Transfers don't matter

The conventional belief that transfers are crucial is wrong. Only in a few constituencies do they matter. By Vincent Browne

Transfers don't matter. At least in the vast majority of constituencies they don't matter. Only 15 of the candidates who were "in the frame" in the first count (ie the first three candidates in three-seat constituencies, the first four candidates in four-seat constituencies and the first five candidates in five-seat constituencies) failed to get elected. Only in eight instances did transfers between parties have an important determinant in the outcome (Dan Boyle, Finian McGrath, Roisin Shorthall, Eamon Ryan, Jimmy Deenihan, Breeda Moynihan Cronin, Mae Sexton and Liam Twoomey).

This means that in the next election, Sinn Féin's performance will be little affected by its inability to attract transfers from other candidates. Neither is a transfer pack between Fianna Fáil and the PDs crucial.

The aberrant constituencies were:

Clare: In the first count, Brendan Daly for Fianna Fáil got 6,717; Pat Breen of Fine Gael got 4,541 votes. Breen defeated Daly because he was able to garner transfers from the other two Fine Gael candidates (Fine Gael had 25 per cent of the vote are thus were certain to take one seat). Transfers between parties didn't matter.

Cork East: On the first count, Paul Bradford of Fine Gael got 7,053 votes; Joe Sherlock of Labour got 4,792. Sherlock benefited from a large transfer from the other Labour candidate. Transfers between parties didn't matter.

Cork South Central: On the first count, Deirdre Clune of Fine Gael got 5,535; Dan Boyle of the Green Party got 4,952. Boyle won out because he got more Sinn Féin and Labour transfers than did Deirdre Clune. Transfers between parties did matter but the main issue was the decline in the Fine Gael vote.

Dublin Central: Nicky Keogh of Sinn Féin came third in the first count but still failed to take a seat in this four-seat constituency because the first count result was distorted by the huge personal vote Bertie Ahern got and the transfer of Fine Gael votes to Joe Costello of Labour. Transfers between parties did matter but that was not the central issue – that was Bertie Ahern's failure to manage the vote in the constituency.

Dublin North Central: In this four-seat constituency, Finian McGrath, Independent, was sixth after the first count, just behind Derek McDowell of Labour and well behind Deirdre Henchy of Fianna Fáil. He won because he got a large transfer from the Green Party on the 5th count. Transfers did matter but the main point was that Fianna Fáil just failed to get enough first preferences to take three seats out of four.

Dublin North West: Dessie Ellis of Sinn Féin was ahead of Roisin Shorthall of the Labour Party on the first count (by 390). She got a big transfer from Fine Gael and an Independent on the last count and won easily. Transfers did matter.

Dublin South: On the first count, Eamon Ryan of the Green Party got 141 fewer votes than Alan Shatter of Fine Gael and 25 fewer than Eithne FitzGerald of Labour. Shatter picked up almost no transfers. Ryan got transfers from Independent and Sinn Féin candidates and from a Fianna Fáil surplus. A crucial point was the collapse of the Fine Gael vote.

Kerry North: Dick Spring was ahead of Jimmy Deenihan of Fine Gael (by 121 votes) and of Tom McEllistrim of Fianna Fáil (by 889 votes). But Martin Ferris of Sinn Féin had topped the poll and Fianna Fáil was certain to take a seat, which meant it was between Deenihan and Spring. Deenihan made it by 489 voters. Transfers mattered.

Kerry South: Tom Fleming of Fianna Fáil was ahead of Jackie Healy-Rea, Independent (by 683 votes) and of Breeda Moynihan Cronin, Labour (by 1605 votes). Breeda Moynihan Cronin benefitted from a large Fine Gael transfer, as did Jackie Healy Rea, who won by 203 in the final count. Transfer from Fine Gael to Labour not surprising.

Limerick East: Mary Jackman of Fine Gael was ahead of Peter Power of Fianna Fáil on the first count (by 587), but with a surplus coming from Willie O'Dea and the elimination of another Fianna Fáil candidate, Fianna Fáil were certain to take two seats here. Transfers between parties didn't matter.

Longford-Roscommon: On the first count, Mae Sexton of the PDs was behind Louis Belton (by 83) and behind Greg Kelly of Fianna Fáil (by 1,751). She won the final seat from Greg Kelly by 55 votes, benefiting from Sinn Féin and Independent candidates' transfers. Transfers mattered but it would have been a surprise had Fianna Fáil taken three seats out of four.

Meath: Damien English of Fine Gael was behind Joe Reilly of Sinn Féin by 84 votes on the first count. Fine Gael was virtually certain to take two seats here out of five with 27 per cent of the first preference vote. O Reilly lost to English in the final count by over 2000 votes. Transfers between parties didn't matter.

Sligo-Leitrim: One Fianna Fáil candidate, Eamon Scanlon, was ahead of another Fianna Fáil candidate, Jimmy Devins, on the first count by just 58 votes. Devins won the seat because he got more transfers from other party candidates. Transfers between parties didn't matter.

Westmeath: Mary O'Rourke of Fianna Fáil was ahead of Paul McGrath of Fine Gael on the first count (by 874). Fianna Fáil had little chance of taking a seat here from Fine Gael and McGrath won by 450 votes. Transfers between parties didn't matter.

Wexford: On the first count, Hugh Byrne of Fianna Fáil was ahead of Liam Twomey, then an Independent (by 1,741). Twomey got elected because of Fine Gael transfers that became available once the party was failing to take a second seat. Transfers mattered.