Sinn Fein, originally the political wing of the Provisional IRA and now committed, it seems, to the ballot-box rather than the gun, has become the most popular political party in the island of Ireland (that is, including both Northern Ireland and the Republic). Or so that consummate political blogger, Slugger o’Toole, infers from the election results:
As of this weekend, Sinn Fein can proclaim themselves to be the most popular political party in Ireland. Discuss.
All-Ireland European Election Results May 2014 Sinn Fein 483,113 – (21.2%) Fianna Fail 369,545 – (16.2%) Fine Gael 369,120 – (16.2%) Independents 328,766 – (14.4%) DUP 131,163 – (5.7%) Green Party 92,056 – (4.0%) Labour 88,229 – (3.9%) Ulster Unionists 83,438 (3.7%) SDLP 81,594 (3.6%) TUV 75,806 (3.3%) Alliance Party NI 44,432 (1.9%) Socialist Party 29,953 (1.3%) UKIP 24,584 (1.1%) DDI 24,093 (1.1%) PBP 23,875 (1.0%) Catholic Dems 13,569 (0.6%) NI21 10,553 (0.5%) Fis Nua 4,610 (0.2%) Conservatives 4,144 (0.2%)
So clearly the arrest and questioning of Gerry Adams over the brutal abduction and murder in 1972 of a single mother of ten children, Jean McConville, made little impression on electorates either north or south of the Border.
LATER This passage in an excellent OpEd piece by Fintan O’Toole in the Irish Times explaining why Sinn Fein is doing well.
At a number of levels, Sinn Féin’s operation south of the Border has been hugely impressive. It deserves great credit for what it has not done: exploiting anti-immigrant and anti-Traveller prejudice in a way that would have yielded quick dividends. (Sinn Féin is the reason that Ireland, almost uniquely, does not have a far-right populist party.)
It has taken gender balance far more seriously than any of the other main parties. It has done a superb job of bringing new, younger candidates and activists into politics. It has articulated, especially through Pearse Doherty, a substantial critique of the bank bailout. After a very poor start, it has enormously improved its performance in the Dáil. These are real democratic achievements.
But the pre-democratic past hasn’t gone away, you know. The old leadership still seems obsessed with seeking a retrospective endorsement from the southern electorate for its morally catastrophic campaign of violence. The irredentist side of the party is still focused on using power on both sides of the Border to force through a referendum on a united Ireland that would achieve nothing except a possible reignition of sectarian conflict.
There is something creepily cult-like in the fact that not a single party figure has broken ranks on Gerry Adams’s claims not to have been in the IRA, even though last week’s Irish Times poll showed that nearly 60 per cent of their own voters don’t believe he’s telling the truth.