Sinn Fein – No Longer Transfer Toxic

The Carlow Kilkenny by-election has shown that Sinn Fein’s traditional transfer toxicity might be a thing of the past. Personally I had a great weekend. I burst out of my closet 27 years ago at the tender age of 19 and landed in a very cold room for gays in the conservative Ireland of 1987. Over the last 27 years I have witnessed a phenomenal social revolution with the LGBT community becoming the most recent beneficiaries. However, I must admit my focus last Friday was not so much fixed on the referendum (I was pretty confident it would pass), I was far more concerned with how Kathleen Funchion would perform for Sinn Fein in the by-election.

Carlow/Kilkenny is not natural Shinner territory, in fact it is quite solidly hooked onto the traditional power parties of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour. At the 2011 general election these parties took 77% of the popular vote, Fianna Fail who at the time was getting battered up and down the country, still managed to win 28% while Sinn Fein scored just 9.5%. Until the local council elections of 2014, there had been no Sinn Fein elected representative in the area for almost one hundred years.

The great thing about a PR election, especially in a five seater like Carlow/Kilkenny,  it is quite possible to take a seat with just about 12% of the vote and a favourable transfer pattern. This has traditionally been a problem area for Sinn Fein. Despite the rise in popularity of the party, transfers have been a huge stumbling block when it comes to snatching that last seat. With an eye on next year’s Dail elections, I figured a 15% showing in the by-election would do two things. Firstly, it would put us in a strong position at the top of the list on first preference votes and secondly, it would reduce the likelihood of an overdependence on transfers, assuming support might hold at that level for another twelve months. I was also concerned that the recent concerted media smear campaign against Sinn Fein would resonate deeply with an electorate that is overwhelmingly rural and traditionally conservative. (44% voted against the equal marriage proposal)

The result in the end was a 16.2% share of the vote for Sinn Fein. Only a smidge over the 15% mark I had hoped for so I was far from ecstatic – that was until I studied the transfer pattern. Excluding non-transferable votes; on the second count Sinn Fein picked up 14% of available transfer from independents; count 3 – 25% from independent, count 4 – 33% from people People Before Profit (bodes well for possibilities in the North) , count 5 – 22% from The Green party, count 6 – 24% from The Labour Party, count 7 – 10% from Renua. On the final count Sinn Fein had added 5,631 votes to a first preference tally of 10,806 ending up on 16,437 or 28.2% of the final top three total. On these numbers and barring a complete disaster between now and next May, Sinn Fein are assured a seat in Carlow/Kilkenny. Moreover, if a similar pattern is repeated across the country particularly in areas that are not traditional Shinner terrain, the party could see a TD elected in every constituency in the country. Not only has Sinn Fein’s core vote almost doubled in less than five years, it appears the problem of transfer toxicity is now a thing of the past. Bualadh Bos Sinn Fein.

Robin Keogh is from dublin but now lives in South Wicklow. He has just completed a four year international BA in politics with University College Dublin and University of California Santa Cruz. He recently became a member of South Wicklow Sinn Fein however his view are his own and not necessarily representative of the party.

  • chrisjones2

    “The Carlow Kilkenny by-election has shown that Sinn Fein’s traditional transfer toxicity might be a thing of the past.”

    Keep praying

  • Kevin Breslin

    16.2 is probably just short of a quota and enough to take a seat in a 5 seater constituency. If I were to call it 2 FF, 2 FG, 1 SF, Labour and Fine Gael losing one each.

  • Ernekid

    With the rejigging of the Boundaries and the reduction in seats there could be all sorts of upsets in the next Dáil Éireann election. I wouldn’t read too much into a by-election result.

  • Robin Keogh

    I think much of the rejigging is done, for example both Donegal and Tipperary will become 5 seaters in the next election, Kerry North will take in parts of South Limerick and Dublin has been pretty well revamped. On current polling, the rehash opens up opportunities for Sinn Fein rather than shutting them down. By Elections in the South are usually a good barometer for the parties depending on the traditional voting culture in the constituency concerned. The turnout on Friday was very similar to what is expected at a general election. Every reason to be positive.

  • Robin Keogh

    I think Renua have a chance of taking one also. They could do well from transfers if they get around 10%, it would be at Fine Gael’s expense though.

  • Robin Keogh

    The proof is in the pudding as they say.

  • Ernekid

    The turnout was higher than the average by-election thanks to the Marriage Ref. An interesting stat from the C-KK by-election was that over 2,000 people spoilt their votes.Suggesting that people who turned out to vote in the Referendum didn’t want to vote for any of the parties suggesting a wider disengagement with Party politics.

  • Robin Keogh

    Oh I surely agree with you there, there was all sorts of carry on. A couple of miraculous medals were even thrown into a ballot box. In fairness, there were 13 candidates in the by-election, many of whom were independents with no party affiliation. Plenty of choice for someone who was turned off party politics.

  • Dan

    Enthralling stuff

  • Granni Trixie

    Or wishful thinking?

  • banana man

    He may have a point, Kathleen is a young mother who ,as far as I know, cannot be smeared by her past in the way Adams or Martin Ferris etc. can be. I’ll wait to see how the rest do before agreeing that we are no longer transfer toxic as they say

  • Kevin Breslin

    I disagree, I think Fianna Fáil would struggle out of the two.

  • Robin Keogh

    I agree, SF will not go in as a junior partner and the likelyhood of them winning enough seats to come out on top as largest party is slim enough. I am not so sure they are expecting to form a government next year anyway,it is early days in the ‘long term project’. I cannot see much more growth between now and next May which is why the transfer possibilities are so important. However, a spell as the major opposition party in the Dail puts them in a ‘natural opposition choice’ scenario opens up the potential for further growth.

  • Robin Keogh

    and that is the case across the Country, 90% of candidates are not connected to legacy issues.

  • Zeno

    Why not? Are they getting rid of the IRA?

  • Robin Keogh

    Hoping, dreaming, wishing and praying is all very well but actions are what counts at the end of the day. That’s why the above stats are so important. Wishful Thinking about what may happen can only be beneficial if there exists empirical evidence. Car/Kil provided that evidence.

  • banana man

    no need to condemn something that simply isnt an issue for the majority of young people these days. There was a war it is now over, move on and join the rest of us in 2015.

  • Robin Keogh

    Bronze, the new recruits and their supporters do not seem to be mobilized in any way by issues of the past. The electorate do not seem to be too interested either. All seem to be more focused on social and economic issues today and into the future. For example, last year in the council elections in Louth – Gerry Adams Constituency – SF took 30% of the vote in Ardee, 40% in Drogheda, 50% in Carlingford and 36% in Dundalk. On these numbers, two seats are very possible next May. For many, the War is now a part of our history rather than our future.

  • John Collins

    Why would one bother ones posterior getting rid of that which is already gone

  • Robin Keogh

    Why not what? Sorry I don’t understand the question Zeno?

  • barnshee

    Only not ” toxic” to those wilfully ignorant (or supportive) of the ” behaviour” of their “associates”

    Organisations (and their former member and associates) who colluded with drug smugglers who “helped out” with arms acquisition are hardly a suitable precedent for political power.

  • Robin Keogh

    But on 29% of the vote compared to FG 24% plus ex FF Renua candidate on 9.5% and given the Anti government sentiment i think it could be close enough.

  • Robin Keogh

    It was always going to be a monumental task convincing many voters to switch to SF. Having secured a good First preference rump a number of years ago, the transfer issue has been a major stumbling block. Its only recently we are seeing a marked improvement. Particularly the Euro and Local elections results last year. The long game, is really just an accpetance of reality.

  • Robin Keogh

    Cheers mate 😉

  • james

    How long is the long game?

  • james

    I think the issue is that many in the defeated ‘army’ slunk off, changed their clothes and accepted the payoff of gov jobs. Thus criminals and thugs occupy positions as ministers, spads and community relations officers. Morally repugnant to most.

  • Robin Keogh

    Like all long games it is as long as a piece of string James.

  • Robin Keogh

    I don’t think you are correct there James. Most British troops as far as I am aware, remained in the British Army after they left the statelet. I am not sure that many if any took up cabinet positions or stood for election. Many people might find the British Army morally repugnant but I think that language should be ditched in favour of a more inclusive understanding orf where our futures lie together. However if you have an enlightening view on all of this, why not start a thread on it where we can all join in?

  • michael robinson

    With Gerry Adams still leader, you will have that complete disaster you talk off. He is toxic but Sinn Fein continue to worship him. The Irish newspapers will soon burst the Sinn Fein bubble when the campaign proper gets under way.

  • Robin Keogh

    That is a problem, the ongoing media onslaught has had little impact so far but no doubt INM will throw the kitchen sink at Sinn Fein just before the next generals, it had no impact on the Euros or the locals last year.

  • Robin Keogh

    That’s the thing about democracy, people can either believe the groundless spin or not. It seems so far that a considerable rump of people need more than just fictional argument to affect their natural choice mechanism. Ant therein lies the key of Sinn Fein’s future success or failure.

  • Zeno

    Why are they “not connected” to legacy issues? Are the IRA being pushed to one side because they are hindering the quest for power?

  • Zeno

    How can there be anti government sentiment when the country is doing so well? It is after all the government who are responsible for that.

  • Robin Keogh

    I don’t think it is a case of being pushed aside. The IRA do not exist anymore and as such it is not a concern for the conscience of voters. Voters see their local Shinner in purely local political terms, the issue of the IRA simply doesn’t come up.

  • Robin Keogh

    As the biggest party in Ireland it seems the voters disagree with your analysis. And it is them who hold the power to make or break any party.

  • John Collins

    Well the largest Unionist Party, and indeed all the other Parties are sharing power with them. Where is their backbone in all of this?

  • Robin Keogh

    I suppose some people take an opposite view and the see the improving situation as more to do with increased FDI which is and has been an ongoing phenon, while others feel that a lot of the recovery has not benefited lower and middle income sections of society. There is also a feeling that while growth is surging in urban areas, rural areas are being left behind.

  • Robin Keogh

    Its a messaged conveyed to all who are open to building a future that can benefit all of us. Where victims are concerned, their issues will not be addressed adequetely on blogs despite the insistence of many to use them as mere power tools for selfish personal gain or empty point scoring.

  • michael robinson

    emmmmmmmmm, SF has a real problem in Adams. Yes, SF polls well but it is always below what they are getting in the opinion polls. Cahill and McConville are still going to be a noose around Adams neck, come the election.

  • Robin Keogh

    Most analysts suggest that the difference between the polls and the actual vote is down to lower youth turnout which commands a higher preference for SF.

  • Robin Keogh

    I will pass ur thoughts onto to UCD if u wish. My final results come out mid June, with a pretty high gpa, i should be ok thanks.

  • mickfealty

    Two biggest changes here was the huge drop in the Fine Gael vote, and a pretty hefty first time vote for Re Nua. In fact their growth rate is significantly above SF’s.

    I’d also note that whilst Kathleen Funchion’s and Seamus Casson’s combined vote came in at about where the party hit overall in the general election of 2011, their increase actually lags the party’s current poll rating by some way.

    She is certainly in the drop zone for a fifth seat, but I also think that drop zone is getting to be very crowded. She seems to be benefiting from Labour’s collapse in KK and those to her left who as you say are transferring generously to her.

    But just as interesting is the way her transfers break between FF and FG (2-1 in favour of the former). Poor vote management beat Aylward out of a seat last time round. On this showing I suspect with McGuinness running next time FF will easily break the 30% mark.

    Bear in mind too that Jennifer Murnane O’Connor (a Carlow Co Councillor) is likely to run for a third seat for FF, and it’s just possible that a strong run from SF at or around this level could end up giving FF a bunk back up to three seats: one, by helping to kill Labour (who have a much longer history here than SF); and two with a generous donation of transfers.

    Meanwhile, the strong showing of Re Nua suggests there’s still room for growth on the right now that the recovery seem to be on the way. What should give us all pause for thought is that it is even possible to suggest such an outcome for a party which barely moves from 19% in the national polls.

  • james

    What would you have them do?

  • Robin Keogh

    Re nua have not grown yet. Their result in this contest is a starting point, we can only measure their growth rate based on where they go from here. (remeber they are polling at 1% nationally). It must be remembered also, their candidate only divorced from FF a few weeks ago. He is very popular and high profile guy and quite likely took a lot of FF votes with him. I cannot see a third FF candidate here tbh, the figures just do not justify such a move unless they are hoping that renua votes are likely to swing back . Labour are gone to the benefit of SF and other lefties, no sign of a change there either. SF showing here was always going to be less than the national polling. the constituency simply is not natural republican territory, so the increase in first preference and transfer share is pretty impressive by any measure. If MM continues his attacks on SF those transfers might dry up somewhat.

  • Zeno

    I’m sure it wouldn’t be difficult to name 20/25 top IRA men and women who hold top jobs in Sinn Fein. That is what I meant.

  • Thomas Girvan

    It is always going to be a job persuading anyone to vote for, or transfer their vote to, someone who was, involved in murder.
    I suppose with the passage of time, people become less influenced by the horrors of the past, and of course, the propaganda that now tries to whitewash the crimes of the Republican movement, by somehow making it out that there was no alternative. etc. and that they were part of a war that had “combatants” instead of terrorists.
    Now, of course they masquerade as politicians who have concern for the most disadvantaged in society.
    I wonder when did the transformation take place?
    How many people are there claiming DLA as a result of being crippled by the IRA death and punishment squads?
    Bring on the whataboutery!

  • james

    Cute. Obtuse, but cute.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    33% transfers from People Before Profit (bodes well for possibilities in the North) Not sure the SF machine in West Belfast is looking transfers from PBP Voters put looking to wipe them out. Can’t see it though as I think they are going to take a SF MLA out in this constituency in 2016 NI Assembly Elections. Maybe PBP Voters in both West and North Belfast might look a transferring their 2nd preference vote to a similar smaller working class unionist party ? Did I Mention Pacts !

  • Carl Mark

    good idea, but first we need a working class unionist party without the toxic connections that all the unionistt parties have.

  • Carl Mark

    that already happened, IRA is gone.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Now how are you going to find one of them ? Can’t see any success in developing anymore new political parties ! Progress is going to have to come from within existing structures !

  • Carl Mark

    PBP is progress, a newish party with no toxic connections, perhaps you could point out a unionist parties that is both socialist and with out the connections to the OO and a history of sectarian violence.
    PBP is non sectarian, socialist and baggage less perhaps instead of PBP voters transferring to a unionist party it might help if unionists transferred to them (o give them their first preference) surely that is the way to look at things.

  • mickfealty

    0-9% is growth is it not Robin? It’s exactly where SF were in 2011 with two candidates. It’s also reasonable to point out that Ms Funchion was exactly on national showing last time out but is now some way behind the polls.

    Almost nowhere in the south outside Dublin, the borders and N Kerry can be classed as traditional areas for Sinn Fein. Carlow Kilkenny is exactly the sort of beach head territory they need to capture to punch through.

    I’d say we are all massively underestimating where FF sit with the voters right now. Not to mention the Greens who had a seat here in 2007.

    The competition for that last seat is going to be fierce. And I’d say if this Welfare Reform stuff goes the way it’s looking in NI you may find the left a little more fierce in the field now PBP have a more direct interest in tracking on the ground impacts there.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    There are no Unionist Parties with the exception of the Kippers who come without any baggage as you mention. Only Unionist Party who carry a socialist manifesto is the PUP. Worth having a look between a PUP and PBP Manifesto (Not much difference) ! Working Class Unionists will not give their first preference vote to a non Pro Union Party as experienced by Naimo and Gerry recently ! The only way forward is for working class unionists to get candidates elected who can then work with people like PBP in some form of socialist coalilation network. But I suspect others know that thus their stradegy of keeping Working Class Unionism trapped in the trenches at places like Twaddell. PUP have got some good new and young talent operating on twitter giving as good as they get but to me that forum is nose to nose boxing I would like to see a few of them come onto this forum and see if they can slug it out and go the distance here. This new young talent needs to get more exposure and this is where I can see a chance of making progress.

  • Carl Mark

    but the PUP is as toxic to nationalists as SF is to unionists and for the same reasons.
    Working class nationalists will not vote for a pro union party especially one led by a unrepentant sectarian murderer and linked to sectarian march’s and a active terror group .
    Sorry it wont fly, there are I am sure good young people in the PUP, the problem is they are in the PUP.
    PBP has no stance on the border surely this is the way to go , unite socialists instead of dividing them along the old sectarian lines.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Understand your frustrations Carl but like a said Socialist Coalilation seems the only way forward. I would recommend that PBP runs a good campaign in the Shankill in 2016 Assembly Elections. When they go to the peoples door steps by all means ask for their first preference vote but if they say they will give you a 2 accept that as a positive return as it maybe useful having them Unionist Transfers as the SF Machine will be throwing the kitchen sink at maintaining their MLAs from West Belfast. The PUP needs to build on that 17% FPV they got in BCC Elections in 2014 and try and scrap home into the last MLA from either East or North Belfast. Maybe that Socialist Coalilation that I talk about could be established with PBP and PUP MLAs

  • Carl Mark

    A lot of working class unionists did give their vote to Naomi, her vote went up, so perhaps you are wrong maybe there is a demographic for a neutral on the union party.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Only a trickle Carl. We watched the Polling Boxes. Swathes off Votes coming out off the boxes from Cherryvalley, Knock, Shandon for Naomi (a lot UUP Voters) Only trickles coming out from Lower Newtownards Road and Woodstock Road. The PUP got 3K Fpv in 2014 out of the constituency – Naomi got a couple off hundred off them !

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Alliance already are the demographic for a neutral on the union party but they are not a Working Class Party ! If there was one and it commanded widespread support across all working class communities then you have solved the Irish Problem ! But lots have tried and failed ! Back to my Socialist Coalilation Idea ?

  • Robin Keogh

    Mick no I dont see it as growth condidering their candidate who as I said is popular and well established a s a FF councillor. 9 % is a good starting point but its where hey go from here that will determine ‘growth’. Most areas had a small SF vote over the years of 3 or4 %. Kathleen got 3.8% in the 2007 general election. 9.5 in 2011 and 16.2 in the by-election so we can identify a pattern maybe? I agree with you in terms of where FF actually are, the polls always underestimate their support. However they didnt improve on theri 2011 percentage at all (29%) andnothing like the 47% they got in 2007.

  • kensei

    Being right on the national nose is a lot more rare than there being some local variation. SF also always poll at the bottom of estimates. They’ve a fair bit more work to do.

    As much as I think FF can’t be killed with garlic, a stake and a nuclear bomb I think 3 seats would be pushing it. Plus it’s not like the’ve had a great referendum – and I expect you might have a bit more to say if SF had their current troubles.

    SF could miss out on a seat here given the complexities of PR. But I’m not sure it matters too much. They are right in the mix. And if they are in the mix here, they are going to be in the mix for final seats in a lot of other places they traditionally do not do well. They’ll win some and lose other unless they have a spectacular day or a disastrous one.

    Overall I expect they’ll move forward, but not as much as they’d like. My guess is that is peak protest. Their continued growth will depend on the precise shape of the Dail and whether or not they can up their game.

  • Robin Keogh

    In my view the arrival of PBP is a good thing. We need another all Ireland party fighting for seats in both jurisdictions. And it they can mobilize a few more voters to the polls it can only be good for Sinn Fein who are most likely to benefit from transfers. Hopefully, PBP will field candidtaes all over the North.

  • Robin Keogh

    Well the last time out SF get 9.5% og the national vote. Polls always overestimate out strength but 19.5% was a good result. I would but us on 17 maybe 18 % today in a Dail election. The problem for SF and every other party it seems is that he days of 40% support for one party might be gone. There is no longer a hegeomon.

  • Gingray

    Actually this was covered on the Irish Times Inside Politics podcast as well, general view is that Labour are the most toxic party, and the rise of independents on the left, along with the general normalisation that comes with familiararity, has seen SF become less transfer toxic.

    Adrian Kavanagh, as always, has more:

    http://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/labour-wont-get-vote-transfers-from-the-left-31135298.html

    I think they will underperform the polls and score in the 16-18% of FPV.

  • Gingray

    Oh dear. Another useful contribution to the topic

  • Carl Mark

    Now earlier you said that loyalist working class would not vote for a non union party then propose that working class nationlists enter a pact with a pro union party (linked to terrorism). Do you not see a possible contradiction here!
    For example if nationlists helped electelect a PUP councillor wouldwould he support the residents at Ardoyne or the UVF linked bandsmen?
    The next time the DUP wave a flag will he go running to their side as the PUP have done in the past.
    Again sorry to much history to much present as well, you have as good a chance getting working class loyalists to vote SF as you have getting working class nationalists to vote PUP, those are the facts we won’t vote for loyalist terrorist any more than loyalists will vote for nationalist terrorists.

  • barnshee

    They are poison where it counts North of the Border-If the citizens of the ROI are happy to vote for the familiars of drug smugglers and murder gangs?– well sure sets an example

  • Zeno

    They haven’t gone away you know. They just rebranded and changed tactics.

  • mickfealty

    I’m nominally on holidays Ken, but surely you aren’t accusing us of ignoring the Averil resignation?

  • disqus_JmCoqa6yB8

    Let’s hope PBP run a second candidate in N & W Belfast SF are continually failing the people in that and most other areas.

  • disqus_JmCoqa6yB8

    Totally agree Carl the establishment parties are failing us we need left wing parties to give us genuine representation.

  • kensei

    Nope. Just suggesting you’d be less bullish on SF’s electoral chances if the shienhad been on the other foot.

    You’ve also been relatively kind to Martin in the rebuilding job. The various defections certainly feel like they are undercutting it.

  • Steve Larson

    People have been saying that for a decade, they throw everything they can at him and they only come back stronger. Hate to be blunt but no one cares about Cahill and McConville, it is old news and people do not want to go over it again.

    Adams has some electoral record so far.

  • Steve Larson

    lol

  • Steve Larson

    3 FF seats in Carlow Kilkenny.

    Are you serious?

    You have a soft spot Mick but come on.

  • Steve Larson

    Carlow Kilkenny would be one of the least fertile places for Sinn Féin in Ireland.

  • Steve Larson

    Not going to happen.

  • Carl Mark

    quick get this info to the police, the press, don’t forget to bring your proof!

  • Carl Mark

    and your idea is just a continuation of the same, the big house will wave a flag and the PUP will come running.
    you don’t seem to understand the PUP is toxic, their will never be a set of circumstance’s when the relatives of their victims join with them.
    you seem to have not only forget their murderous history but their present involvement in twaddle and their criminal activities.

  • Robin Keogh

    Ha !

  • Robin Keogh

    Zeno dont need no proof, dont you know?

  • james

    The left can never ever truly represent the underclass. Leech off them and collect votes maybe, but the idea that left wing politics helps anyone but a different kind of elite is laughable.

  • kalista63

    Go form one. If I wasn’t thick as 2 planks, I’d be onboard. Non voter statististics in such a highly political society would indicate the need. We live in a place with a population little more than a moderate metropolis in a world of social media and with a local traditional media.

    Deal in hard facts, solid economics and statistics, pulling the best examples, such as Scandanavia, as examples of why are system doesn’t work. Whatever you do, don’t think there’s any value in being the nice guys. look at the Greens.