Reaction to the 2024 Irish Local and European Elections

Relevant Tags
Expand Button

Expand Button

While the housing crisis remains a big-ticket item in Irish politics immigration, has in very recent times rapidly risen up the agenda. Sinn Féin, without a clear policy on immigration, fell afoul of voters who instead have backed the mainstream parties with a small number of far-right candidates standing on an anti-immigration ticket voted in.

Sinn Féin’s flopped campaign

Last year, Sinn Féin enjoyed a boost in political fortunes, with a commanding lead in the last three years of polls, including a 35% dominance in the polls in October last year.

The party’s increased profile came through its commitments to address the crippling housing crisis that has gripped the country over the last decade. However, a survey completed by the Irish Times/Ipsos B&A last month showed that 70% of Sinn Féin supporters want a tougher stance on immigration, stating a need for a tighter border policy and more support for deportations. Many Sinn Féin voters see the immigration issue creating further challenges to the housing crisis with asylum seekers putting greater pressure on accommodation demand.

But, as we’ve seen across Western Europe, as politicians of all persuasions scramble to address and provide long-term solutions to this issue, immigration has no easy fix.

In Ireland Sinn Féin has found itself caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, traditional working-class Sinn Féin voters seek policy that will limit immigrants and their rights, while its newer, younger middle-class base have expressed concerns surrounding migrants’ rights.

As expected though, there was no pressing of the panic button with Sinn Féin having been on the receiving end of the electorate's dissatisfaction before, most notably in the last local and European elections, which saw them then bounce right back in the Irish general election in 2020. So, they remain square behind their leader Mary Lou McDonald who admits that the party “has a job” to do. It will be interesting to see where Sinn Féin’s principles and values will come to lie on this burning societal issue.

Masterstroke of genius or a bit of luck for the centre parties?

Meanwhile, the coalition parties are quietly celebrating victory.

Fine Gael avoided predicted losses, while Fianna Fáil’s party leader, Micheal Martin said his party did, “better than predicted”.

The election results are maybe best summed up by senior Sinn Féin lawmaker Matt McCarthy's comment, "To be quite frank, nobody saw these results coming.”

It's a good time to be independent!

Independent politicians in Ireland are not a new phenomenon, however, Friday’s local elections saw a significant increase in the number of independent councillors elected with 195 taking seats and 27% of per cent of first preference votes.

Perhaps the most notable success for Independents lies with John O’Donoghue who has been declared the first ever directly elected Mayor of Limerick City.

Meanwhile there was bounce back for former Independent TD and junior minister Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran who made a dramatic return to politics. Moran gained more than 3,300 votes, significantly more than the second highest candidate to gain a seat in the Westmeath County Council.

Independents demonstrate the shifting of Irish politics, with candidates standing on either right or left focused policies or on a specific ticket issue. With Hermann Kelly, leader of the Eurosceptic Irish Freedom Party, hailed the party’s first elected official in West Dublin, the far right has gained seats, however, they haven’t made the significant breakthrough seen in other parts of Europe.

Harris to call an early election?

The temptation for Taoiseach Simon Harris to call an early election must be a tempting prospect, however, Harris has squashed any claims that he will go to the polls, stating there will be no snap election under his leadership, despite Mary Lou McDonald stating she would “absolutely welcome” an immediate general election.

Political logic, if there is such a thing, implies that there will be an October or November election. Currently, the Irish budget for 2025 is to be delivered on October 8th. To facilitate a pre-Halloween election, the government could bring that date forward into September.

The one thing certain about Irish politics is that nothing is certain, be that the date of the election, whether we’ll see Sinn Féin in the Taoiseach’s office or whether the dominance of the historic big two prevails. Lots to play for in the coming months and it will be a gripping watch and listen!

Our use of cookies

Some cookies are necessary for us to manage how our website behaves while other optional, or non-necessary, cookies help us to analyse website usage. You can Accept All or Reject All optional cookies or control individual cookie types below.

You can read more in our Cookie Notice


These cookies enable core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility. You may disable these by changing your browser settings, but this may affect how the website functions.

Analytics cookies

Analytical cookies help us to improve our website by collecting and reporting information on its usage.

Third-Party Cookies

These cookies are set by a website other than the website you are visiting usually as a result of some embedded content such as a video, a social media share or a like button or a contact map