Monday, February 28, 2011

The Changing Face of Irish Politics - An Electoral Triumph for the Next Generation

We are all in a state of euphoria in Ireland this weekend as the General Election results roll in - still four constituencies count goes on ...and on...and into recount territory. But the good news is - Ciara Conway, Labour's candidate for Waterford, got elected on the tenth count to the third seat in Waterford, following the elimination of her running mate Seamus Ryan, whose transfers went a long way to securing the third seat of four. In fact when the final tally was in, she had the second seat from the transfers. I've blogged about Ciara's launch already here, and this is the sequel!

The Ciara Camp at the Selection Convention, Jan. 2011
Ciara speaking at launch
The Government party Fianna Fail has been eviscerated, as have their former bedfellows, the Green Party - who lost all six of their seats to return a big fat zero. Fianna Fail have dropped from 77 seats in 2007 to a current 18 with little chance of more than one or two more seats. This is such a historic election as there is only one FF TD in Dublin - Brian Lenihan - and no woman TD elected. Their talk of regrouping is all a bit hollow given the anger of the public towards their arrogant behaviour regarding expenses and salaries and pensions - many ministers get such wonderful pensions that a number didn't bother standing for re-election knowing their chances were nil, and instead they'll be spending more time with their pensions and lump sums!
Ciara with Labour leader Eamon Gilmore

It was a nail biting evening - and I wasn't even at the Count Centre in Butlerstown in Waterford City. Hubby Jan was Ciara's Director of Elections and he has been busy for the past month running the campaign and organising canvassing schedules all over the county and city of Waterford. It was a major exercise to try and cover as much of the constituency as possible but it certainly paid off! Our three sons were at the count as Tallymen, and it was a very close call. I find it bizarre how accurate the Tallymen can be, as it seems so chaotic and random in the Count Centre.

The total to date for Labour is 36 seats, Fine Gael 70, Fianna Fail 18, Sinn Féin 13 and Others 18 00:15hrs on Monday 27th - there are still 15 or 16 seats undecided

Ciara and Jan, her Director of Elections, at the launch
I was with the team on two days canvassing in Tramore, and then I spent a number of evenings canvassing in Lismore with Jane, another Labour member and stalwart supporter of Ciara. We got a great reception on the doorsteps as many people said we were the only party to call and they hadn't any Fianna Fail canvassers or candidates - they were only leaflet-dropping and running along!

I suppose given the state they left the country in they hadn't the bottle to knock and face an electorate whose lives have been thrown into turmoil from job losses, negative equity in home-owners, and children forced into emigration. That's a far cry from the voluntary emigration of my own experience, not driven by unemployment but by a sense of adventure and altruism that moved me to become a development worker and volunteer.

Ciara with Jane and me at her campaign launch
So I thought it worth sharing the good news of the election of Ciara, a new young woman TD (MP) to the 31st Dáil Eireann (Irish Parliament) which will convene on March 9th. Whether Labour will form a coalition with the majority Fine Gael Party is yet undecided as Eamon Gilmore the Labour leader hasn't been approached yet by Enda Kenny the Fine Gael leader who will lead the next government as Taoiseach (Prime Minister).

Ciara and Aoife
The results are not all in - Ciara was elected at 3:25am Sunday morning after a gruelling ten counts to the third seat - a process of Irish democracy that took from when the Count started at 9:00am on Saturday morning. I won't even begin to describe the Irish system of PR-STV - Proportional Representation by Single Transferable Vote. It is an arcane, complex and exciting system that differs from the first-past-the-post system that the UK operates. It beats Electronic Voting (which the Irish trialled disastrously in 2002 and has been a notorious white elephant ever since - just ask former TD Nora Owen how heartless it was to lose a seat in a heartbeat on election night)  for the thrill of count and transfers and recounts and it gives political junkies like me a day or more of nail-biting anticipation glued to the TV, Radio and this year for the first time, Twitter and Facebook as well as numerous websites.

The WLRFM Candidates' Debate, Dungarvan
RTÉ was one of those offering live coverage yet it fell behind the live Twitter streams from the various Hashtag sites. I followed #GE11, #wd (Waterford constituency results and #RTE which gave a good general overview. There was a lot of criticism of the dearth of TV coverage of the Waterford count, and they only focused on the first two TDs elected, Fine Gael's John Deasy and Paudie Coffey. Deasy was returned as TD, and Coffey was a first time elected TD, having lost in 2007 and gained a Senate seat as recompense. That sort of nepotism might all be a thing of the past as the Senate's future looks bleak. Having two houses of parliament is seen as a bit excessive in a country of 4 million so it might bite the dust as it was mooted by Fine Gael and Labour as part of their Election Manifesto.

About to exercise my democratic franchise on Friday!
The photos show the path to Leinster House for Ciara since Eamon Gilmore came to Waterford in January for a Constituency meeting, to the Selection convention and the Campaign launch and the WLRFM Town Hall Candidates' Debate last week. Then there's one of me going into the polling station to cast my vote.

We are delighted to have a talented and energetic young woman like Ciara representing Waterford in the 31st Dáil and wish her every success and good luck!


Stephanie V said...

Congratulations! The team's hard work paid off. It will be interesting to watch how things improve for Ireland with the new government. Change is a great motivator.

Mimi said...

Congratulations! I'm delighted that Ciara got elected.
Also delighted to see the back of Fianna Fail, though I hope that Fine Gael won't be disastrous for us public servants, who seem to still be the "whipping boys".
Anyway, Catherine, good on you, a job well done by all the family.

Catherine said...

Stephanie - thanks - it's great to see so many women elected, I think this election's been a record. Labour have a record no. of TDs (MPs)and always have a good number of women too. The old ruling regime have been wiped out - not a green in the house, and Fianna Fail down from 78 seats in 2007 to 20 now. We all await change - Obamaesque - but hope to be realistic and pragmatic and not expect miracles.

Mimi - I've just commented on your blogpost, yes, we are thrilled for Ciara and for Waterford, she has been well profiled in the run-up to the election with appearing on TWIP (Week in Politics), Six-One, and a number of other media as well as the town hall debate. We're all proud of her, hubby Jan was proud to be her Director of Elections too. And don't worry, I'd say Labour's role will be to rein in extreme policies of FG and ensure public sector is protected under Croke Park and reduce the layoffs/vol redundancies, if they are needed keep to a minimum.
All the best, Catherine xxx

Brigid O'Connor said...

Well done on all your support for Ciara, what a dramatic election!!
Let's hope all this new blood will create a better and fairer Ireland.
Out with the old and in with the new, finally!

Kitty Catastrophe said...

Yay Ciara! Saturday night was truly nail-biting and Twitter was the place to be. Great post, Catherine! :)

Catherine said...

Hi Brigid well of course I supported her but wasn't able to canvass as much as others on the team so I was glad Jan was there so much. Great vindication for all the faithful, as some pundits were negative. We need new blood and educated women is a good place to start. With a heart as well as a good head!

Kitty Cat - you must be so proud of your cuz, she is great! In fact they are a lovely family, I only got to know them over the campaign. I know Ciara a few years, since before the locals. Wasn't there some buzz about on Sat. night? RTE was so bad we'd have been lost without Twitter!

Well done to you both on making the shortlist for the IBAs! I didn't make the shortlist this year :( but I did last year so had my moment of glory - good luck to you both in the finals!