Ireland’s Earthquake Election: Analysis of the Results

  • Michael Gallagher


The corresponding chapter in the 2007 book in this series described the election as ‘the earthquake that never happened’. Change in 2011, in contrast, was truly seismic. Fianna Fáil suffered a negative tsunami of votes that has few parallels among governing parties anywhere, while Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Féin all achieved record performances. The left as a whole achieved its highest ever level of support. There are strong elements of continuity amidst the upheaval, as we shall see, but by any standards this was an extraordinary election. In the next chapter Michael Marsh and Kevin Cunningham assess the evidence as to why the voters behaved as they did, and in Chapter 13 Peter Mair places the result in a comparative context and considers the implications for the party system. In this chapter we will discuss the results themselves in detail, identifying patterns in party gains and losses, asking why the conversion of votes into seats produced the highest level of disproportionality ever, and discussing the background of the members of the 31st Dáil.


Vote Share Party System Party Leader Preference Vote Female Candidate 
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  3. 7.
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  15. 23.
    Categorising TDs occupationally is not straightforward. As Noel Whelan notes, many TDs, in their campaign material or online biographies, downplay any pre-political occupation, presenting themselves as ‘full-time public representatives’; some Sinn F6in deputies in particular, he says, ‘appear to have had no occupation before politics or are shy about sharing it’. Noel Whelan, ‘The continuity behind the Dáil transformation’, Irish Times, 5 March 2011.Google Scholar
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    See discussion in Mary-Clare O’Sullivan, ‘The social and political characteristics of the twenty-eighth Dáil’, pp. 181–94 in Michael Marsh and Paul Mitchell (eds), How Ireland Voted 1997 (Boulder, CO: Westview Press and PSAI Press, 1999), p. 184.Google Scholar

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© Michael Gallagher 2011

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  • Michael Gallagher

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