Politics Editor Irial O Ceallaigh and Alan Smith discuss the upcoming general elections, Paddy Power’s predictions on constituency seats (both national and provincial), PR-STV, and the five UCC political party societies summarise their party’s key policy platforms.

In 2007 Fianna Fáil (FF) won 77 (47%) of Dáil seats, four less than the previous general election, and they got 858,565 (41.56%) of the first preference votes (FPV). Fine Gael (FG) received 51 seats, 20 more than 2002 with 564,428 of the FPV. The Labour Party (LP) kept its 20 seats and roughly the same FPV, 209,175 (10.13%).

Sinn Féin (SF) got 4 seats and about 143,410 (6.94%) of the FPV and the Green Party (GP) got 6 seats with only 96,936 of the FPS. The PDs were nearly wiped out, maintaining only two seats. FF very nearly received a majority and even in the summer of 2008 FF was maintaining over 40% of the popular support according to most polls.

At the same time FG polled approximately 25%, and the LP and SF were as low as 10% and 5% respectively. But by the end of last year, one RED C poll had FF losing two-thirds of its support, at just 13%; FG had climbed to 32%, the LP more than doubled to 24% and SF trebled to 16% with independents also gaining a few percentage points. The most recent Poll of Polls shows a Munster aggregate with FF on 15.8%, FG on 34.3%, LP at 20.8%, SF 12.3%, Greens 1.4% & others on 15.1%

The number of FF candidates running has fallen from 106 in 2007 to 75, the vast majority of the 39 incumbents who have left the Dáil are also FF TDs. FG and the LP have increased their candidate numbers by 13 and 18 respectively, whilst the GP and SF have maintained similar numbers. The most alarming shift as regards candidates in this election has been the emergence of candidates and groupings disillusioned with not just the economy but the party system in general and increasingly, the perceived loss of sovereignty and decay of democracy.

The United Left Alliance, which includes the Socialist Party, People Before Profit, Workers and Unemployed Action Group and others have 19 candidates running, Séamus Healy of the WUAG is a front runner in South Tipperary. Other smaller parties like the Christian Solidarity Party have doubled candidate numbers to eight, the Worker’s Party have six and even Michael Gleeson of the South Kerry Independent Alliance has an outside chance of picking up a seat.

Most alarming of all is that the number of Independents has jumped from 90 to 199 and overall candidate numbers rose from 470 to 564. Strong independents like Michael Healey-Rae and Tom Fleming in South Kerry, Michael Lowry in North Tipperary, Mattie McGrath in South Tipperary are definite front runners, so are James Breen in Clare and John Dillon in Limerick County.

The protest vote against current politics is evident with many with parties like the new An Chomhdháil Phobail/The People’s Convention who have two candidates running in East Cork and one in each Cork city constituency. The Socialist Party’s Mick Barry has a good chance in Cork North Central. People Before Profit have an outside chance of Anne Foley to pick up a seat in North West Cork. The Worker’s Party is represented in Munster and the remnants of the anti-Government, Green Party, an Fís Nua have a candidate in Waterford.

All the hallmarks of a disenchanted society and a longing for a change not necessarily provided for by the main parties. Maybe most worryingly of all to those who seek change is the fact that there are only 86 Women candidates (15.2%) with Cork South West and Limerick having no female candidates whatsoever on the ballot paper.

Why the change? – In the three years from 2006 to 2009, the property related tax revenue in Ireland fell from over €8 billion to under €1 billion. Total tax take fell from €47 billion in 2007 to €31 billion in 2010. About 16% of state income disappeared from property related tax alone. The banks that had relied most on this sector then needed a guarantee or they would be unable to function, and the rest they say is the history of one big pile of proverbial, hitting a ferociously energetic ceiling fan. The political repercussions have caused the collapse of public confidence in all our systems of governance. The aftermath could take the rest of your working life to fix. What the Express hopes to convey in this Special is that in this election, now more than ever, politics should be about policies, not personalities. The UCC political societies have kindly given a summary of their respective party’s policies to help you decide how to vote on 25/02. Whether your priorities lie with increased distribution of wealth, economic growth, education, jobs, health, environmental protection or even which party can most realistically stand-up to external and internal pressures and implement the policies they have promised, they will be discussed here. If who you want to represent you is way down Paddy Power’s list, don’t just accept it, get out, canvas, vote and help beat the odds!

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