Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: SF shows strength in its poll numbers

The results of today's Belfast Telegraph poll of Sinn Fein members are largely predictable, but there is also hope that the party is moving on from its traditional philosophy of "Ourselves alone."

There is no surprise that 92% believe that Gerry Adams is the best person to lead Sinn Fein into the European elections, or that 91% feel that the party should contest the Irish Presidency.

This reflects Sinn Fein euphoria about their showing in the recent Irish elections, and also their optimism where 93% believe that there will be a united Ireland within 20 years. This optimism is further reflected by the 97% who would like to see more Protestants joining the party.

Sinn Fein's suspicion of established institutions is reflected in its minimal support for the Chief Constable Matt Baggott, with 8% approval. However in a sign such suspicion is waning, the 45% in the north and 46% in the south who said they would encourage a close relative to join either force is clearly a positive move forward.

Cardinal Sean Brady polled badly, with more than 81% of Sinn Fein stating that they do not trust him, but this reflects the large gap between the Republican movement and the Roman Catholic Church in recent decades.

The outgoing SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie fared even worse, with only a 3% approval. This was 4% less than that for Enda Kenny. Clearly Sinn Fein has no time for its nationalist rivals, but Peter Robinson and Owen Paterson polled well, with 29% and 23% approval respectively. People can take hope in the finding that 96% of Sinn Fein believe that the ceasefire will be permanent.

There is also a significant 97% majority who back Protestant and Catholic schools sharing facilities and teachers.

Overall, while many of the findings are not surprising, there is some comfort for the vast majority in Northern Ireland who back the peace process and greater understanding between the two main communities.

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