Belfast Telegraph

Stakes high in Gerry Adams election gamble

Unless his election campaign goes really badly wrong, Gerry Adams should retain Sinn Fein's seat in Louth.

Defeat would be nothing short of a humiliation.

However, Mr Adams’ Dail bid will be judged on much more than his own personal performance.

Success will have to involve more than keeping what Sinn Fein currently holds.

If it cannot make gains in the crisis-hit climate in the Republic, then the republican party really is in big trouble.

To date, angry voters in the Republic have been gravitating towards Labour rather than Sinn Fein.

The Louth intervention is a significant gamble by Mr Adams.

His move will grab major media attention, but it will be fascinating to see just what impact it will have on Sinn Fein's support elsewhere in the Republic.

Its decline has been widely blamed in part on a failure to connect with southern voters on economic policies.

Mr Adams himself has been held partially responsible for that, particularly over a performance he gave in a televised leaders' debate on RTE.

The Republic’s ailing economy is clearly the number one issue at the moment, irrespective of long-term hopes for Irish unity.

Sinn Fein still has a major task persuading voters that it has a credible strategy.

It cannot really point to a massive economic policy success story from the Stormont Executive that it dominates with the DUP.

There are still doubts that a budget will even be agreed there before the next Assembly election.

Mr Adams can also expect renewed scrutiny about the child abuse allegations facing his brother Liam — and strongly denied by his brother.

The Sinn Fein president knew of these accusations while his brother remained a party activist in the Louth area.

But Mr Adams maintains he acted properly.

He said yesterday: “The last election in West Belfast I think showed ample evidence of what the electorate thought of all that — where we actually increased our percentage of the vote.”

The Irish media can, meanwhile, be expected to grill Mr Adams on his widely disbelieved denial of personal IRA involvement.

The conventional wisdom has held that SF's best hope in the Republic was to build well beyond its northern base — with a new generation of politicians coming through without a trace of “gunsmoke”.

Conventional wisdom did not see Gerry Adams quitting Belfast for Louth.

Belfast Telegraph

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