The Gist: Mapping the Election

The Courts have closed. The Oireachtas has scattered. The rains will seemingly never end. So, of course, this is the Gist!

The Gist: Mapping the Election

The institutions of the state have closed to allow the gentleman landowners of the professions of law and politics to return to their fields to oversee the harvest. This gives the citizens of the state a chance to blearily blink their eyes and ask themselves "What just happened?"

The Peri-Election Pause

The last General Election was in 2020. The next one has to be before February 2025. There will be a Local and EU election in June of 2024. All of which suggests that we're now in the pre-election period when parties and candidates start trying to pick the issues to define themselves in the minds of the voters. They are also going to be hoping for candidates to put in front of those voters who won't make them recoil.

But the starting whistle hasn't been blown on this race just yet. Everyone is waiting for the outcome of the newly-created Electoral Commission's first ever redraw of Dáil Constituency boundaries.

We know there will be more seats at the end of the project, because there are more people in the country and one goes up with the other.

But nobody knows who their exact set of voters will be. Sitting TDs may find the mix of people, and therefore the mix of life experiences their voters want them to give voice to, suddenly altered. Imagine having been Terence Flanagan, a Fine Gael TD for the leafy, yacht-riddled constituency of Dublin North-East. In 2011 you would have topped the poll, with nearly 30% of all first preference votes cast. Then, in 2013, your constituency was merged with some of the adjoining neighbourhoods, filled with people who lived in houses that had been built by the council, instead of by their Daddies.

Suddenly you also had another TD from the same party, Richard Bruton, running alongside of you. You decided to split from FG, to take a stand on the question of denying access to abortion services and also, maybe, so as not to be flattened by your more well-established running mate. Maybe that would have been a politically wise issue to advance in the old constituency. But the new combined voters of the fresh new Dublin Bay North constituency ended up having the nation's highest Yes vote in the 2018 Repeal referendum. The TD didn't understand his new electorate. Which is likely partly why, standing for election as a TD for Renua in 2016, the former poll-topper simply lost his seat.

There will be more TDs, but the ones we have now carry no promise that they'll be included in that future cohort. The moment the Electoral Commission publishes its maps, sometime in August/September of this year, we are going to see an explosion of positioning statements and posturing from every politician in the country.

Forget Local Elections. This is about to be the long Local Campaign.

Expect opposition to everything nearby and demands for everything else, also nearby, as TDs try to belly themselves up to the front of any local issue that seems to have resonance. From Bike Lane Bashers to Turf-Warriors, Refugee Nimbys to Tarmac Enthusiasts, every local campaign with any whiff of heat about it will attract TDs and would-be TDs, seeking to appear to be the voice of a local area in their redrawn constituency they've just discovered they care passionately and knowledgeably about.

Of course there is a fallacy embedded in these moves. Local noise isn't a measure of genuine local opinion- it measures how loud some voices can shout, not how many of them there are.

Like Terence Flanagan, TDs might discover that becoming the face of the losing side of a hot-button issue provides that new local electorate with a great reason not to vote for them at all.

Because it's August, you might get a chance to read some books. So, despite the fact that nothing I say may apply to your interests, please know that, in the history area, I enjoyed Rubicon, Age of Wonder and Team of Rivals. But the history book I have reread the most is The Very Short Introduction to the French Revolution. It packs a lot into its slim little covers. Or you could just read Ulysses. It's good, actually. That linked edition will help you through any challenges in the footnotes. And all those links will let anyone in Ireland get the books for free.