Sinn Féin wins Irish election and seeks far-left coalition

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald (above centre), the big winner of last week’s Irish general election, with IRA godfathers Gerry Adams and the late Martin McGuinness

Sinn Féin – political wing of the terrorist IRA – has emerged as largest single-party from the Irish general election, and is now trying to forge a coalition with two leftwing partners – the Greens and the ultra-left party People Before Profit (whose origins in the Socialist Workers Party). It’s not yet clear whether PBP will bring along the other far left parties with whom it formed a joint slate in last week’s elections.

Between them Sinn Féin, the Greens and the far left have 54 members in the new Irish Parliament. While 80 seats are needed for an overall majority, Sinn Féin hope that the remaining parties and independents would be so divided among themselves that this block of 54 could be the core of a new governing coalition. Yet a stable government would surely depend on an agreement with Fianna Fáil, the party that grew out of the anti-treaty IRA in the 1922-23 Irish Civil War, but which has usually distanced itself from the Provisional IRA and its political front in recent years.

Fianna Fáil’s 37 MPs (excluding the Speaker) would give a Sinn Féin domnated coalition with the Greens and far left a total of 91 seats – a comfortable working majority – but reaching agreement ought to be tricky, given that Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin had pledged during the election campaign not to work with Sinn Féin.

The two old establishment parties – Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael – have 72 seats between them, but an ‘old gang’ coalition of this sort might seem like a kick in the teeth for voters who clearly opted for change.

Many non-Irish readers might be mystified by the failure of Fine Gael leader and outgoing prime minister Leo Varadkar, whose apparent triumph in last year’s Brexit negotiations with Boris Johnson seemed to bring the destruction of the Union, and Dublin’s dream of a ‘United Ireland’ closer than ever.

Outgoing Prime Minister Leo Varadkar (above right) seemed to have triumphed in Brexit negotiations with Boris Johnson, but has been decisively rejected by Irish voters.

Yet back home Varadkar was facing some of the same troubles that beset the former UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Ireland is no longer seen by the Irish as having benefited from an ‘economic miracle’. As in London, there is a housing crisis for young people, but again as in London most young voters have in response opted for the far left, choosing to ignore the parallel crises caused by mass immigration that has made Dublin unrecognisable in recent years.

Sinn Féin, which once played an ambiguous role, posing to European leftists as a socialist revolutionary movement, while presenting itself to the Irish diaspora in the USA as a traditional nationalist party sharing their social conservatism, has now reinvented itself inambiguously as a socially liberal party, ticking all the correct trendy boxes, though still unapologetic – indeed proud – of the IRA’s bloody record of murder and mayhem.

As with many such populist insurgencies, government might prove a trickier business than rhetorical opposition, and we have yet to see precisely how the new coalition will stack up a governing majority.

Meanwhile the rival populists of the conservative/eurosceptic right almost all failed: click here for details.

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