Gerry Adams leads party’s surge as Sinn Fein become a significant force in the Dail
You'd have to go back to 1922, the year the Irish civil war started, to find a better result for Sinn Fein than the one they recorded last week.
Republicans will be aiming for a bandwagon effect in the Stormont and local government elections on May 5.
With speaking rights in the Dail, party leader and new TD Gerry Adams intends raising Northern and cross border issues in the Dail, calling for a new republic.
The party hopes this will cement their image as an all-Ireland force.
They more than trebled the four seats they won in 2007 and Gerry Adams has made the transition from poll topper in West Belfast to poll topper across the border in Louth. This despite an “Anyone but Adams” campaign and media disdain regarding his knowledge of the southern economy.
Sinn Fein, which used to be a party southern voters either
loved or hated, attracted second and subsequent preferences in greater numbers than ever before. This helped them to secure seats which seemed long shots for Sandra McLellan in Cork East and Michael Colreavy in Sligo North Leitrim.
Party insiders had been pessimistic about the chances of stalwart Mary Lou McDonald in Dublin Central, but after narrowly missing it in 2007 she pulled through this time.
However the collapse of Fianna Fail, which refers to itself as “The Republican Party” puts the Sinn Fein surge in perspective.
FF shed 24% of the popular vote and Sinn Fein picked up just 3.8% of this.
The big winners were Fine Gael (13.6%) and Labour (8.7%) who started from a higher base than Sinn Fein.
Mr Adams’ poll-topping performance in Louth added five points to the 15% scored by Arthur Morgan, the retiring Sinn Fein TD.
That’s very good for a new candidate, but not quite stellar when you realise that FF dropped 24%.
Most of those votes went to Labour while Fine Gael only failed to top the poll because they split their vote between two successful candidates.
Even so Fergus O’Dowd, the highest-scoring Fine Gaeler, wasn’t far behind Mr Adams.
Still Sinn Fein will be a significant opposition force in the new Dail, well-placed to build support by opposing cuts.
However the downside to being an all-Ireland party is that the government may hit back by pointing to the push for parallel cuts in the north where Sinn Fein is in power — a schizophrenic position that may well cause problems for them on both sides of the border.