Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Sinn Fein's election result realigns Irish politics - the recent vote for the party was unprecedented

Sinn Fein's Paul Donnelly, Mary Lou McDonald and Gerry Adams at the Dublin West by-election count at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin
Sinn Fein's Paul Donnelly, Mary Lou McDonald and Gerry Adams at the Dublin West by-election count at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin

An opinion poll in the Sunday Independent on June 8 suggested Sinn Féin support had increased to 26% since the European and council elections.

Significantly it showed that 25% of the southern electorate consider the party’s economic policies to be the most credible, higher than all the other parties.

At the heart of Sinn Fein’s analysis of, and strategy for addressing the economic and financial crisis is the position that stimulus measures, not austerity are needed to reduce the deficit, and achieve economic growth and recovery.

That is an economic perspective which makes sense – balanced economic development, instead of primacy for unregulated market forces, which only promote the interests of economic elites.

Opinion polls of course, come and go.

However, this latest poll bears out one clear fact; a fundamental realignment is taking place in Irish politics.

Sinn Féin contested the recent elections across Ireland on a platform of economic recovery and opposing austerity, supporting equality, national democracy and defence of the Peace Process.

That message struck a chord with citizens throughout Ireland; farming and fishing communities, which feel cheated by Europe: business people burned by the banking and political golden circle: the many with, and without work, who cannot get by: and, those angry about the undermining of the Peace Process.

After the Irish Presidential election in October 2011, the Sinn Féin leadership embarked on a strategy to build towards half a million votes by 2016.

Three weeks ago over 483,000 citizens voted for Sinn Féin. Our party is now the largest in Ireland.

Those votes have been invested in a vision and strategy for change.

The challenge now is to continue realigning Irish politics through strong Sinn Féin representation in Europe and Ireland; developing an economic model which guarantees recovery, promotes business and investment, and protects workers’ rights; maximises political and fiscal sovereignty north and south; and, successfully persuades all sections of society to support the creation of a multi-cultural, agreed and united Ireland.

There are new political opportunities to bring about change for the benefit of everyone.

Engagement and making alliances across Irish society, and with other progressive, democratic opinion will be essential to that.

The recent vote for Sinn Féin was unprecedented.

As Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done”. Well, we have more to do.

Sinn Fein will not take our mandate for granted.  We will use it to make more change.

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