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General Election 2016: The People have spoken- But what have they said?

‘God only knows’ was the response of my mother when I told her the title of this piece and it is fairly accurate when you look at the results from the February 26th General Election. When the final result was declared (thank you Longford-Westmeath), Fine Gael remained the largest party in the Dáil, but with a resurgent Fianna Fáil only 6 seats behind.

Irish General Election, 26th February 2016
Party Seats Change Firsts
Vote %
Fine Gael 50 -16 25.5
Fianna Fail 44 +23 24.3
Sinn Fein 23 +9 13.8
Labour 7 -26 6.6
AAA-PBP 6 +2 3.9
Independents 4 Change 4 1.5
Social Democrats 3 3.0
Green Party 2 +2 2.7
ReNua 0 -3 2.2
Independents Alliance 6 +1 4.2
Independents 13 -1 11.7

2016 was one of Labour’s worst election results and saw it return only 7 seats, which allows the party speaking rights under the current Standing Orders of Dáil Eireann. It also saw it lose some high profile TDs including Minister Alex White in Dublin Rathdown, Joe Costello in Dublin Central, Ciara Conway in Waterford, Aodhán O’Riordain in Dublin Bay North and John Lyons in Dublin North West. Party Leader Joan Burton retained her seat despite some predicting a loss there and Sean Sherlock in Cork East now holds the only Labour Seat in Cork. Labour will face quite the challenge to rebuild from this result.

Sinn Fein had one of their best results since their foundation with an increase of 9 seats, but will be disappointed with the loss of Donegal TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn. The party has improved its vote management in some area,s ensuring it got two seats in Louth where Party Leader Gerry Adams and Imelda Munster were elected, while a two seat strategy did not work as well in Cork North Central where Jonathan O’Brien was elected but Thomas Gould failed. Rising star of the Party Donnchadh O’Laoighaire was elected for the party in Cork South Central, something that many said was beyond the party.

ReNua faced total wipe-out in terms of Dáil seats with all three sitting TD’s losing their seats. Party Leader Lucinda Creighton has vowed to keep the party going, but with only a base of five local Councillors it will be a hard slog for the new party.

The Social Democrats’ three sitting TD’s all topped the poll in their own constituencies, however their new candidates did not do as well as they had hoped. They did, however, get 3% of the national vote ensuring that the party will receive state funding.

AAA-PBP have increased their seats in Dáil Eireann to 6 seats following the election of Mick Barry in Cork North Central and Gino Kenny in Dublin Mid-West. They will more then likely try to bring the threshold for speaking rights down to 6 seats, and for good reason.

The Green Party return to the National Parliament with two seats, which were won by Party Leader Eamonn Ryan and Deputy Leader Catherine Martin. Their strategy of running a candidate in all 40 constituencies ensured that they surpassed the threshold of 2% of the vote to ensure that the party will receive state funding.

For Fine Gael the loss of 16 seats will be taken hard by some in party, with some high profile TD’s losing their seats including former Justice Minister Alan Shatter, Children’s Minster James Reilly, Cork South Central TD Jerry Buttimer and Junior Minister Jimmy Deenihan in Kerry. The party lost their two seats in Tipperary where Tom Hayes and Noel Coonan failed to keep their seats in the new 5 seat constituency. While their were some bright spots for Fine Gael, including Noel Rock becoming the first Fine Gael TD to be elected in Dublin North West since 1992, while the result in Dún Laoighaire constituency will be long remembered as Maria Bailey joined Mary Mitchell O’Connor. Fine Gael will be doing a lot of soul searching as “A process will be put in place to review our electoral performance and all voices will be heard in that process” according to a statement from Catherine Byrne the Vice Chair of the Parliamentary party.

Fianna Fáil will be delighted with their result in this election more then doubling their seats from 21 to 44. Their result saw many new TDs, and many of them being women, elected including Margaret Murphy O’Mahony in Cork South West, Lisa Chambers in Mayo, Jack Chambers in Dublin West and Mary Butler in Waterford. This will strengthen Micheal Martin’s hand in any leadership tussles in the coming Dáil.

But what next? Who will form a Government? If you’re anything like me, then you have more than likely being playing around with the Irish Time’s Coalition Builder. It is all to play for in the coming days ahead of the 1st meeting of the 32nd Dáil on Thursday, when the first ballot for Taoiseach will take place after the vote for Ceann Comhairle.