“Historically, over recent decades or even the last election, the vast majority of Irish people vote for Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael, the figure might vary 60, 70, maybe 80 percent.”
The above statement, made by Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming on the latest Irish Times “inside Politics” podcast, illustrates one of the core reasons we have this very website First Person Plural. It’s a myth that needs to be destroyed in the public domain once and for all.
In fairness to the podcast host Hugh Linehan, he did offer something of a rebuttal to Fleming’s claim when he pointed out that the figures were down in the most recent election in 2016, but it was nowhere near the kind of response that was truly warranted.
The so-called “Civil War” parties received a combined total of 49.8% of the popular vote in the 2016 general election. In 2011, the combined total was 53.5%. So the reality is that the figure has been nowhere near the 60% mark since the 2007 election, the third Bertie victory just before “the crash”, where they combined for over two-thirds of the vote, ie 68.7%.
But even those numbers aren’t enough to crunch in order to get a true picture of the Irish political taste.
Recently in France they had their presidential elections, and among the headlines from those results are how “low” their turnout figures were. For the first round 77% of the electorate voted, for the second round it was just under 75%. In other words, it was considered a bad thing that a quarter of the people failed to register their vote.
Not since 1997, Bertie’s first election victory, has an Irish general election cracked the 70% barrier.
And in last year’s ballot, despite all the anger surrounding the way the country was failed by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour both before and since the crash, as many as 1,147,534 registered voters failed to turn up on election day.
For me, those votes are up for grabs, and I would argue a significant proportion of those voters would be perfectly willing to vote for anyone but FG or FF (or even Lab) if a decent unified platform was put before them.
If not, the perception that there are only two “serious” options will endure. Fleming was almost gleeful in the podcast painting FF as some kind of left wing option simply because they are slightly to the left of Fine Gael.
Stat sources – Wikipedia & Irish Independent