Sinn Féin is Destined FOR A Dramatic Dáil Advance When The Next Election Comes

Posted By: June 14, 2014

Noel Whelan.  Friday, June 13, 2014.

I have been wrong about Sinn Féin in the past. I have tended to be premature in
predicting its electoral rise. Just over a decade ago, when Sinn Féin had five TDs
and its leaders enjoyed heightened celebrity at the centre of the Northern Ireland
peace process, I speculated about an outside possibility that Sinn Féin could win up
to 20 seats at the following general election. When that election came in 2007, Sinn
Féin’s seats actually fell from five to four, with Seán Crowe in Tallaght losing his

Setbacks in the peace process, delays in decommissioning, the IRA’s association with
the Northern Bank robbery and the murder of Robert McCartney, cumulatively served to
contain Sinn Féin’s growth in the Republic.

Bertie Ahern’s then popularity, particularly in working-class Dublin, and his subtle
but significant incursions into Sinn Féin’s republican turf – for example by
re-establishing the national 1916 commemoration for the 90th anniversary in 2006 –
also cut off some of Sinn Féin’s room for advancement.

More recently it was surprising that Sinn Féin did not get an immediate electoral
bounce out of the economic downturn. One would have presumed that rising
unemployment and the collapse of Fianna Fáil from 2008 onwards would have generated
rapid growth for Sinn Féin but this did not happen. The first election of the
recession was the 2009 local elections in which Sinn Féin got almost exactly the
same vote as it got in 2004 and Mary Lou McDonald lost her European Parliament seat.


Even the advance of Sinn Féin in the 2011 Dáil election was mediocre. It won nine
extra seats. Of itself that seems impressive, but not when one considers that on the
same day Fianna Fáil lost 51 seats, Labour won 17 seats and Fine Gael gained 25.
Sinn Féin fed very little off the Fianna Fáil carcass: Fianna Fáil’s vote fell by 17
per cent and Fine Gael and Labour each grew their vote by 9 per cent, but Sinn
Féin’s vote rose by just 3 per cent.

The party’s performance in the 2011 presidential election also failed to live up to
expectations. In Martin McGuinness, they selected one of the most high-profile
politicians on the island, but in a contest in which Fianna Fáil couldn’t even field
a candidate, and the Fine Gael candidate tanked, McGuinness managed only 14 per
cent. It seemed there was a “legacy of the Troubles” ceiling on the Sinn Féin
potential for growth in the Republic.

That has now all changed. Sinn Féin is clearly on a surge and is destined for a very
dramatic Dáil advance whenever the next election comes. I wrote here six months ago
that Sinn Féin was set for spectacular gains and would at least double its county
and city councillors. It polled 15.2 per cent and trebled its seat numbers.

Anyone seeking to excavate the Sinn Féin advance in last month’s election and assess
its implications for the next Dáil election would do well to start in Dublin South

Labour dominated this constituency in 2011. Pat Rabbitte topped the poll with 1½
quotas and he and Eamonn Walsh won two of the four seats for Labour. Sinn Féin’s
Seán Crowe and Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes picked up the other two. Fianna Fáil, which
dominated here in 2007, lost both its seats.

Tight grip

Now, however, Sinn Féin has a tight grip on the politics of Tallaght. In the
Tallaght South local electoral area, Sinn Féin got 50 per cent of the first
preference vote, won two seats and would have won another if it had sufficient
The Anti-Austerity Alliance, People Before Profit, Labour and an Independent won the
other four seats.

In the Tallaght Central local electoral area Sinn Féin took two of the six seats
with more than 32 per cent of the vote, the Anti- Austerity Alliance took another
two seats, while Fianna Fáil’s Charlie O’Connor and Labour’s Mick Duff took one

This massive Sinn Féin vote, and indeed the massive “anti-establishment” vote
generally, is tempered in the Dublin South West constituency by the more middle-
class make-up of the Templeogue-Terenure local electoral area.

Even there, however, Sinn Féin got a seat and 12 per cent of the vote (and
Independents got 30 per cent).

It all means that, notwithstanding the redrawing of part of the current Dublin South
into this constituency, Sinn Féin is well set to win two seats at the next general
election when Dublin South West is a five-seater.

Indeed Sinn Féin will not have to wait until the next general election to have two
TDs in Dublin South West. Paddy Power has installed Sinn Féin at 1/6 as the party
most likely to win the autumn byelection to fill the Brian Hayes vacancy.


Although these are amazingly bad odds, they appear correct in light of the local
election outcomes. Given the ongoing social and economic volatility that currently
underlies Irish politics, it is unwise to make even short-term predictions. It seems
certain, however, that Sinn Féin is now on a surge in the Republic and not only in
its original bases such as urban working-class areas and the Border counties.
© 2014