Lay off Roscommon

in ireland

Averaged referendum results map of Ireland

Okay so. As far as my data goes:

  • Click either here, or on the image of Ireland, to see a bigger version of the SVG file.*
  • The Google spreadsheet I used to compile the numbers can be found here:
  • I pulled all of my raw data directly from this page at the website:
  • In the case of link rot, the raw referendum numbers are also available on Wikipedia:
  • I used this map of Ireland’s electoral constituencies as my source.


Roscommon and Leitrim have been slammed since yesterday’s referendum results. Every single constituency except Roscommon-Leitrim South had a majority of votes in favour of the marriage referendum. The proliferation of maps like this one and this one have cultivated the image of Roscommon as some sort of Irish Afghanistan. Tweets and posts on Reddit have conjured images of gun-toting Irish Taliban policing the polling booths. It’s a disingenuous narrative that builds a false dichotomy about Roscommon’s outlook. Half the people there voted “yes”; as Paddy McKenna pointed out this morning, parts of Donegal voted overall yes by the barest sliver of margin.

The truth of it is that awful visualization of data-and nothing else-has fed into this image. Generated maps of the referendum (the first) either used binary colour coding to represent yes/no, or used a different base colour (a shade of red instead of green) to highlight constituencies where the vote dipped below 50%.

I took the raw referendum data, averaged it into increments of five percentage points, and shaded a map of constituencies thus. The tally of votes of across most of the country hung very close to a 50:50 split. Sure though, there are trends toward positive in urban areas and to negative in rural constituencies. But regardless, when averaged and presented as shades of the same colour all of the differences tend to vanish.

Statistics can be used to lie and numbers made to dance if presented. In this case I believe the result is entirely accidental, but this should still be a warning for you to take heed! The maps in the media overlook the fact that every vote counts. Every individual “yes” and “no” vote goes toward the national tally. 48.6% of people in Roscommon-South Leitrim-almost half!-voted with a resounding “Yes!

Any divide conjured by media or commentators is based on visualizations that were only intended to provide quick, shallow overviews.

*I have no idea why the stroked borders between constituencies are uneven, sorry.

March 20

in me

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