\"Gerry

Gerry Adams with Mary Lou McDonald. Photo by: Irish Independent

Sinn Fein have their best Irish election since 1918

\"Gerry

Gerry Adams with Mary Lou McDonald. Photo by: Irish Independent

In 1918 Sinn Fein won 73 out of 105 seats contested in the only All-Ireland election.

This week’s elections North and South are their most successful elections since then.

1918 was a stunning victory forged in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising.

The old Irish parliamentary party led by John Redmond  lost 61 seats and were finished forever, having urged Irishmen to fight and die for Britain in the First World War.

Fast-forward almost 100 years to this election to the European parliament in Ireland North and South as well as local council elections and you are seeing the same type of surge from Sinn Fein and just as dramatic.

A European war of a different kind was behind the modern surge. The Irish government committed to repay all the loans to European banks taken by private banking institutions and almost bankrupted the country in the process.
 
Like in 1918 the Sinn Fein party has come from utter electoral obscurity. Until the hunger strikes of 1981 and the election of Bobby Sands to the House of Commons the political clout of the party North and South could be measured in the 1-2 per cent support range.

The path away from violence to politics and the peace process has galvanized support first in the North and now in the Irish Republic.

Fine Gael Minister for Tourism Leo Vardakar stated it baldly when he said the next Irish election would likely be between Fine Gael and Sinn Fein in terms of leading a government.

It is a stunning development, an extraordinary compliment to Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness who have managed a way forward from the armalite to the ballot box.

They have done so despite withering media criticism and vast suspicion about their turn away from the gun.

In the North, the party won the largest number of first preference votes of any party in Northern Ireland and finished very close to Fine Gael and Fianna Fail in first preferences in the Irish Republic.

Apart from Adams they have the most dynamic young politician in Ireland in Mary Lou McDonald, Deputy Leader, a feisty, committed woman seen as fighting for the little folk, who was described to me as “gold dust on the doorsteps” by a senior Sinn Fein figure.

The party is on the march and these elections once again sound the siren for the eventual path to government in the Republic as well as the North.

There are major issues. As a party of protest they are woefully short of economic insight relying on a dated “soak the rich” approach. They are also straining to keep up with the extraordinary growth in so short a time.

But they keep their eyes on the prize, not just for the local elections but the next two general elections and where they want to be. The discipline and focus is there, just as unrelenting as it was in the peace process. Sinn Fein plays the long game.

Like the old Irish parliamentary Party, the Labour Party appears to be the road kill for this new Sinn Fein juggernaut unless they can muster a dramatic comeback.

Yet the lesson of 1918 should not be forgotten. Sinn Fein never got to exercise that power due to partition, a civil war and splits.

Sinn Fein 2014 will be well aware of the pitfalls and taking nothing for granted.

In 1918 Sinn Fein won 73 out of 105 seats contested in the only All-Ireland election.

This week’s elections North and South are their most successful elections since then.

1918 was a stunning victory forged in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising.

The old Irish parliamentary party led by John Redmond  lost 61 seats and were finished forever, having urged Irishmen to fight and die for Britain in the First World War.

Fast-forward almost 100 years to this election to the European parliament in Ireland North and South as well as local council elections and you are seeing the same type of surge from Sinn Fein and just as dramatic.

A European war of a different kind was behind the modern surge. The Irish government committed to repay all the loans to European banks taken by private banking institutions and almost bankrupted the country in the process. Like in 1918 the Sinn Fein party has come from utter electoral obscurity. Until the hunger strikes of 1981 and the election of Bobby Sands to the House of Commons the political clout of the party North and South could be measured in the 1-2 per cent support range.

The path away from violence to politics and the peace process has galvanized support first in the North and now in the Irish Republic.

Fine Gael Minister for Tourism Leo Vardakar stated it baldly when he said the next Irish election would likely be between Fine Gael and Sinn Fein in terms of leading a government.

It is a stunning development, an extraordinary compliment to Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness who have managed a way forward from the armalite to the ballot box.

They have done so despite withering media criticism and vast suspicion about their turn away from the gun.

In the North, the party won the largest number of first preference votes of any party in Northern Ireland and finished very close to Fine Gael and Fianna Fail in first preferences in the Irish Republic.

Apart from Adams they have the most dynamic young politician in Ireland in Mary Lou McDonald, Deputy Leader, a feisty, committed woman seen as fighting for the little folk, who was described to me as “gold dust on the doorsteps” by a senior Sinn Fein figure.

The party is on the march and these elections once again sound the siren for the eventual path to government in the Republic as well as the North.

There are major issues. As a party of protest they are woefully short of economic insight relying on a dated “soak the rich” approach. They are also straining to keep up with the extraordinary growth in so short a time.

But they keep their eyes on the prize, not just for the local elections but the next two general elections and where they want to be. The discipline and focus is there, just as unrelenting as it was in the peace process. Sinn Fein plays the long game.

Like the old Irish parliamentary Party, the Labour Party appears to be the road kill for this new Sinn Fein juggernaut unless they can muster a dramatic comeback.

Yet the lesson of 1918 should not be forgotten. Sinn Fein never got to exercise that power due to partition, a civil war and splits.

Sinn Fein 2014 will be well aware of the pitfalls and taking nothing for granted.

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