No lists in Ireland?

At least for now, a “contentious” proposal to add about 15 list seats to Ireland’s single transferable vote system has been left out of the main governing opposition party’s ambitious proposals for political reform. (See Irish Times for full story and for periodic updates and links.)

32 thoughts on “No lists in Ireland?

  1. Actually these are proposals from the main opposition party, Fine Gael. The (as you say) contentious proposal to move to a mixed-member system was dropped due to internal disagreement. In it’s stead, the party now proposes that, if they form the next government, they will establish a Citizen Assembly (along the lines of the Canadian and Dutch processes) to consider the question of possible electoral reform. This CA is to be established in the first 100 days of government, with a view to its recommendations feeding in to a “Constitution Day” of referendums on constitutional reform 12 months later. For more, see

  2. Rather than bringing in lists, which would require a constitutional amendment, I’m not sure why Irish legislators don’t first bring in Australian-style grouping and ranking of individual candidates “by mutual consent” (translation: by the candidates’ spouses and the bright-eyed 23-year-olds with bad haircuts who form the party executive), replacing alphabetical ranking, which can be done by ordinary statute.

    I am not a huge fan of ranked grouping but at least with optional preferences (and no “tick one” ticket voting), and smallish county-based constituencies, it would limit the extent to which the Colstons and the Crichton-Brownes can enjoy life peerages, while helping that world-class statespersons like Gemma Hussey to focus on world peace with less (not zero) fear they will lose their seat because Co Wicklow’s school has a leaky toilet.

  3. And given that Ireland has a Senate with 60 members mostly elected by other politicians or appointed by the PM, maybe a less partycentric way to get the great statespersons into the Cabinet is to increase (from 2 out of 7 to 15) the maximum number of Ministers who may be Senators.

  4. David,

    Are you the same David Farrell who has served as Electoral Officer for NSW and Tasmania (in which case we met at the Electoral Law conference in Sydney, Nov ’02), or is this just another of those cosmic coincidences of names?

  5. David (not of Tasmania), thanks for the link to your op-ed in the Irish (not Tasmanian) Times. Anyone interested in STV should read it–and then come back here and comment.

    I disagree that the size of the Dail is too large. The relevant indicator, as Taagepera’s research has shown, is not MPs per vote, but the log of the number of MPs to the log of population.

    As I noted previously, the Irish first chamber actually just about hits the cube-root-law estimate on the nose.

    The op-ed also mentions Citizens Assemblies as “best practice,” but their record of convincing their fellow citizens of their proposed reforms has not been so great. BC’s proposals won a majority, but fell short of the required 60%, and Ontario’s got about 36%. Whatever happened in the Netherlands? Were any of their proposals ever adopted? I like the concept of a Citizens Assembly, but so far (with an obviously small ‘N’) they have not amounted to much.

  6. A list would not necessarily be a terrible idea if and only if it was also elected by STV. A compensatory list would be a horror show to rival the ACT’s infamous STV/List PR mutant. A compensatory list calculated on first, not final, preferences, would not rival but many times exceed the ACT mutant.

    A better and simpler approach would be to adopt the ACT rule, which is entrenched by referendum, that districts have an odd number of members not less than 5.

    Calls for smaller, allegedly more efficient, legislative bodies are almost always based on ignorance or the self-interest of politicians. The more ‘efficient’ smaller Tasmanian assembly is having serious trouble staffing the executive and in any case is not, as the major parties intended (but did not admit) a Green-free zone.

  7. What Alan said. The Big Two thought it was bad enough having 5 Greens out of 35 (ie, 14.3%). Now they have 5 Greens out of 25 (20%), because the Greens have enough votes to take the last seat each time, but not enough for two quotas (although they ran the Liberals a close third in two electorates this time). How’d that work out for ya, Tony Rundle?

    PS: You can understand my confusion when coming across publications by a “David Farrell” writing about STV counting. Kind of like “Stefani” and “platinum-blonde singer with big public persona.” There are, as far as I can ascertain, two different David Rounds (neither related to me) who are university professors in Australia/ NZ…

  8. I could live with party-ranking if it approximated Belgian/ Dutch-style open lists in practice – ie, that the topmost candidate has (say) an 80% chance of being elected – but not if it guarantees a 99.999% chance that order of election within the party team will correlate to order on the ticket. Albeit in Australia this is reinforced by two add-ons – ticket-voting since 1984, and compulsory number-all-eighty-candidates prefererences since 1948 – which I doubt the Irish would copy (the latter would, I am advised, be considered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court).

  9. Enid Lakeman was quite critical of compulsory preferences,which she seems to have found incomprehensible. The other problem with adding a non-STV list component to the Dail is that you’d be asking electors to vote by different methods in the same election, which is a deeply bad idea.

  10. Wouldn’t a final distribution of preferences be a little bit complicated if there is a nation wide tier? How would it work, would it be by party or individual? I guess a best loser system by parties could work, but then one is losing the advantage of STV partyless proportionality.

    Could a two vote system work a la MMP? One vote for the local STV district, and the other vote is for a national wide tier best loser within a party. That might makes things complicated, one ballot the voter ranks numbers, and the other the vote just marks an X.

    Has any one every came up with a system of STV where one voted for parties/groups and not individuals, and the it was similar to closed party List PR, but one ranked the parties on the ballot.

    I think it would be better in Ireland to increase the district magnitude to ensure higher proportionality. Allow some 6 and 7 seat districts.

  11. @Suazzaprodi

    I am assuming a second transferable vote for the List TDs.

    STV does not really, except for ticket voting, take account of the party/individual thing.

    The NSW legislative council is elected by a system like your third paragraph.

    STV has serious problems with even-numbered districts. The Tullymander is the classic example where an Irish government sought to have odd numbered districts in areas it controlled and even numbered districts in areas the opposition controlled. The rationale was that the government would always win 2 of 3 seats on its own areas and the opposition would win only 1 of 2 seats in its areas.

  12. What Alan said but with one slight modification: STV has problems with mixing odd and even district magnitudes. If all districts are even, you might get institutionalised deadlocks (vide the Australian Senate, barring the occasional Barnaby Joyce to liven things up in every sense… How does the Northern Ireland Assembly get on with 6-seaters?) but it lacks the unfairness of a Tullymander.
    Indeed, I recall when I lived in Canberra there were ideas floated to replace the 7, 5, 5 arrangement for the ACT’s toy parliament with either three or four six-seaters and replace the Chief Minister with a directly elected [Lord] Mayor. (In Australia, all and only the State capital cities have a “Lord” mayor, whether s/he presides over some tiny inner-city precinct like Sydney or Mebourne or a vast quasi-city-[S]tate like Brisbane.)

  13. ahem Newcastle, Parramatta and Wollongong have Lord Mayors. Launceston is confused, but that happens in Tasmania (insert Appalachian joke here).

  14. Who knows? It could not possibly be related to then all being string Labor towns in a state where the ALP is the natural party of government.

  15. No, never in NSW. (C/f how the Bjelke-Petersen Govt in the 1970s amended the Qld Local Govt Act so that the State Governor in Council – ie, Cabinet – could decree whether a particular city or shire would elect its mayor or (back then) chairman by popular vote as opposed to vote of the other (back then) aldermen or councillors. There was absolutely no political cherry-picking involved…)

    Anyway… Off the topic of NSW and back to the main thread, which is a completely different matter, viz, highly localised MPs who have surnames beginning with “O'” and “Mac”.

  16. Matt — I should add that while I take your point about the record of citizen assemblies to date, there are grounds for arguing that one could succeed, at least in the Irish case. The BC one failed narrowly to surpass a super-majority requirement, and that despite not having any public funds allocated to the referendum campaign (recognized subsequently as an error). The Dutch CA called only for minor amendments to their electoral system, then the government fell, the sponsoring party was wiped out, and the whole thing was lost in the maelstrom. So, the record is: 2 bad defeats (Ontario and BC2), 1 narrow defeat (BC1), and 1 no contest (Netherlands).

    The particularity of the Irish case is the fact that any proposed change of electoral system would have to be passed by referendum. Any whiff of political party interest in the design of such a system and it would not pass (as happened on the two previous occasions — 1959 and 1968). This is especially important to note in the current climate of fury with the political establishment and all its works. This is why many of us are arguing that the only way to proceed on this would be a citizen-engaged process like a CA.

    For more discussion, see my post (“Political reform yes, electoral reform maybe”) on; see also Ken Benoit’s piece in the Irish Times at

  17. A list using STV for “top-up” seats? I do agree that it should be based on final preferences but with one modification: the votes for the elected candidates would be transferred to a voter’s next choice and then we follow the normal procedure.

  18. Since the Jenkins report and AV+, there’s been a running debate on STV/MMP hybrids. I proposed the idea which I viciously suggested could be called Mixed Member Preferential, here.

  19. Interestingly, Enid Lakeman was a devout Unitarian. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (and even if there were, which I’m not suggesting there is, one would be foolish to get into an argument on a Jewish blog…), but given her role in the Irish STV referenda it does seem ironic to think of her insisting “No! Not three – only one!”

  20. “Independents’ days: Liam Weeks writes from Ireland, where as many as 40 per cent of governments have relied on the support of independents in parliament,” Inside Story – Current Affairs & Culture (21 September 2010).

    At some point, you would think the largest opposition party would step in and say “All right, this bidding war for the allegiances of 2 or 3 or 4 independent MPs have gone too far. Much as we of course despise the Prime Minister and his/her party, we are even more opposed to the interests of the entire nation being subordinated to one or two constituencies through sheer horse-trading.[*] So, to put a stop to this auction of the national budget, we hereby announce that we will pair one of our side’s MPs to automatically vote the opposite way to each Independent, thus nullifying their influence.”

    Had some idea once that Australian Labor threatened to do this when Senator Brian Harradine’s demands for Tasmanian funding became (in Labor’s view) excessive.

    [*] As opposed to “goo[d]-goo[vernment]” type demands by more high-minded Independents such as John Hatton, Clover Moore, Ted Mack, Sue Davies, Craig Ingram, and the State-level Tony Windsor (NSW 1991).

  21. With the exception’ of Oakeshott’s attempt on the speakership, I think the Windsor/Oakeshott demands have been reasonable. The brilliant scheme to suborn an opposition MP, on the other hand, is something only the vat creatures of Sussex Street could think wise.

  22. Oh, I was thinking more of Jackie Healy-Rae in Ireland. Making his deal with the Taoiseach “none of anyone else’s business” is the icing on the cake, and he himself seems a particularly bad advertisement for STV-PR.

    Having said that, for many years Tony Gregory was held up as Exhibit A of Why STV Has Been Bad For Ireland (Senator Robert Byrd could not be reached to comment on the issue), yet there are two sides to every story and certainly plenty of Irish pundits, it seems, not all of them residing in or around Dublin North, believe that constituency had missed out on its fair share of government funding before Gregory made his deal with Haughey, so that Gregory’s funding bonanza was a matter of corrective justice rather than pork-barrelling.[*]

    Some of the minor-key perks that our Independents want – Speaker for Oakeshott, “electorate office funding commensurate with the responsibilities of an independent MP” for Andrew Wilkie – seem reasonable enough. As far as shovelling pork [*] goes, a Minister in Cabinet, or a Committee Chair in Congress – major-party heavies in both cases – seem much better placed than the occasional cross-bencher, even with a balance of power. (Driven on the roads around Kingaroy lately…?)

    [*] While the term is traditional, I am not sure we should speak of “pork” on this blog, especially on Sukkot.

  23. Wasn’t there an Irish who put a YouTube video of how Compensatory STV would work with wasted votes? Can someone find the link?

  24. We had a posting back in 2009 that no one responded to

    and Compensatory STV link is here

    It’s about Malta adding a Compensatory system to it’s STV system, but unfortunately the proposal is in Maltese.

    Can anybody translate it into English? It does not make sense in Google Translate.

    I am sure that it is possible to have a compensatory STV system, but then having the First preference Vote to compensate the parties at the Nation wide tier, would eliminate the benefits of STV which allows candidates to get elected from transfers.

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