just as they did in 1848 & 1930s Germany, they will cheerfully side with the fascists to defeat the Left. They always have, they always will.

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