#GE16 Dublin North-West: Final seat a game of Finglas/Ballymun musical chairs…

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 17.33.53Dublin North-West

Current TDs

  • Roisin Shortall, Social Democrats (elected as Labour Party)
  • John Lyons TD, Labour
  • Dessie Ellis TD, Sinn Féin

Total seats in 2016 General Election: 3

The boundary review added about 11,500 people to this constituency from Drumcondra and areas near the Botanic Gardens that were formerly in Dublin Central.    

Main Areas:

Drumconrda, Finglas, Ballymun, Whitehall, Glasnevin, Santry


  • Dessie Ellis TD, Sinn Féin
  • Cllr. Cathleen Carney Boud, Sinn Féin
  • Ms. Caroline Conroy, Green Party
  • Mr. Jimmy Dignam, Workers Party
  • Cllr. Andrew Keegan, People Before Profit Alliance
  • John Lyons TD, Labour
  • Cllr. Paul McAuliffe, Fianna Fáil
  • Cormac McKay, Direct Democracy Ireland
  • Cllr. Noel Rock, Fine Gael
  • Roisin Shortall TD, Social Democrats

Ten candidates have declared here to date. Two of them are certainties, four have little chance of making any impact (candidates from the Workers Party, PBPA, Greens and DDI) and the remaining four will be involved in an intense battle for the final seat. 

Similar to Dun Laoghaire on the south side, the Fianna Fáil candidate may end up being a target for the Fine Gael and Labour candidates coming from behind for the last seat.

It doesn’t take any great skill at political analysis to say that Roisin Shortall TD will top the poll here again. In 2011 she secured 28.5% of the poll for the Labour Party and was appointed Minister of State for Primary Care in the coalition government.

In 2012 she resigned her ministry and Labour membership, frustrated by the failures of the Government in implementing its programme and particularly the lack of progress with reforms in the Department of Health.

Shortall is an assiduous worker locally. The popularity of her principled stance aided by the addition of her native Drumcondra to the constituency should see her on target to secure over 30% of the vote.

Given that the quota in a three seater is 25% and there are no non-transferable votes in the distribution of a first count surplus (save in exceptional circumstance which we won’t go into just now) the question of where her voters’ second preference go will be one of the most interesting aspects in this constituency.

If any transfer pattern emerges, it will have major implications on the destination of the final seat in this constituency.

The second seat here will surely go to Sinn Féin’s Dessie Ellis. Ellis has been an active community worker in Finglas for many years and has steadily grown a loyal support base in the area. He’s now equally well established in Ballymun.  Building on an excellent local election result, the party is well on track to continue its rise in the constituency.

There was a small media led kerfuffle in the wake of the selection process for Ellis’s running mate with talk of a row between the two female Sinn Féin councillors in the Ballymun area. Noeleen Reilly topped the poll in the local elections. Her colleague Catherine Carney Boud who represents the Glasnevin/Whitehall area was seen by party strategists as a better complement to Ellis.

This appears to have been a storm in a teacup but it does highlight that when it comes to selection strategies Sinn Féin is taking a very pragmatic approach. This management does not appear to extend to curtailing the vote gathering instincts of the party’s older generation of Republican candidates. 

It seems that the socialist principle of from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs does not apply to first preference votes. To achieve two seats Sinn Féin would need to achieve above 40% and share it equally between the candidates.

With Ellis powering through the quota it’s likely that Carney Boud will remain involved until very late in the count meaning that when she is eliminated there will only be, at most, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour candidates left to benefit from transfers.

One would expect a lot of non-transferrable votes from her to this batch. This may have the effect of lowering the overall target for the remaining candidates. This will be vital, as achieving a quota of 25% would appear beyond Labour and Fianna Fáil candidates in this election.

There are question marks over each of the remaining 3 candidates. Notably for Dublin all of themare young men who are native of the constituency. They appear evenly matched and one of them will have to succeed.

Fine Gael have not held a seat in this constituency since 1992 when it was a four seater. It seems illogical to suggest that party can improve on its 2011 outcome when the party is less popular nationally. However, there are some factors in its favour. 

Firstly it has decided upon a single candidate strategy which will consolidate its vote. The addition of a largely middle-class area around Drumcondra village should also help. Cllr. Noel Rock is only 28 years of age and is a native of Ballymun.

This factor could also prove vital in attracting transfers in later counts particularly if the Labour vote collapses.

John Lyons’ TD is the Labour Party’s flagbearer following the defection of Roisin Shortall. He secured about 14% of the vote for himself in 2011 which was enough to see him into third place on the first count and far enough ahead of his nearest challenger’s to safely take the third seat.

It should be noted that he didn’t need the help of transfers from his then running mate Roisin Shortall. The Labour Party vote in this constituency in the local elections held in the early teens despite the undoubted impact of Shortall’s defection.

Lyons is from Ballymun and was a popular teacher in Glasnevin before his election.

An openly gay man, he has come to prominence nationally for his efforts in promoting the same sex marriage referendum.  If he has been delivering locally, as a backbench TD, then his incumbency should be a benefit and he has a fighting chance of holding the seat that Labour have held in this constituency for over 30 years.

For many years Fianna Fáil dominated this constituency, achieving nearly 49% of the vote in 2007 when both its candidates – Pat Carey and Noel Ahern – were comfortable elected. In 2011 Ahern retired and Carey, faced the wrath of an unforgiving electorate, achieved just over 12%. Fianna Fáil have a new candidate this time. 

Cllr. Paul McAuliffe is also a relatively young man who is a native of the constituency. First elected in 2009, he stood in Ballymun in the 2014 Local Elections.  This was an impressive result considering McAuliffe is a native of Finglas who lost much of his home base into the Cabra – Finglas local election area. 

Being reunited with Finglas should give McAuliffe a fighting chance of getting into the frame in the first count.  If he can get ahead of both his Fine Gael and Labour competitors and if the electorate are in a forgiving mood then McAuliffe may attract transfers in later counts. 

McAuliffe is available at a generous 7/1 odds in the bookies. However his challenge is similar to that of Mary Hanafin in Dun Laoghaire and he will come closer to taking a seat in a constituency with a strong Fianna Fáil tradition than these long odds would indicate.

Watch out for:  Central party campaign funds being pumped to the constituency by party strategists with evidence that this seat is in reach for their candidate as the campaign progresses. Such support will include additional constituency visits by party leaders, extra posters being erected during the course of the campaign, advertisements in local freesheet newspapers or paid literature drops.

Our Prediction:

Roisin Shortall (Social Democrats), Dessie Ellis (Sinn Féin), John Lyons (Labour)

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