Fallout from Greek referendum will impact on the Republic’s election poll

Posted By: July 01, 2015

 Brian Feeney. Irish News( Belfast). Wednesday, July 1, 2015   

MUCH excitement in the southern media about Sinn Féin being down three per cent in a
Red C poll at the weekend. Then of course there would be much excitement because the
southern media are unanimous in their hostility to Sinn Féin and grasp at any
prospect that the party is losing ground.

In reality three per cent is neither here nor there especially since it's close to
the poll's margin of error and anyway, who knows when the next election will happen?
Could be October, could be March next year. A lot can happen in between. 

The poll leaves Sinn Féin on 18 per cent which could give them 26 seats in the next
Dáil. What no one seemed to pay any attention to was the five per cent increase in
support for Independents giving them 23 per cent and a possible 33 seats. 

In other words the southern electorate remains very volatile with large numbers of
people rejecting the two main parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. The only safe
conclusion is that there will be a coalition.

Paradoxically the most dangerous poll for Sinn Féin is next Sunday's referendum in
Greece, that is if it actually takes place. Alexis Tsipras the Greek prime minister
threw a fragmentation grenade into the Eurogroup's bunker at the weekend to try to
invoke the support of the Greek people for his government's rejection of austerity

His position is that enforced austerity is strangling the Greek economy and
increasing debt to the point where it will be impossible to pay off even in a

The Eurogroup is a completely informal group within the EU's structures. It's the
finance ministers of the 19 states which have adopted the euro. They are not
accountable to anyone but are at present telling the sovereign state of Greece what
it must do to have an economy.

When Tsipras was elected he said his proposals were, ‘our political alternative to
neo-liberalism and to the neo-liberal process of European integration'. The
Eurogroup has told the Greek people they can't have it. 

Vote ‘yes' next Sunday to accept the Eurogroup's crushing austerity and stay in the
euro. Vote ‘no' next Sunday and exit the euro and possibly the EU.

So what has all this got to do with Sinn Féin? Simple: if Tsipras and his party
Syriza get stuffed – and if Tsipras loses he will have to resign – then Fine Gael
will be able to say they have been vindicated because Sinn Féin's policy is so
closely aligned to Syriza's. 

All the other political parties in the south will gang up on SF (as they have done
already) and say, ‘Look, if we'd done what SF asked in 2011 and 2012 we'd be in the
same mess as Greece.'

Instead the coalition will point to its successful exit from the bail out, rather
than from the euro, to growing employment and financial stability. In fact Michael
Noonan and Enda Kenny have for these reasons been among the nastiest critics of any
attempt to reschedule Greek debt or cut Greece any slack even though austerity has
brought 50 per cent youth unemployment and 40 per cent of children living in

Noonan and Kenny aren't alone. The Spanish government takes the same line fearful of
the rise of the radical anti-austerity party Podemos which did so well in the recent
Spanish local elections. 

Tsipras and his colleagues went into Eurogroup meetings to face ministers who had
taken enormous political risks by presiding over the collapse of their own country's
economies. Theyremain determined that Greece wouldn't be allowed to get away with
anything less.

Fine Gael intends to point to its economic success at home and abroad and enjoy the
plaudits of the IMF and ECB for toeing the line in contrast to disaster if they'd
followed the line Sinn Féin advocates. They will point to Greece as a terrible

The big snag in this approach is that there are still tens of thousands in the
Republic who have been ground into the dust by the austerity policies of Fine Gael
and who don't feel any benefit from being congratulated by the Eurogroup and its

Will they vote out of fear to support the Fine Gael policy or will they risk Sinn
Féin? Watch what happens in Greece.