Sinn Fein eyes government, Irish unity poll after election surge
Dublin: Republican party Sinn Fein on Monday stood on the threshold of a potential role in Ireland’s government after winning the popular vote in a weekend election, a result shattering the political landscape.
The result from Saturday’s ballot broke the stranglehold of two-party politics in Ireland, opening up a potential role for a party once shunned because of its links to IRA paramilitaries.
Former leader Gerry Adams and other party representatives were even banned from the airwaves in the UK as violence raged over British rule in Northern Ireland over three decades to 1998.
But with two decades of peace and a new leader under Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Fein’s left-wing policies on tackling crises in housing and health found favour with voters.
McDonald said the two main parties — Fine Gael and Fianna Fail — were “in a state of denial” and had not listened to the voice of the people.
“I will talk to and listen to everybody,” she said on Sunday night.
Prime Minister and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar acknowledged the shift, and raised the prospect of protracted negotiations between the parties.
“It seems that we have now a three-party system. That is going to make forming a government quite difficult,” he said.
After ballots in all 39 constituencies were tallied on Sunday, Sinn Fein received 24.5 percent of first preferences in Ireland’s single transferable vote system.
That outstripped the opposition Fianna Fail party on 22.2 percent and its centre-right rivals Fine Gael on 20.9 percent.
“The Irish political system has to react to it and probably accept that Sinn Fein will be part of the next government,” Eoin O’Malley, associate professor at Dublin City University, told AFP. – AFP