What awaits the Green Party TDs at the next election? Consensus is that a number would survive, Trevor Sargent and maybe one or two others.
Looking at the polls, the 2009 European and Local Election as well as the 2007 General Election, paints a starker picture.
In 2006 The Greens celebrated 25 years in Irish Politics and at the time Dan Boyle wrote that the Greens were ‘…now in a Position to offer the Irish electorate a real political choice in the future governance of the country.’ He went on ‘The Greens have never been in government in Ireland. This is the next challenge that faces the Party’.
At the same time Trevor Sargent was writing ‘The Green Party/Comhaontas Glas represents a set of ideas whose time has come. From globalisation and the inequities of international trade to the creation of safer, child friendly and sustainable communities, the Green Party is a party of tried and tested solutions.’
There was a feeling that the 2007 election would lead to much success. There was a confidence within the Greens that a number of seats would be gained and that they would be going into government. Aside from their existing TDs it was hoped that Niall O Brolchain in Galway, Deirdre De Burca in Wicklow and Mary White in Carlow would all make the breakthrough. There were even slim hopes of candidates elsewhere in Dublin or the commuter counties sneaking over the line. They were also standing in every constituency for the first time.
What happened instead though was a setback. Their total 2007 vote was masked by the fact that they stood everywhere. First off Dan Boyle lost his seat. Through geography Mary White was elected. No other Green remotely challenged for a seat. We tend to forget too that the % vote of all their current TDs (bar Eamon Ryan) fell between 2002 and 2007. So as the first signs of a recession appeared they were already on a slightly downward curve. What did hold up though was transfers and transfers from everywhere.
Looking then at each TD in 2007…
In the now 4 seat, then 5 seat, Dun Laoghaire, Ciaran Cuffe was in sixth place after the first count, 699 votes behind PBP
candidate Richard Boyd-Barrett. He was just 225 votes ahead of the next candidate Fine Gael’s John Bailey and just 372 votes
ahead of another Fine Gael candidate Eugene Regan. Cuffes vote had dropped from 9.33% in 2002 to 7.72% in 2007.
In 4 seat Dublin Mid West Paul Gogarty was in fifth place on the first count. Through transfers he was actually the second person to be elected. Gogarty’s vote had dropped from 12.33% in 2002 to 10.83% in 2007.
In 5 seat Carlow-Kilkenny Mary White was in sixth place on the first count 1,108 votes behind Fine Gael’s John Paul Phelan, more importantly she was just 438 votes ahead of another Carlow based candidate Fine Gael’s Fergal Browne. Mary Whites first preference vote had dropped from 8.15% in 2002 to 7.96% in 2007.
In 4 seat Dublin South East John Gormley was in fourth place after the first count, 235 votes ahead of Michael McDowell. He was elected on the final count, taking the last seat just 304 votes ahead of McDowell. John Gormley’s first preference vote had dropped from 16.23% in 2002 to 13.84% in 2007.
In 5 seat Dublin South Eamon Ryan was in fourth place on the first count and was elected fourth. His vote had increased from 9.45% in 2002 to 11.06% in 2007. The warning sign for Ryan though is the 2009 Dublin South by-election where The Green Party candidate polled just 3.55% of the vote [although do you think that Ryan’s Ministerial position and high profile, not to mention the withdrawal of George Lee from the field, might assist in bulking up that vote? – wbs].
In 4 seat Dublin North, the Green Party ran two candidates Trevor Sargent and Joe Corr (more on him later). In 2002 Trevor Sargent polled 16.60% , in 2007 he polled 13.63% although the combined Green vote was 16.67%. (That .07% difference was more than lost when Corr was eliminated).
On then to 2009 where we had an almost total wipe-out of the Greens at local government level. Whilst the drop of first
preferences was in some cases only marginal, candidates who would have previously been elected weren’t.
This was due to the Greens losing their transfer friendliness. In the European Elections Deirdre De Burca didn’t do as well
from transfers either.
Where once voting number one or transferring to the Greens said you cared for the environment, doing so now meant you cared for the government.
The most stark illustration of the Greens transfer friendliness going West is Joe Corr in Balbriggan. On the first count he was in fourth pace in a five seater, 111 votes ahead of a Labour candidate and 293 votes ahead of an Independent candidate. In the end he lost out by 126 votes. Going into government would have probably been costly, but going into government with Fianna Fail could prove to be more expensive altogether.
Which brings me back to the future fortunes of the Green TDs. To start I’ll ask if the Green Party have gained any support since 2007? At present the answer is overall a definite no. So even were the Green first preference vote to hold steady from 2007 Ciaran Cuffe, Paul Gogarty and Mary White would almost certainly lose their seats as there would not be the transfers to allow them overtake candidates. If their first preference votes were to drop by 2 or 3% then in all likelihood they would be eliminated well before the finish (Fine Gael should take both Gogarty and Harney’s seats).
On then to Eamon Ryan, The local elections showed that there is maybe a core Green vote of 6%. He would need to probably double that to be safe. I cant see him on or above 9% which is dangerous territory and dependent on a lot of transfers, transfers that should go to Labour or Fine Gael (if Labour field just a single candidate he is far safer).
The incinerator could be the demise of John Gormley. Again the Green vote fell here dramatically in the locals and the transfers weren’t great either (few candidates were even in a position to benefit). The absence of Michael McDowell will impact, one thing is certain though, McDowell voters won’t be flocking to Gormley. Labour will have a second candidate though to mop up some of the transfers that previously went to Gormley.
The performance of both Labour and The Socialist Party in the Locals leads me to believe Trevor Sargent will lose a considerable amount of votes to both. Add in the Joe Corr figures as well and we could have Trevor in big trouble looking for non existent transfers to overtake Clare Daly.
Where once the Greens overtook candidates in counts it is now them that get overtaken…
We will see…..