30th Dáil

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The Dáil, or Dáil Éireann (pronouned [d̪ˠaːlʲ ˈeːrʲən̪ˠ]), is the lower house of the Irish bicameral parliament. The upper house, the Senate, or Seanad Éireann (ɕan̪ˠad̪ˠ e:rʲan̪ˠ) and the Dáil together form the parliament, known as the Oireachtas (ɛrʲaxt̪ˠasˠ). The "30th Dáil" is so called because it will be the 30th to sit since the foundation of the state.

Dáil Éireann (usually just called "the Dáil") has 166 members or Teachtaí Dálaí ("Teachta Dála", pronounced ˈtʲaxtə ˈdɑːlə, is the singular form, abbreviated to "TD"), each elected to represent one of 43 multi-seat constituencies under the system of proportional representation by means of the Single Transferable Vote.

Under the constitution, parliamentary elections must be held at least every seven years, though a lower limit may be set by statute law. The current statutory maximum term is every five years.

The government in the 29th Dáil consisted of a coalition of two parties: Fianna Fáil under Taoiseach Bertie Ahern; and the Progressive Democrats under Tánaiste Michael McDowell. The main opposition parties in the 29th Dáil consisted of Fine Gael and Labour. Smaller parties such as the Green Party, Sinn Féin and the Socialist Party were also represented in the previous Dáil.

On Sunday 29th April, 2007, Ahern, the then Taoiseach, called a general election to elect the 30th Dáil. By the close of nominations for election, on Wednesday 9th May 2007, 466 candidates had declared their candidacy for election for the 165 seats available [1](the sitting Chairperson, or Ceann Comhairle, is returned automatically).

Opinion polls indicated that the election to the 30th Dáil would be an extremely close affair.[2]

The election took place on Thursday 24th May, 2007,[3] with the count of ballots beginning the following day, Friday 25th.

Pre-election alliances

The government coalition parties of the 29th Dáil, Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, had a joint electoral pact and sought re-election together. The two main opposition parties, Fine Gael and the Labour Party, also declared a pact and sought vote transfers (possible under the Single Transferable Vote system) between their respective candidates. The Green Party were invited to join this pact, but opted to wait until after the results of the election were known before committing to either coalition. All the major parties stated that they would not enter coalition with Sinn Féin, due to differences in economic policies.

Results

An exit poll, conducted on behalf of Radio Telefís Éireann on election day, demonstrated a late swing towards Fianna Fáil, but still predicted a close result. [4] Counting of ballots began on Friday 25th May, 2007 and concluded in the early hours of Sunday morning, 27th May.

In general terms, there was a swing towards the larger parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, with what is being described as a "squeeze" effecting the fortunes of the smaller parties and independents. A predicted large increase in the number of Sinn Féin's TDs failed to materialise, and they in fact lost a seat. In particular, the smaller governing coalition partner, the Progressive Democrats, saw a large drop in support, dropping six seats from eight to two. Their party leader, deputy leader and president all failed to be returned. The Socialist Party lost its one seat.

Individually significant results included:

  • Michael McDowell, the sitting Tanáiste, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and leader of the Progressive Democrats, lost his seat. He immediately announced that he was retiring from politics and public life.[5]
  • Joe Higgins, leader of the Socialist Party (and that party's only TD) lost his seat.

Constituencies

Since the prior general election of 2002, various changes have been made to constituencies and their boundaries. These changes include the addition of one new constituency (bringing the total to 43), and increasing and/or decreasing the numbers of seats available in others. A direct comparison with the 2002 election results is therefore not entirely valid, and has been omitted.

On Wednesday 16th May, 2007, a High Court challenge was brought by two sitting TDs to challenge the validity of the constituency changes brought about by the most recent Electoral Amendment Act.[6] The case's outcome had no effect on the constituency boundaries or number of seats available in the election. The final ruling issued in the case on Thursday, 7th June, 2007. Ruling that the constituencies were valid, Mr Justice Frank Clark nonetheless called for the Oireachtas ro review constituency boundaries and following the review, to amend the 1997 Electoral Act[7]

Constituency

Number of seats (2007)

Result (2007)

FF

FG

Lab.

PD

SF

Grn

Soc.

Other

Carlow-Kilkenny

5

3

1

1

Cavan-Monaghan

5[8]

3

1

1

Clare

4

2

2

Cork East

4

2

1

1

Cork North Central

4

2

1

1

Cork North West

3

2

1

Cork South Central

5

2

2

1

Cork South West

3

1

2

Donegal North East

3

1

2

Donegal South West

3

2

1

Dublin Central

4

2

1

1

Dublin Mid West

4

1

1

1

1

Dublin North

4

2

1

1

Dublin North Central

3

1

1

1

Dublin North East

3

1

1

1

Dublin North West

3

2

1

Dublin South

5

2

2

1

Dublin South Central

5

2

1

1

1

Dublin South East

4

1

1

1

1

Dublin South West

4

2

1

1

Dublin West

3

1

1

1

Dún Laoghaire

5

2

1

1

1

Galway East

4

2

2

Galway West

5

2

1

1

1

Kerry North

3

1

1

1

Kerry South

3

2

1

Kildare North

4

2

1

1

Kildare South

3

2

1

Laois-Offaly

5

3

2

Limerick East

5

2

2

1

Limerick West

3

2

1

Longford-Westmeath

4

2

1

1

Louth

4

2

1

1

Mayo

5

1

3

1

Meath East

3

2

1

Meath West

3

2

1

Roscommon-South Leitrim

3

1

2

Sligo-North Leitrim

3

2

1

Tipperary North

3

1

1

1

Tipperary South

3

2

1

Waterford

4

2

1

1

Wexford

5

2

2

1

Wicklow

5

2

2

1

Totals

166

78

51

20

2

4

6

0

5


Key:
FF: Fianna Fáil
FG: Fine Gael
Lab.: Labour
PD: Progressive Democrats
SF: Sinn Féin
Grn.: Green Party
Soc.: Socialist Party
Other: Independents and/or members of small parties not listed above.

Composition of the Dáil

Party June 2002
(elected to 29th Dáil)
April 2007
(changes since election)
May 2007
(elected to 30th Dáil)
Current
(changes since election)
Fianna Fáil 82 79 78 72[9]
Fine Gael 31 32 51 51
Labour Party 20 21 20 20
Progressive Democrats 8 8 2 0[10]
Green Party 6 6 6 6
Sinn Féin 5 5 4 5
Socialist 1 1 0 0
Independents 13 14 5 5[9]

Formation of government

As no single party or pre-declared coalition achieved the 83 seats needed for a majority, negotiations to secure support for a viable government began almost immediately after the final results were known. Enda Kenny TD, leader of the Fine Gael party, proposed a coalition consisting of FG, Labour, the Greens, the PDs and independents, but this scenario was widely seen as being unlikely, given the ideological differences between the various parties.

Numerically, Bertie Ahern's Fianna Fáil party could have formed a coalition government with the support of just the two PD TDs and a number of independents. However, in addition to securing the support of the PDs and independents, Fianna Fáil also opened ten days of negotiations with the Green Party. Formal talks broke down on Friday 8th June, but resumed after informal discussions over the weekend. Eventually a deal was hammered out, and, as mandated by their constitution, on Wednesday 13th June, the Green Party put a proposal to party members (in a day-long conference held in Dublin's Mansion House) that they should enter government. The proposal was passed by over 86% of those voting.[11] The Green's leader, Trevor Sargent, TD, had, prior to the election, announced that he personally did not favour entering power with Fianna Fáil. Following the Green Party vote, he stood down as party leader,[12] though he did second the nomination of Ahern for the position of Taoiseach when the Dáil met.

Media reports also suggested that deals had been arranged to secure the support of either three or four of the five independent TDs, involving benefits for their constituencies. Tony Gregory TD was not approached as he shares the Taoiseach's constituency. While some media reports quoted Beverly Flynn TD as saying that no deal had been arranged with her, but that she would support Ahern for Taoiseach anyway,[13], contradictory reports spoke of a deal being brokered which would see her return to Fianna Fáil and receive a junior ministry.[14] Flynn was twice formerly a member of Fianna Fáil but was expelled,[15] and at the time of the speculation, faced a bankruptcy hearing, which would have resulted in her losing her seat automatically if she was declared bankrupt.[16] (Flynn later rejoined the party).

The 30th Dáil met for the first time on the afternoon of Thursday 14th June, 2007, and, following tradition, the incoming TDs were called upon by the Clerk of the Dáil to elect a Ceann Comhairle. John O Donoghue TD (Fianna Fáil) was elected to the position, the other candidate being Labour's Ruairi Quinn TD.[17] O Donoghue had previously been Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism in the government of the 29th Dáil.

In the following vote for the appointment of the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern defeated Enda Kenny by 89 votes to 76. He therefore became only the second Taoiseach in the history of the state to be returned to office for a third term (the other being Éamon de Valera).[18]

Due to ongoing controversies over his financial background, Ahern subsequently resigned as Taoiseach and as leader of Fianna Fáil. He was succeeded as Taoiseach and party leader by Brian Cowen, TD, on May 7th, 2008. Cowen subsequently resigned as party leader (but not as Taoiseach) in January 2011, following various controversies.

Ceann Comhairle O Donoghue was forced to resign in 2009 (being replaced by Séamus Kirk), following revelations in the media on the extent of expense claims. He remains a TD.

With the breakup of the Progressive Democrats political party, Mary Harney remained in government as an independent Minister for Health and Children. In late 2009, three Fianna Fáil TDs resigned the party whip (meaning they were not bound to support the party in votes), but didn't resign from the party itself.

Cabinet

After travelling to Áras an Uactaráin to receive his Seal of Office from the President, Ahern returned to the Dáil to announce his cabinet. The appointments (listed with previous incumbents and subsequent appointments following Ahern's resignation in May 2008) are as follows:

Cabinet position 29th Dáil
(at dissolution)
30th Dáil
(new appointment)(member of Fianna Fáil
unless indicated otherwise)
30th Dáil
(current)
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern Bertie Ahern Brian Cowen
Tánaiste Michael McDowell Brian Cowen Mary Coughlan
Minister for Finance Brian Cowen Brian Cowen Brian Lenihan
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Michael McDowell Brian Lenihan Dermot Ahern
Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern Dermot Ahern Micheál Martin
Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney Mary Harney (PD) Mary Harney (Independent)
Minister for Defence Willie O Dea Willie O Dea Willie O Dea
Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism John O Donoghue Séamus Brennan Martin Cullen
Minister for Education and Science Mary Hanafin Mary Hanafin Batt O'Keeffe
Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Food Mary Coughlan Mary Coughlan Brendan Smith
Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government Dick Roche John Gormley (Grn.) John Gormley (Grn.)
Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív Éamon Ó Cuív Éamon Ó Cuív
Minister for Social and Family Affairs Séamus Brennan Martin Cullen Mary Hanafin
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheál Martin Micheál Martin Mary Coughlan
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Noel Dempsey Eamon Ryan (Grn.) Eamon Ryan (Grn.)
Minister for Transport and the Marine Martin Cullen Noel Dempsey Noel Dempsey
Attorney General Rory Brady SC Paul Gallagher SC (unaffiliated) Paul Gallagher SC (unaffiliated)

See also

References

  1. Elections Ireland: List of candidates Available: http://www.electionsireland.org/results/general/30thdail/candidates.cfm Accessed: 25th May, 2007
  2. Irish Times, Friday 11th May, 2007: "All eyes on party leaders as race looks set to go down to the wire" Available: http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/ireland/2007/0511/1178742776741.html Accessed: 16th May, 2007.
  3. Official Oireachtas notice of election. Available: http://www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=7705 Accessed: 16th May, 2007.
  4. RTÉ: Election 2007: Exit poll proves near results Available (also with audio): http://www.rte.ie/news/2007/0525/election1.html Accessed 26th May, 2007.
  5. RTÉ: Election 2007: McDowell to leave politics Available: http://www.rte.ie/news/2007/0525/election6.html Accessed: 26th May, 2007.
  6. Irish Times, Wednesday 16th May, 2007: "Hearing on voter ratios begins" Available: http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/ireland/2007/0516/1179184315550.html Accessed: Wednesday 16th May, 2007.
  7. Irish Independent: Judge calls for 'urgent' review of electoral boundaries. Available: http://www.independent.ie/national-news/judge-calls-for-urgent-review-of-electoral-boundaries-693290.html Accessed: 8th June, 2007.
  8. Includes the seat of the then Ceann Comhairle, Rory O Hanlon, who by virtue of his office was returned automatically to the Dáil without having to seek re-election.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Beverley Flynn was readmitted to Fianna Fáil on 3rd April, 2008. Former minister Jim McDaid and two others resigned the party whip but remained as members of FF.
  10. The PDs disbanded. Mary Harney remained in the cabinet as Minister for Health, until her resignation in January 2011; Noel Grealish remains an independent TD and normally supports the government.
  11. RTÉ News: Green members vote for FF deal Available: http://www.rte.ie/news/2007/0613/election2.html Accessed: 14th June, 2007.
  12. RTÉ News: Sargent leads the Greens into Government. Available: http://www.rte.ie/news/2007/0614/sargentt.html?rss Accessed: 14th June, 2007.
  13. BreakingNews.ie: Flynn to support Ahern despite lack of official deal. Available: http://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/mhkfeysnidmh/ Accessed: 14th June, 2007.
  14. Irish Independent: Flynn on board with promise of junior ministry. Available: http://www.independent.ie/national-news/flynn-on-board-with-promise-of-junior-ministry-701979.html Accessed: 15th June, 2007.
  15. RTÉ News: Beverly Flynn expelled from Fianna Fáil. Available: http://www.rte.ie/news/2004/0507/flynn.html Accessed: 14th June, 2007.
  16. BreakingNews.ie: Flynn to support Ahern despite lack of official deal. Available: http://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/mhkfeysnidmh/ Accessed: 14th June, 2007.
  17. RTÉ News: First meeting of 30th Dáil under way. Available: http://www.rte.ie/news/2007/0614/election.html Accessed: 14th June, 2007.
  18. RTÉ News: Available: http://www.rte.ie/news/2007/0614/election.html Accessed: 14th June, 2007.