Viral Taoiseach – Over 50 million views for Kenny’s immigration speech

St. Patrick’s Day is a day of pride for Ireland.

This year was special, with such a strong immigration speech from our Taoiseach, standing just feet away from the U.S president.

The data above is Facebook views only.

It doesn’t account for other platforms (Twitter, YouTube) and traditional media (radio, TV).

 

Next year is the turn of either Simon Coveney or Leo Varadkar.

 

Tough act to follow!

 

Recent trends show the Fine Gael leadership race is wide open



Party elections in the UK, France and the US have been turned on theirs heads:

  • Everyone thought Boris Johnson would be the next Conservative leader.
  • Everyone thought France’s Nicolas Sarkozy would run for a second presidential term.
  • Everyone thought French Prime Minister Manuel Valls would win the Socialist nomination.
  • No one foresaw the rise of Corbyn
  • No one foresaw the rise of Trump

 

The above data shows party memberships crying out for something authentic:

  • The traditional values conservative (Fillon)
  • The anti-austerity socialist (Hamon/Corbyn)
  • The fearless strongman (Trump)

 

The Fine Gael election is less likely to display such volatility. However, it will be the first ever to allow a membership vote. It is weighted as follows:

  • Parliamentary Party (TDs, Senators and MEPs) – 65%
  • Ordinary members – 25%
  • Councillors – 10%

With the campaign set to take place over a number of weeks, the data above may change substantially before the final votes are cast.

 

 

 

The development blocked by #HomeSweetHome is worth 300 social houses

 

 

It costs €165,000 to build a social housing unit.

Apollo House, and the adjacent Hawkins House are set for €50m worth of development.

This is equivalent to 300 social houses.

 

Of course, the site itself is not worth €50m, nor is the government likely to receive €50m in taxes, however it is important to realise the economic activity at stake here. Jobs in demolition, construction and in the completed offices are held up by this action.

 

Only through sustained economic growth will the State be able to address the housing crisis. If we stand in the way of economic progress, we stand in the way of housing for all.

 

 

 

Yes, Dublin and Cork are rent pressure zones

The government has announced new measures to tackle the rental crisis. A limit of 4% year-on-year increases is proposed for Dublin and Cork.

Dublin’s rental prices are at a completely different level to other cities – Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford (as defined by daft.ie). A differential of €584 is shown above (rents are 38% cheaper than Dublin). The removal of Cork from “other cities” would widen the gap. Fianna Fáil’s intervention is well meaning, but not well supported by the data.

However, that’s not to say that the government policy is correct – as always, there are unintended consequences. The current two-year freeze on rent rises was initially met with attempts to increase before the freeze began. The IMF is concerned at the effect it may have on supply (it remains flat in 2016). Instead of the freeze, this policy sets an upper limit on rental increases. New supply may enter the market at a higher price to future-proof returns. Existing tenants will be protected at the expense of new ones.

There is no silver bullet here. We must tread carefully with policy. Dublin and Cork are good places to start, but they should act as pilot cities, before taking the policy elsewhere.

Ireland is one of the most pro-migrant countries in Europe

Last night’s Claire Byrne Live has everyone talking, but the data doesn’t suggest Ireland has a growing opposition to inward migration. In fact, Ireland sees non-EU migration more positively than all EU-28 countries bar Lithuania and Sweden. The same question was asked in 2014 with broadly comparable results.

A poll from September shows that Ireland was the most sympathetic towards Syrian migrants of 12 EU countries surveyed.

A poll from February by Red C found 67% support for the planned acceptance of 4,000 refugees.

4,000 people equals 0.09% of Ireland’s current population. In a typical town/suburb of c. 5,000 people that represents the acceptance of just one refugee family. Hardly an invasion.

The above poll also finds half of respondents concerned about an increase in crime from accepting refugees. Such fears are legitimate. Any large influx of migrants brings at least one uncivil person into a society. That is only logical. However, little evidence exists to find that overall crime rates rise due to inward migration. Data from the UK and the USA is very clear on this.

Refugees have fled war. They have witnessed atrocities few of us can ever fully contemplate. The ability for a nation to offer a new life to children should be a point of national pride and celebration. Canada has set a heartwarming example. Ireland should follow.

The decline of the large Irish family

I came across some new research from TCD on the Irish family which charts its evolution over the decades. The Irish family is more diverse than ever, something we affirmed in 2015 with the marriage equality referendum.

Above I note the evolution of Ireland’s fertility rate, a key social indicator. Our rate is now below 2, suggesting population decline. However, net migration is now positive suggesting overall population growth for the coming years.

Many European countries are not as fortunate, with populations set to decline over the coming decades. Poland has responded with a social welfare benefit paid to the second and subsequent child in each family. A similar scheme for Ireland is neither necessary or appropriate, but it highlights the severity of the problem, particularly in Eastern Europe.

As long as Ireland’s population continues to grow, it serves a foundation for numerous benefits. Growing populations support a growing economy and allow for the efficient delivery of public services.

100 years old – T. K. Whitaker

Today, one of the architects of Ireland’s economic success – T. K. Whitaker – celebrates his 100th birthday.

Our recent economic woes are only temporary, if the strength of our past progress is any indicator.

The share of GDP per person in Ireland today stands at nearly €60,000, up from €600 in 1960.

The beginnings of this advancement lie in the work of Whitaker to open the Irish economy to trade, to abandon protectionism, and to transition the Irish economy from agriculture to industry and services.

The true value of a college education in Ireland

Ireland charges a €3,000 annual registration fee. This is among some of the highest fees in the world, but new data suggests it *is* value for money.

The Economist, using OECD data, calculates a net lifetime benefit of $350,000 (€328,000) for the average Irish student, compared to non-graduates.

Further analysis at The Irish Times.

How many of us can’t afford a night out?

Some data from Eurostat out today.

meet-for-drink

 

18% of Irish people can’t afford a drink/meal with friends/family once a month (over one-in-six).

26% of Irish under 25 can’t afford it either (over one-in-four).

 

Data is 2014 and may have improved over the past two years. Let’s hope so.

€10 for a pint in Sweden and everyone can afford it!

Welcome to Irish Stats!

So, the election is well and truly behind us. Time for a new look and new purpose to the site.

 

As we go, I hope to share some fascinating data about Ireland.

 

Let’s start with the basics – GDP. Ireland’s grew by 26%! in 2015.

 

The unofficial Constituency Commission Report

On Thursday, the CSO revealed Ireland’s new population of 4,757,976 and a new population per TD of 30,114 – just above the constitutional limit of 30,000. It means we need to increase the number of TDs.

There are currently 158 TDs, down from 166 in the last Dáil. This was a response to the economic crisis. Fine Gael promised a reduction at the 2011 election and implemented it in government. It did so by pushing the constitutional boundary, and now that the population has risen, we find ourselves outside it.

 

The Constituency Commission

On Thursday evening, Minister Simon Coveney established a Constituency Commission to examine the new population data, determine the optimal number of TDs and re-draw boundaries to effect this change. The Commission is chaired by a Judge and has four other members. It will take submissions from the public over the coming months and report its findings. The Dáil must then enact the new boundaries.

 

The terms of reference of the Commission are worth noting:

  • It can only set a number of TDs between 153 and 160. Since 158 is in breach of the constitutional limits, a Dáil of 159 or 160 seats must be chosen. I assume 160. An even number is often chosen to avoid use of the Ceann Comhairle’s casting vote.
  • It is asked not to breach county boundaries when re-drawing. This is never always followed.

It is also apparent that the Commission attempts to keep the variance in population per TD between +/-5%. It therefore ensures that no constituency is over/under-represented compared to the national average.

 

Over/under-represented

The CSO has determined the population per TD in each constituency as follows:

existing cons pop

 

25 of 40 constituencies breach the constitutional 30,000 limit, however this isn’t relevant. The last Commission created a number of “breach” constituencies, but the overall national total was under 30,000.

We can see from the table that the North Dublin constituencies of Central and North West are most under-represented. It is therefore likely the Commission will recommend one extra seat in this region. It is also apparent that the Kildare-Laois region is under-represented. This is closely followed by South Dublin, and the North West border constituencies.

 

160-seat Dáil

As mentioned, I assume the Commission goes for the maximum increase and adds two TDs. The national population per TD therefore falls to 29,737. The two regions receiving TDs in this exercise will be North Dublin and the Kildare-Laois area.

Note: In the below analysis I refer to “DEDs”. These are the smallest level region and should be thought of as the “building blocks” of constituencies. They also piece together to form LEAs which are used for local elections. It is ideal for LEA and constituency boundaries to align.

Note: The below analysis is one of countless options for boundary change. The Commission will inevitably make slightly different changes.

Note: Apologies for the large map file sizes below. If some don’t appear, just click on the thumbnail to view them.

 

Constituencies with no change

The following constituencies see no change.

cons no chnge

 

North Dublin

dub

  • Dublin Fingal loses area on its southern border. Specifically:
    • Balgriffin DED moves into Dublin Bay North; and
    • Dubber and Airport DEDs move into Dublin North West.
  • Dublin Bay North loses Drumcondra South A and Clontarf West E to Dublin North West.
  • Dublin West loses Phoenix Park and Ashtown B to Dublin Central.
  • Dublin Central loses Cabra East A, Cabra West A, Cabra West B and Drumcondra South B to Dublin North West.
  • Dublin North West becomes a 4-seat constituency, having gained the above-mentioned DEDs.

This is one available option for North Dublin. One less DED can move from Central to North West while maintaining fair representation. Alternatively, Dublin Central could receive extra land and gain a seat instead of North West. A more radical solution would give four seats each to Central, North West and Bay North.

 

South Dublin

dubs


This is a re-balancing to avoid under-representation in Dublin Rathdown:

  • Stillorgan-Leopardstown and Foxrock-Torquay move from DL to DR; and
  • Clonskeagh-Belfield and Stillorgan-Mount Merrion move from DR to DL.

A swap can also be done with Dublin South West although it is preferable not to breach the DLR county boundary. DL and DR were encompassed within this boundary at the last boundary review. There are other ways to re-balance between DL and DR however this appears to be the optimal solution.

 

Kildare-Laois area

kildarelaois

  • Tipperary: The following DEDs move out of Tipperary to allow for the Kildare-Laois changes:
    • Roscrea;
    • Rathnaveoge;
    • Timoney;
    • Bourney West; and
    • Bourney East.
  • Laois-Offaly: This is a new 5-seat constituency. A constituency of the same name existed prior to the 2012. Its boundary includes:
    • The above mentioned DEDs from Tipperary;
    • The existing Offaly constituency;
    • County Laois (ex-Portlaoise and areas to its east, south of Emo).
  • Kildare Laois: This is a new 4-seat constituency. It is an extension of the existing 3-seat Kildare South. Its boundary includes:
    • County Laois (those areas not included in Laois-Offaly above);
    • County Kildare – Athy LEA; and
    • County Kildare – Kildare-Newbridge LEA (excluding the DEDs of Rathangan, Killinthomas, Lullymore, Cloncurry, Kilmeage North, Kilmeage South and Robertstown)
  • Kildare North: Now 5-seats, encompassing those parts of County Kildare not in Kildare-Laois.

The extra seat here pushes some constituencies towards over-representation. While this is regrettable, further constituencies would need to be involved to rectify this, leading to the breach of county lines in either Kilkenny, Wicklow, Meath or Westmeath. Alternatively, the Commission may opt to keep Offally as is, and just modify boundaries between Tipperary, Laois and Kildare.

 

Limerick

limerick

I move the Ballybricken DED from City to County. Without this change, Limerick County is over-represented.

 

Galway area

galway2

  • DEDs south of Ballinasloe (all within the Ballinasloe LEA) move from Galway East to Roscommon-Galway. Alternatively, more northerly DEDs could move.
  • DEDs east of Oranmore and Claregalway move from Galway West to Galway East. Alternatively, DEDs near the Mayo border could move.
  • DEDs south of (and including) Gort move from Galway East to Clare. Alternatively, DEDs nearer to Portumna could move.

 

Cork area (optional)

cork

Cork East and Cork South Central require no adjustment.

The remaining Cork constituencies also require no adjustment, however North-Central and South-West are nearly at the 5% over/under-representation limit. It is prudent to rectify this:

  • Teadies, Templemartin, Brinny, Ballymurphy and Knockavilly DEDs move from North-West to South-West.
  • Gowlane, Dripsey, Firmount and Matehy DEDs move from North-Central to North-West.

There are countless other DEDs which could also move to balance populations.

 

Cavan (optional)

cavan

Cavan is currently divided between the 4-seat constituencies of Sligo-Leitrim and Cavan-Monaghan. Without adjustment, Cavan-Monaghan is nearly at the 5% limit for under-representation (4.5%). DEDs surrounding and including Berturbet are moved into Sligo-Leitrim.

 

Conclusion

As mentioned, the above is one set of possible moves to achieve a balanced 160-seat Dáil. There are many others. The Commission will ultimately decide.

It is surprising to see the upper-limit for this review set at 160. It would be more prudent to:

  • Raise the number of TDs to 170/180; or
  • Run a referendum to change the 30,000 limit.

Both changes would “future-proof” the Dáil. Instead we’re moving from review-to-review with the bare minimum of changes made, just to keep things constitutional. We can do better than that.

There are 114 ways for a FG minority government to form

Last week, after the third vote for Taoiseach, I was able to narrow down the list of options for a new government. A grand coalition had already been ruled out by Fianna Fáil, and the party later admitted that Michael Martin would no longer be seeking a Fianna Fáil minority government.

old table

 

Only 12 options left I thought. This was helped by the exit of John Halligan from negotiations, which you can see from above left two options with no majority. Only 10 left so, with the following TDs still in talks:

old inds

 

However, no story is complete without a twist. This weekend it seems the door has re-opened again for Labour, the Social Democrats, and the Greens to re-enter government talks. After all, they can be certain that Fine Gael will lead the government, not Fianna Fáil. Katherine Zappone’s support for Enda Kenny during the week signals a willingness by FG to adopt progressive policies (possibly a repeal of the 8th amendment), although this hasn’t been confirmed. The new table is as follows:

new inds

 

So, technically there are now seven groups open to supporting/ joining a Fine Gael minority government:

  1. Labour
  2. Social Democrats
  3. Greens
  4. Independent Alliance
  5. “Rural Alliance”
  6. Healy Raes
  7. Maureen O’Sullivan

 

Possible combinations

As always, some mathematics can help us cut through the various options. “Permutations and combinations” (think back to junior/ leaving cert maths) allow us to group all seven groups in a way that produces a “working majority” (anything above 58 seats assuming FF abstains on every vote).

I summarise each below. Lowry and Zappone are assumed to support FG always with FF abstaining. If all seven groups support the minority government, it has a majority of 19. If only one group supports, only Labour provides enough seats for a majority. If a combination of three groups join, the average majority is 5 etc. Think of it this way:

  • More groups give a larger majority, fewer give a smaller majority.
  • If only one group supports, that group can only be Labour.
  • If more groups join, the combinations grow hugely.
  • As the number of combinations nears its maximum (7), the possible combinations reduce.

combs2

 

Of the possible 127 combinations, 114 produce a working majority. 

10-12 combinations is now 114.

Some of the seven groups will make their positions clearer over the coming days/ weeks. We can narrow the table substantially once this occurs. However the groups may also fragment, particularly the Independent and Rural Alliances, which increases the combinations again. But for now, here are the possibilities:

combs big table4

 

Let us know your favourite in the comments below.

 

Forecasting the Seanad elections

Having had a good go at forecasting the Dáil elections, it’s only natural to take on the challenge of the upper house. However, before we begin I best outline what cannot be “forecast” for the Seanad elections. Namely, names.

The candidates elected to the Seanad reflect the name recognition or prominence of an individual within:

  1. Their political party (in the case of panel elections – 43 seats)
  2. Their alma mater (in the case of University panel elections – 6 seats)
  3. Their political party AND with the Taoiseach (in the case of the Taoiseach’s nominees – 11 seats)

We simply do not have sufficient data on any of the above. Incumbency advantage will play strongly in the first two, but the Taoiseach’s nominees will largely depend on the deal struck between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael on government formation.

By incumbency advantage I mean that outgoing University Senators and panel Senators have an advantage. It is also likely that TDs who lost their seats will be seen sympathetically and councillors with “potential” to take Dáil seats in the future. Most of the reasoning here is anecdotal so let’s park names for the time being and delve into the data.

 

Who votes in Seanad elections

It all depends on which Seanad election. There are two elections and one set of appointments:

  1. 43 Senators elected across 5 panels by:
    • Outgoing Senators;
    • County/City Councillors; and
    • Incoming TDs.
  2. University graduates elect 6 Senators, 3 each from:
    • National University of Ireland (UCC, UCD, NUIM and NUIG); and
    • University of Dublin (Trinity College)
  3. Taoiseach nominates 11 Senators (won’t be made until FG/FF/IND deal concluded).

 

The five panels and seats for each:

  1. Administrative Panel (7)
  2. Agricultural Panel (11)
  3. Cultural and Educational Panel (5)
  4. Industrial and Commercial Panel (9)
  5. Labour Panel (11)

In effect, panel names are meaningless. Elections to each panel follow party lines. There is a rule around sub-panels which I am going to ignore for this analysis. As far as I can see, it hasn’t made a material impact on elections in the past, at least for party-level results.

In modelling the panel elections, we need to know the make-up of the electorate.

electorate

In total, it appears that 1,160 people are eligible to vote in the 2016 panel elections:

  • 949 councillors
  • 53 outgoing Senators
  • 158 incoming TDs

The vote across parties is assumed as follows:

  • Fianna Fáil – 321 (28%)
  • Fine Gael – 301 (26%)
  • Independents and Others – 229 (20%)
  • Sinn Féin – 185 (16%)
  • Labour – 69 (6%)
  • AAA/PBP – 41 (4%)
  • Green – 14 (1%)

 

What is the recent trend in Seanad elections?

Below I outline the three most recent Seanad panel results by party.

recent results

Some key trends:

  • The panel elections are dominated by the main parties.
  • Never before has an independent been elected at a Seanad election in the recent past. This is despite the large number of independent councillors across the country, not just today but historically.
  • Sinn Féin has recently begun to win seats, in line with its growing Dáil and County Council seats.
  • Smaller parties (PDs, Green and AAA/PBP) haven’t won seats in the recent past.

It is therefore likely that the 2016 Seanad panel elections will repeat these trends. Despite a continuing rise in support for Independents, I will proceed to model the elections without Independents and will then assess the chance for individual candidates on the larger panels.

 

How can we forecast the Seanad elections?

For the Dáil, I spent months writing code to re-create its election process, allowing us to simulate election counts. For the Seanad elections, a simpler approach is needed. I have chosen three commonly used methods to assign seats proportionally:

Each uses various mathematically processes, which I won’t go into here. I’ve applied each to the three previous election results to test their effectiveness in forecasting the Seanad results.

methods

In choosing a method to help us forecast 2016, we are looking for the one with the smallest error. In 2002, D’hondt and Sainte-Languë performed best (just two seats off the final result) while in 2007 and 2011, both Sainte-Languë and Haye-Niemeyer performed best (errors of eight and four seats respectively). Sainte-Languë appears strongest overall, but we will keep the other two just in case.

 

2016 Seanad panel forecast

forecast

Using the three seat allocation methods I determine each party to receive:

  • Fianna Fáil: 16-17 seats
  • Fine Gael: 15-16 seats
  • Labour: 2-4 seats
  • Sinn Féin: 8 seats

I must stress that such a close interval does not indicate certainty. Including independents and others produces much different results, and transfer patterns will always play a role. Note that even the closest method from above, Sainte-Languë, was incorrect for up to 8 of the 43 seats.

 

Analysis of candidates

As I mentioned above, candidates are short of impossible to forecast accurately for Seanad elections. The voting comes down to the ability of a candidate to impress party councillors, TDs and Senators nationwide, behind closed doors. As such, we can only count on subjective indicators to assess each candidate. I am going to attempt this here, but I would urge readers to see things from their own point of view, as well as mine.

As always, Dr. Adrian Kavanagh is keeping track of candidates, allowing us to assess the prospects for each.

The concept of sub-panels is explained here. Each panel sets a minimum number to come from each of two sub-panels. The sub-panel rule applies to the total number of Senators from that panel. Parties aren’t obliged to have a certain number from each, although it appears they aim to balance the candidates put forward from each, just in case.

 

Administrative Panel (7)

admin23`4
Likely seats:

  • Fianna Fáil – 3
  • Fine Gael – 2/3
  • Sinn Féin – 1
  • Labour – 0/1

FF

  • Mary Fitzpatrick is likely to take one of the three seats. FF needs to improve its vote in Dublin Central, where it hasn’t held a seat since Bertie Ahern left in 2011.
  • The two outgoing Senators, Mark Daly and Diarmuid Wilson are likely for one seat between them, if not the remaining two. At the last election Daly was stronger.
  • Sean Power is a former TD. With Seán O Fearghail now Ceann Comhairle, there is an opening for Kildare South. However, only two seats will be contested here next time. FF may feel it unnecessary to “crowd the field” so to speak.

FG

  • Having contested the General Election unsuccessfully, it is likely that either Maura Hopkins or Paudie Coffey would take a seat here. Coffey has the edge of being a former Junior Minister and having been elected to the Seanad before, while Hopkins has the edge of representing Roscommon, where FG currently has no TD.
  • Of the three Senators, Martin Conway polled best the last time, and is likely to do so again.

SF

Labour

Independents/ Others

  • None likely to win. If one does make it, either of the two councillors Mary Roche and Thomas Welby are likely.

 

Agricultural Panel (11)

gag

Likely seats:

  • Fianna Fáil – 4
  • Fine Gael – 4
  • Sinn Féin – 2
  • Labour – 1

FF

  • Connie Gerrety Quinn contested for the party in Longford-Westmeath. She is most likely from the point of view of securing representation for Co. Longford, which managed to return no TD.
  • Michael Smith contested for the party in Tipperary. FF already has one seat here, but traditionally has two. This should help Smith’s chances.
  • Pat Hayes is from Clare where FF had the votes for two seats at the election but missed out.
  • The three outgoing Senators here are Paschal Mooney, Brian O’Domhnaill, and Denis O’Donovan. At least one should be returned, if not all three. The last election on this panel suggests Senator O’Domhnaill is likely to stay.

FG

  • Having lost their seats at the General Election, Noel Coonan from Tipperary and Anthony Lawlor from Kildare North are likely to take seats here. Coonan is more likely considering FG has no seat in Tipperary.
  • Paddy Burke performed strongest on this panel last time.
  • Of the councillors contesting, Maria Byrne (Limerick City) and Tim Lombard (Cork South West) come from constituencies where FG lost seats last time but will be looking to re-gain in the future. Considering Michael Noonan is almost certainly serving his last term, Byrne may have the stronger chance.

SF

  • The candidates here are Rose Conway-Walsh from Mayo, and outgoing Galway West Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh. If Sinn Féin only manages one here, Conway Walsh is likely to miss out.

Labour

  • Only one candidate – Senator Dennis Landy. 

Independents/ Others

  • None likely to win. If one does make it, either of the two councillors Victor Boyhan and Jennifer Whitmore are likely.

 

 Cultural and Educational Panel (5)

ced

Likely seats:

  • Fianna Fáil – 2
  • Fine Gael – 2
  • Sinn Féin – 1

FF

  • The party is likely to choose candidates with a view to the next election. Those who missed out at the 2016 election include Malcolm Byrne (Wexford), Jennifer Cuffe (Wicklow), Lorraine Clifford (Dublin Fingal), and John Connolly (Galway West). Based on how close each came to taking a seat, I think Byrne is certain for one of the two. Connolly is likely for the second seat.

FG

  • Having lost their seats at the General Election, Kieran O’Donnell (Limerick City) and Gabrielle McFadden (Longford-Westmeath) are most likely here. O’Donnell is more likely considering he performed best at the election.
  • Jim D’Arcy is the only outgoing Senator for FG on this panel. He is a Taoiseach’s nominee so this is his first contest on a panel. He will need to outperform one of the ex-TDs above to take one of the two seats.

SF

Independents/ Others

  • None likely to win. If one does make it, councillor Joe Conway is likely.

 

Industrial and Commercial Panel (9)

indust

Likely seats:

  • Fianna Fáil – 3/4
  • Fine Gael – 3
  • Sinn Féin – 2
  • Labour – 0/1

FF

  • Catherine Ardagh is near certain for a seat here, following her strong performance in Dublin South Central at the General Election.
  • Of the remaining councillors, Gerry Horkan (Dublin Rathdown) looks likely. FF needs a new candidate to take over from Mary White.
  • There is no outgoing Senator here, but two former TDs are contesting, Niall Blaney (Donegal) and Thomas McEllistrim (Kerry). The difficulty with Donegal is that it already has two FF TDs. It may not be viewed favourably to crowd this area with a Senator when other areas need more coverage. Kerry has only one TD, where it traditionally holds two. This should help McEllistrim.

FG

  • Having lost their seats at the General Election, James Bannon (Longford-Westmeath), and Ray Butler (Meath West) are contesting this panel. Bannon is more likely to win a seat, since Co. Longford no longer has a TD representing it.
  • There are five FG outgoing Senators contesting. Only one can be assured re-election, with two possible. Imelda Henry polled strongest here the last time, followed by Paul Coghlan, and Colm Burke. 
  • Of the councillors contesting, William Lavelle from Dublin Mid West appears strongest. FG lost a seat in that constituency at the General Election, and it may be the last election contested by Frances Fitzgerald (unless she becomes FG leader).

SF

  • The candidates here are former TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn (Donegal) and Ciaran Staunton (running as an independent but has been endorsed by the party). Mac Lochlainn is the favourite of the two if only one seat is available.

Labour

  • Former Minister Aodhain O’Riordain (Dublin Bay North) is very likely for a seat. Having came so close to a seat at the General Election, and having championed a number of progressive social causes while equality minister, it is likely he may win support beyond Labour councillors to win a seat.

Independents/ Others

  • None likely to win. If one does make it, councillor Deirdre O’Donovan from the Shane Ross Independent Alliance appears the most likely.

 

Labour Panel (11)

labur

Likely seats:

  • Fianna Fáil – 4
  • Fine Gael – 4
  • Sinn Féin – 2
  • Labour – 1

FF

  • Three General Election candidates are contesting here: Paul McAuliffe (Dublin North West), Jennifer Murnane O’Connor (Carlow-Kilkenny), and Colm Keaveney (Galway East). McAuliffe and Murnane O’Connor came very close to seats at the election, and are thus most likely of the three. Keaveney was unable to keep a seat he already had, suggesting he is not viewed favourably within the party. He only recently joined from Labour.
  • Two outgoing Senators here are Ned O’Sullivan and Terry Leyden. Both performed similarly well at the last election. I think only one may be safe for a seat, considering the others in contention.
  • Kate Feeney (Dun Laoghaire) is the strongest of the councillors contesting. With Mary Hanafin now presumably out of politics again, this leaves a space open on the ticket in Dun Laoghaire for the next election.

FG

  • Having lost their seats at the General Election, Jerry Buttimer (Cork South Central), and Joe O’Reilly (Cavan Monaghan) are contesting this panel. While both come from constituencies where a seat could be gained at the next election, Buttimer is the more prominent of the two and is therefore more likely to win.
  • There are three FG outgoing Senators contesting. The last election indicates Maurice Cummins is the strongest, followed by Tony Mulcahy and Terry Brennan.  
  • Of the councillors contesting, Neale Richmond (Dublin Rathdown) appears strongest, now that Alan Shatter is presumably out of politics.

SF

  • The candidates here are Paul Gavan and Máire Devine. Having contested the General Election, Máire Devine is likely to be the stronger of the two.

Labour

  • Former Minister Ged Nash (Louth).

Independents/ Others

  • None likely to win. If one does make it, outgoing Senator Gerard Craughwell from the Shane Ross Independent Alliance appears the most likely.

 

Final panel forecast

As I need to keep stressing, we’re past the point of simply looking at numbers and I am instead giving my own personal forecast. We lack sufficient data to model names like the General Election. Nonetheless, below is my forecast for the parties and panels.

forc

There was coin flipping used to resolve some too-close-to-call situations.

 

University forecast

TCD

ud

With all three incumbents contesting again, I consider two of the three likely for re-election; David Norris and Ivana Bacik. 

Sean Barrett had a much lower vote in 2011, and is therefore vulnerable. If he were to be unseated, I note two possibilities:

  • Averil Power – Former TCDSU President, now Senator. Left Fianna Fáil in 2015 over the party’s lack of involvement in the Marriage Equality referendum. Unsuccessful independent candidate in Dublin Bay North at the 2016 General Election.
  • Lynn Ruane – Current TCDSU President.

 

NUI

nui

Ronan Mullen is likely to retain his seat. The 2013 protection of life bill, and the 2015 Marriage Equality referendum have provided him with lots of coverage for his rather unique outlook on society. He is also the only incumbent on the panel which helps.

The remaining two seats are too difficult to call, but a shortlist helps:

  • Michael McDowell – Former Tánaiste (2006-2007). I would be surprised if McDowell didn’t take a seat.
  • Laura Harmon – Former President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).
  • Alice Mary Higgins – Campaigns and Policy Officer with the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI). Also the daughter of Michael D. Higgins.
  • Carol Hunt – Journalist and 2016 general election candidate in Dun Laoghaire.
  • David Begg – Former General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU).
  • Rory Hearne – Policy Analyst with Think-Tank for Action on Social Change (TASC).

There are of course many more notable candidates. I’ve selected those who stood out to me as likely. It is rare for candidates without significant national exposure to do well in University Seanad elections.

 

I’m not going to put out a forecast for these panels, because I simply have no idea who will win, and I doubt even those in greater proximity to the campaigns do either. This isn’t like a General Election where the campaigning is out in the open and we can judge (even subjectively) the strength of each campaign. I may as well get my coin out again to decide the final seats.

 

So, above I’ve covered the 43 panel elections, and the 6 University panel seats. The Taoiseach’s nominees will of course depend on who the new Taoiseach is, and we don’t know that yet. Voting for the panel seats is ongoing and we are expecting results towards the end of April.

Here are the governments that may form in the coming weeks

Or the coming months….

Spain has been without a government since December and I doubt you’ve heard of any looming crisis there. The same is true of Ireland for now (unless Brexit begins to feel like a reality, which it will).

As of March 31st (today), this government formation period is the second longest in the state (34 days). 1992 was due to FF/ Labour coalition talks which ran over Christmas. We’re two weeks away from breaking the 48 day record.

days wout

 

Formation talks – Who’s in and who’s out?

whos in whos out

It appears that any TD with a lean towards the left either refused to partake, or left after a period of time. Two notable exceptions are Maureen O’Sullivan and Katherine Zappone. O’Sullivan’s decades of work with Tony Gregory has no doubt taught her the potential upside of entering government, even with the electoral risks it carries (she came very close to losing her seat).  The Greens were more moderate and pragmatic, exhausting their options before amicably parting ways.

Remaining are the Independent Alliance, the so-called “Rural Alliance”, and the Healy-Raes. Michael Lowry has already committed his support for Enda Kenny and as such is not in the formal talks taking place with the others.

still in talks

 

What are the possible formation options?

Cooperation between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael is necessary for any government to form. We’ve been told that for weeks, but the table below lays it out in numbers. Only through abstention or a “grand coalition” can Ireland form a government.

I’ve tried my best to group the Independents. It isn’t easy when the “Rural Alliance” is something we’ve only heard of through media coverage, and the Independent Alliance is supposedly divided over how it will proceed (again, media coverage). But it’s the best we’ve got, otherwise the table would be too big. I’ve even grouped the non-group TDs (O’Sullivan, Lowry and Zappone) for simplicity.

possible options

The list of available options shows the upper-hand that Fine Gael has in these negotiations. It has 10 options to form, while Fianna Fáil has only 5. Remove the options with a zero seat majority and it’s 9 vs. 3. This explains why the independents are primarily meeting with Fine Gael.

So, which government forms?

A Fine Gael minority government looks likely at this point. It has been from the start. The question is when Fianna Fáil will seriously enter talks. Then we wait to see what deal emerges. Then we see which independents sign up to it. The order of events may overlap, but the destination is clear.

 

What if there’s a second election?

Two questions present themselves here:

  1. Why would one happen?
  2. What would change?

The answer to the first question lies with the formation talks above. If talks begin to drag on for months, then Fine Gael (with acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny) has the power to call a new election. This would be a drastic step, and would only be done if he felt it gave his party the chance to radically increase its support. Even if FG were to increase its seats, it still requires FF abstention and Independent support to rule. The status quo remains unchanged.

The answer to the second can be found with a dig through some past election data. In the early 1980s, Ireland went to the polls three times within two years. Governments did form after each one, but soon collapsed. This is a very different scenario to the one we have now, arguably in a way that makes vote changes less likely.

second election

Even with 252/279 days separating elections, the largest vote changes were +/-3%, the margin of error on most opinion polls. Fine Gael managed a strong +7 seats at the second 1982 election, although mainly due to some GUBU events.

So, a second election is therefore unlikely. Fine Gael has no incentive for one.

 

So how long before we have a government?

The constitution sets no time limit. In Belgium the country went nearly two years without a government. The budget was passed with cross-party involvement and may other measures were also dealt with in parliament. Spain, as mentioned, also doesn’t have a government and is likely to face a second election in June. From there, a government may not form until the Autumn.

Ireland faces a prolonged period without a government. Brexit is one milestone (June 23rd) which may force the coming together of parties, but even then, it’s not beyond the scope of the caretaker government to manage a fall-out, especially since Fianna Fáil is unlikely to oppose a response which advances the national interest. Then there’s the budget in October, but allow me to refer to Belgium above.

 

Maybe we’ll never get a government?

 

Ah we will though.

 

 

We always do.

Religion question on census forms

On April 24th, Ireland will fill out the 2016 census form. As often happens around this time, we query the questions and the accuracy of the results to be drawn.

 

A “leading question” prompts or encourages the answer wanted.

 

The religion question – “What is your religion?” – has emerged again as a source of controversy. Many see it as a “leading question”, with calls for a two part question instead:

 

A: Do you have a religion?

B: If yes, what is you religion?

 

But do any other countries ask a two-part question? I had a good look for census forms in the English speaking world and came up with the following:

 

United Kingdom

uk

Australia

au
Canada

can

Ireland

irl

New Zealand

nz

South Africa

sa

 

None of the main English speaking nations ask a two-part question (the US doesn’t ask about religion at all). I’ve summarised the various question formats into a handy table.

main table

Ireland is not alone in having an alleged leading question for religion on its census form. Some countries place the “no religion” option first on their forms, some last (Ireland).

Judging by the percentage choosing “no religion”, it appears that question type or position doesn’t prevent the reporting of large responses. It is also worth noting that no country has yet seen the need to move to a two-part question. One reason is to maintain continuity of results census-on-census. However, if the CSO (and its international equivalents – see table sources) felt the question was giving inaccurate results, would they not have changed it by now?

I’m in favour of a two-part question, but I doubt it will alter the results.

So did the model predict the election?

A month has passed since the general election, and this weekend we celebrate the centenary of the birth of our democracy.

I’ve been pouring over the many data points from the election and have put together the Irish Election Stats forecasts alongside other the others. I note only one pundit who published their own individual forecasts – Ivan Yates. His forecasts are included. If more had made public forecasts I would have included them.

 

Which forecasts are being compared?

The website Election Hub Ireland compiled election forecasts throughout the campaign. You can see each constituency on their site. They noted the forecasts made by:

  • RTÉ
  • Newstalk
  • Irish Times
  • Irish Independent

As far as I understand, these forecasts were made at earlier stages of the election, and weren’t responding to poll changes.

Ivan Yates made his forecasts public the day before the election.

The Irish Election Stats forecast used here was the final one of the campaign – RTÉ’s exit poll on the morning of the count.

 

How do you compare accuracy of results?

The nature of our system doesn’t lend itself to easy forecast comparisons. This isn’t like a US presidential election where the forecast is one name – it’s either right or it’s wrong. I’ve had to create three methods of comparison:

  • Party total (i.e forecasting that Fine Gael won 50 seats)
  • Constituency forecasts (i.e that Dublin Central was 1 FG, 1 IND and 1 SF)
  • Name forecasts (i.e naming 150 of the 158 TDs)

 

Party totals

For this measure I take the “error” of each forecast for each party. The sum of these errors across the nine party groups gives “total error” which is then compared across the various forecasters.

party fore table

party fore chart

In this case Ivan Yates comes out on top with 16. This is followed by IES, and the media outlets. It’s notable that the Fine Gael/ Labour result was substantially less than the forecasts made by media organisations.  The coalition ultimately returned 57 TDs, in contrast to forecasts of 68 by Newstalk and RTÉ,  70 by the Irish Independent, and 71 by the Irish Times!

The Sinn Féin forecasts are close to the final result, with Fianna Fáil captured poorly by everyone. Even exit polls failed to capture its strong performance, thus worsening the accuracy of the IES model.

Not a single forecast foresaw the demise of Renua. It won zero seats, with the Irish Independent initially forecasting four.

 

Constituency forecasts

The first thing you will note about the table below is the fractions. This is because not all media organisations gave “deterministic” forecasts. Some avoided predictions for the final seat in constituencies and instead listed those they thought were “in contention”. If two were listed for one seat, only 1/2 could be counted where one of the two went on to win the seat.

In the below charts, only parties are counted towards an accurate forecast. If the correct party won a seat (but a different candidate) it is still counted.

con fore chart

con fore

 

On this measure Yates is ahead again, just two ahead of IES. I note again the worse accuracy by major news organisations, although their forecasts were made much earlier in the campaign.

 

Name forecasts

This is by far the most difficult way to make forecasts for Irish elections. It’s one thing to forecast a party to take a certain number of seats, but the candidates to win those seats is often anyone’s guess.

The media organisations avoided name forecasts at this election, leaving just IES and Ivan Yates to compare results.

“1” signifies that the TD was correctly forecast. I note where a TD wasn’t forecast by anyone. 20 TDs fall under this category, showing how such candidates came from the outside to win, but also highlighting how challenging it is to forecast Irish elections.

name fore

 

Once again, the IES model is just behind Yates by two.

 

In conclusion

For a statistical model created by a 23 year old – compared to the experience of a former minister, bookie and now broadcaster – I’m pleased with the results overall.

If there’s another election later in the year, I’m sure we’ll come back to these numbers again.

The Irish Election Stats model explained

On twitter I’ve begun to post regular output from “the model”. Reaction has been positive so far, although many wonder just exactly where all this data comes from.

As mentioned in previous posts, Nate Silver and FiveThirtyEight is a major influence of the model. The Irish political system requires a custom approach. The effort to adapt his work to Ireland has spanned a number of months. In all, the R code (language used for statistical programming) runs to over 1,000 lines, with many spreadsheets of data feeding the program.

Poll aggregation 

The model’s first step (and Nate’s) is to take the polls and find a single figure for each party. The basic principle is that a more recent poll is “weighted” more, with less recent polls weighted less. Once aggregated, the polls reduce to a single figure for each party, also known as a “poll of polls”.

At the time of writing there are two approaches being taken. The first is my own simple polling aggregation. This has been the basis of the model up to the end of 2015, and the figures derived broadly mirror recent opinion polls.

As of the new year, I have been using poll averages from the Irish Polling Indicator which uses a much more advanced model. A special thanks to Tom Louwerse from Trinity College who has allowed use of his numbers. I encourage readers to check out his most recent paper on the topic.

Mapping polls to a constituency level 

The model takes the “poll of polls” and attempts to spread the votes for each party across the 40 Irish constituencies. I use six “parties” – FG, FF, SF, LP, GP and NP. To “force categorise” the other parties into “non-party” (NP) is a temporary measure. We separate out the smaller parties later.

All figures used below are sample data.

240 grid

 

The program begins by filling the blue boxes. I generate a random turnout, and use census/ electoral register data to produce total vote figures for each constituency.

240 grid 2

 

The total nationwide vote is split into total figures for the party groups using the “poll of polls” from above.  

240 grid 3

 

Every party in every constituency is given its national average vote share. We know intuitively that if, for example, Fine Gael polls 30% nationwide, it will poll above 30% in Mayo, and below in Dublin South Central. For now, each constituency sits at 30% but it will adjust later. 

240 grid 4

 

 

Next is a table of “deviates”. Keep in mind the above table, but one filled with completely different data. The program examines data from the last general election (2011) and the last local elections (2014). The extent to which each party (in a given constituency) deviates from its national average at both elections is calculated and averaged.

This is used to create another table (same size as before) containing a “should be” percentage. The past election data combined with today’s polling allows us to determine what vote share a party should receive in a given constituency. Fine Gael in Mayo “should be” c. 15% higher than its national vote and “should be” c. 10% lower in Dublin South Central etc.

 

At this point you may ask why we can’t simply convert the “should be” percentages into numbers. The answer goes back to the blue totals above. If the green numbers don’t sum to match the blue numbers, the count is wrong.

 

To keep the totals in tact, I have written a “vote swap” algorithm to move votes around the green space, keeping the blue totals constant. A “votes to move” table determines how many votes are needed to bring a party (in each constituency) to its “should be” point.

The “vote swap” algorithm searches the “votes to move” table for the largest move that needs to take place, and finds other parties in that constituency which need to move the other way. Returning to the Mayo example, Fine Gael’s vote would need to rise, and Labour’s to fall. The program then searches the remaining constituencies for one where Fine Gael’s vote needs to fall, and Labour’s to rise.  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

240 grid 5

The algorithm repeats to cover every party in every constituency. Once complete, the model obtains a number of votes for every party in every constituency.

 

Candidate weights

I must give a hat-tip to Adrian Kavanagh, Storyful’s IEOD, and the many other candidate lists in the field right now. I compile my own list through these sources and add some extra information (if applicable:

  • 2011 vote – Number of votes at the 2011 general election.
  • 2011 elected – A binary measure (0 or 1) if the candidate was elected at this election (also marked for Senators as an indicator of incumbency advantage).
  • 2014 vote – Number of votes at the 2014 local elections.
  • 2014 elected – A binary measure (0 or 1).
  • Minister – 1 for a minister, 0.5 for a junior minister, 0 for a non-minister.

 

The above data combine through a number of formulas to create a “candidate weight”. This score only applies where two or more candidates are in contest from the same party. If one candidate contests, their vote is that for their party in the constituency (see previous section).

Example: If two Fianna Fáil candidates are in contest, the party’s vote in the constituency will split by the candidate weights. Let’s assume 10,000 votes are available. If candidate A has a weight of 0.6, and candidate B has 0.4, A will win 6,000 first preference votes (FPVs) and B wins 4,000. This sounds rigid, but later on I discuss simulation and how party ticket underdogs are allowed to lead on occasion.

Where a candidate has not contested a prior election, subjective interpretation must be used to assign a candidate weight. This is particularly sensitive to independent/other candidates who may possess some local/national “celebrity” status (or lack of). A qualitative reading of each constituency is used to determine a weight.

The 2014 local election results also undergo some subjective adjustment. A candidate may have received a small number of votes, but may have contested a very strong area for their party. It is likely (although by no means certain) that the votes received by other candidates in that area would rally around this person in a general election setting. A local election area (LEA) can typically be one-third to one-sixth of a constituency’s area and population. This adjustment is also made when a sitting TD is joined by a Councillor on a party ticket. The candidate weights would otherwise greatly favour the incumbent if this adjustment isn’t made.

 

PR-STV Count

At the heart of the model is a full simulation of Ireland’s PR-STV election count system. R code has been written to incorporate all the rules of the count.

A unique feature of the Irish system is “non transferable” (NT) votes. These occur when voters fail to give preferences for every candidate on the ballot. As a count progresses, the number of NT votes rises. To model this I examined a number of past general/local election counts. I then derived a formula which takes the votes to be transferred at any count and determines the number of NT votes.

t – (t*(1-((1-(c) / n))^(1/0.67))/1.85))

where

t = The number of transfers available
c = The count number
n = The number of candidates in the constituency

 

In any constituency, transfers contain a mix of party preferences (Sinn Féin to AAA/PBP for example) and local characteristics. The latter is beyond the scope of this model. We lack sufficient data to allocate transfers based on close proximity of candidates. Dual county constituencies (Cavan-Monaghan, Sligo-Leitrim etc.) have a tendency to transfer within county lines, in an effort to secure a TD for the county. A potential improvement for the model would be transfers based on geographic proximity, perhaps using the address provided for each candidate on the ballot paper (although not all candidates live in their constituencies).

To determine party to party transfers, the model takes an average of transfer patterns from the 2011 general election and 2014 local elections. Some adjustments are made including incorporation of the recent transfer pact between Fine Gael and Labour. This simple approach presents some issues. While Sinn Féin to AAA/PBP transfers are high nationally (and vice versa), they are likely to vary at a constituency level. We lack sufficient data to model transfers locally, so a national average must be taken.

transfermatrix11

Above is the “transfer matrix” for the 2011 general election. The figures included are percentages, however you will notice that rows and columns don’t total to 100%. I have highlighted internal party transfers which are naturally high, but which didn’t occur for the United Left Alliance and Green Party at the time (the opportunity never arose).

Example: Let’s assume we are at the final count. A Fianna Fáil candidate has been eliminated and only a Fine Gael candidate and a Labour candidate remain. Historically we see that Fianna Fáil gives 19% of available transfers to Fine Gael and 13% to Labour, a ratio of 19:13. In percentages, Fine Gael will receive 59% of the transfers, and Labour 41%. Non-transferable votes would be high in this case, but recall that these are modeled separately. If candidates of all parties are available to receive transfers, the ratio is 19:13:58:9:7:11:23, or 14%, 9%, 41%, 6%, 5%, 8% and 16%, and so on. Where multiple candidates of the same party can receive transfers, the model divides the available votes randomly, but with consideration to the strength of each candidate (like candidate weights earlier).

 

Simulation 

With the above processes complete, we obtain one set of constituency results. To assess all possible scenarios, we run the model 1,000 times. All variables will change throughout:

  • Turnout – At the last general election, turnout reached 70%, a figure not seen since 1997. Turnout in 2016 is likely to be lower. I model turnout at 50-65%. Any figure within this interval is equally likely to emerge (uniform random). In any case, turnout does not change the results. It allows us to estimate a figure for FPVs if we wish.
  • Party vote – Above I discussed the “poll of polls” which gives us a figure for party share. We also know the margin of error for these polls. Taking the example of a single poll, we have a margin of error of +/- 3%. If Sinn Féin is on 17%, its margin of error is a range of 14-20%. A figure within this interval is randomly chosen at each of the 1,000 simulations. We use the normal distribution. Those who remember the concept of the “bell curve” from the Leaving Cert (or elsewhere) will be able to picture its shape. Of the 1,000 simulations, the vast majority will place Sinn Féin at 16%, 17% and 18%. Every now and then, 15% and 19% will emerge, and on rare occasions, 14% and 20%. Note that this is an overly simple example rounded to the nearest whole number. Margins of error are much more complex (especially for smaller parties).
  • Deviates – Earlier, I determined to what extent a party is below or above its national average in a given constituency. This is based off the 2011 and 2014 elections. Some constituencies are more accurately captured through the 2011 data, others in 2014, although we are not sure exactly which. I work off the assumption that the 2014 data is more valuable and better captures the distribution of a party’s support nationwide. I also allow for deviates outside these two ranges. Note that this variable is perhaps the most important for determining the outcome of constituency contests.
  • Candidate weights – Earlier I spoke about party ticket underdogs, those candidates who are expected to poll below their party colleagues but who occasionally outperform the odds. This is not just a feature of party tickets but of the Independent/Others category. I model such candidates using a normal distribution for each candidate. Visually, this can be seen as overlapping distributions. The area of overlap signifies the proportion of times an underdog candidate will surpass their party colleague on the ticket. The allowance given to underdog candidates is arbitrary in the model. We don’t have sufficient data to determine how often candidates surpassed expectations in previous elections. Anecdotally, we know that a sitting TD fears the Councillor who joins them on the party ticket, despite incumbency advantage.
  • Transfers – Transfers are modeled with a 50-100% weight towards the 2014 local elections, versus the 2011 general election. The assumption being that the 2014 election better captures the likely transfer patters in 2016. Once again a reminder that local transfer patterns are not factored in, but instead make use of national averages.

 

Results

As the model runs, countless data points are recorded. The most important is a binary measure of elected, or not. This is taken for each candidate at each of the 1,000 simulations. From this we can derive the probability of election for every candidate, the likely seats for each party, and even the likely number of female TDs. When run on different dates, the model allows us to see the prospects for each candidate unfold over time. As new polls and candidates emerge, the data changes.

I will be uploading all of this data to the site once the final list of candidates is known. Modelling would be inconsistent over time otherwise, a point to bear in mind for party totals already being published on social media.

Your feedback is most welcome on the methods above. The various assumptions underlying the model have yet to be tested at an election and are worthy of improvement and fine tuning before the elections takes place.

Date of the 2016 general election

In my last post I showed how a snap election was never likely, despite the ongoing rumour mill at the time. Two and a half months on and we’re still in the dark as to when Enda Kenny will drive to the Phoenix Park and ask President Higgins to dissolve the Dáil. Once this is done, an election must take place within the following 30 days.

 

History points towards a February election

While some election dates are spontaneous and not planned, the trend overwhelmingly supports a February vote. The election must take place before April 8th.

months chart

 

Friday is an increasingly popular polling day

Ireland hasn’t voted on a Tuesday/Wednesday since the late 1980s/early 1990s. Three of the past four elections have been held on Fridays. This facilitates counting on Saturday and it provides greater convenience to voters. For example, students returning home for the weekend can vote on Friday evening, assuming polls remain open to their recent norm of 10pm.

day chart

 

Ard Fhéis dates prevent a poll in early February

Broadcast time is precious to political parties during an election. A party Ard Fhéis includes a c. 2 hours Saturday morning broadcast and a half-hour leaders speech usually at 8.30pm on the same day. However, if an Ard Fhéis overlaps with a general election campaign, these hours are deducted from a party’s allocation. The dates are as follows:

  • Fianna Fáil Ard Fhéis – 16th January
  • Fine Gael Ard Fhéis – 23rd January
  • Labour Conference –  30th January
  • Sinn Féin Ard Fhéis – 4th February (postponed)

Simply put, Enda Kenny is unlikely to call an election before the Fine Gael Ard Fhéis, and may wait until after the Labour Conference. Sinn Féin’s decision to postpone theirs is significant.

 

Friday February 26th most likely

Allowing for a three/four week campaign, and for dissolution to take place following the Labour Conference, Friday February 26th is the most likely date for the 2016 Irish general election.

 

Two other options are open to the Taoiseach:

  1. Friday February 19th – Taoiseach shortens the campaign period from four weeks to three.
  2. Friday February 12th – Taoiseach shortens the campaign period from four weeks to three and dissolution takes place following the Fine Gael Ard Fhéis.

The second option would place Labour’s Conference during the campaign period, a move which would damage coalition relations. Having said that, a Fine Gael vs. Labour narrative is beginning to emerge in the run up to the campaign, so bigger arguments may be more prominent come the new year.