“Sinn Fein’s supporters differ from Fianna Fail’s in that they are much less happy, and much less trusting.”

Slugger had some the thickest coverage the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis, courtesy of Alan and live tweeting from David. But for a rich under the skin analysis of where Sinn Fein finds itself after more than fifty days of the 32nd Dail’s inability to decide a government you have to go far to find better Eoin O’Malley’s:

In an election following years of austerity, with the water charges issue and even 1916, it seemed set up for a Sinn Fein breakthrough. But the party got less than 14pc of the vote – well down on its result in the European elections two years ago. It performed much worse than its sister parties in Greece and Spain, Syriza and Podemos.

It would have hoped that it could overtake Fianna Fail, which had hardly shone in Opposition, and relied on the ineptitude of Fine Gael for its recovery. The resurgent Fianna Fail remaining in Opposition makes it harder for Sinn Fein to carve out space for itself. Sinn Fein’s non-involvement in government negotiations is designed for the party’s long-term goal of becoming one of the top two parties in the State. But it is being accused of ‘sitting on its hands’.

Those accusations are a bit unfair because Sinn Fein is persona non grata. None of the parties would do a deal with it. Even the alphabet-soup Left can’t agree a transfer pact with it.

This might suit Sinn Fein for now. This is an anti-establishment ‘moment’.

The red meat is in O’Malley’s data on the social attitudes of those currently supporting Sinn Fein in the south. What’s particularly striking is how those attitudes clash with the policy positions of the party:

It is to Sinn Fein’s credit that it is not an anti-immigrant party – unless you happen to be the descendent of an immigrant who came to Ireland 400 years ago.

But like those voting for Trump or Farage, its voters are more chauvinistic than other parties. The European Social Survey, released last year, shows that Sinn Fein voters are less welcoming of immigrants: 21pc of its voters would allow no immigration, compared to 10pc of Fine Gael voters. On the other end of the scale, just 8pc would welcome ‘many immigrants’, compared to 18pc of Fine Gael voters.

On other issues, we see similar patterns. A quarter of Sinn Fein voters disagree with the statement that ‘Gays should be free to live as they like.’ This compares with less than 10pc of Fine Gael supporters. On other social issues, such as the role of women, we see that Sinn Fein voters are as conservative as those of Fianna Fail, which is more surprising, given the younger age profile of the Sinn Fein voter.

Where Sinn Fein’s supporters differ from Fianna Fail’s is that they are much less happy, and much less trusting.

That they don’t trust the institutions of the State, such as gardai and the courts, might not be surprising, but they also don’t trust their fellow citizens. Forty per cent of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail voters agree that ‘most people can be trusted’, but just 20pc of Sinn Fein’s voters do.

The Sinn Fein message suits these people, but it could become a problem if Sinn Fein ever wants to govern.

 This last is a key point.  All political parties attract a broad range of opinions but, with a few exceptions, Sinn Fein has been slow to court the middle-class vote, north or south, it needs to consolidate its gains. Thus, many of their most voluble supporters online are anonymous and permanently angry.
The limitations were evident in February’s elections:

While Sinn Fein’s politics will delight a minority, it repulses many, even those who should be its friends. The radical Left doesn’t regard it as genuinely left-wing; it sees it as a populist party using the class struggle for its nationalist ends. The centre Left regards it as too left-wing and find its brand of aggressive nationalism abhorrent.

This hits the party where it matters. Its ‘transfer toxicity’ might be overplayed, but Sinn Fein still gets fewer transfers than a party of its size should.

This cost it three seats in the February election. Just as many US voters will vote for anyone but Trump, most Irish ones will support anyone other than Sinn Fein.

Gerry Adams, like a Trump or Farage, gets headlines. Teenagers love selfies with him. But it stops the party from being taken seriously as a potential party of government. An interviewer had only to throw a few numbers at Adams and watch as he was left reeling in confusion.

It’s hard to see him going unless he wants to go. Politicians have big egos and don’t naturally realise they are a liability on their own. Sinn Fein is stuck with him.


  • Alan Lavender

    Speaking even as an Englishman, outsider and utter blow-in, Sinn Féin has long been the only credible party for me and it remains a total mystery why groundswell support doesn’t translate at the ballot box. With Pearse Doherty easily the smartest best-informed speaker in the Dáil (remember the 1% transactional tax?) it all boils down to a fiscal policy that – shock, horror – favours the majority. And Ireland, not remarkably, is ruled by a minority. Yes it’s 2016 (the times I have said 1916). But if our time is not now our best qualities are patience, engagement, and building on gains made. There. I’ve broken the blow-ins’ rule of not talking politics.

  • Ulick

    “I think for under the skin analysis of where Sinn Fein after more than
    fifty days of inability to decide a government you have to go far to
    find a better account from Eoin O’Malley”

    Only because there is a dearth of balanced reporting when it comes to Sinn Féin. Sadly O’Malley’s latest Denis O’Brien sponsored missive doesn’t go anywhere towards making up the shortfall. Incidentally, it’s not like you to leave out a link to the source Mick.

  • Jag

    Is there a link to the full results of Eoin’s survey (SF more anti immigrant than FG, for example).

  • Ulick

    Lest I’m accused of being another sensitive Shinnerbot, as Mick may (or not) say, you’d have to go far to find a better analysis of the Irish media than Oliver Callan who is fast becoming recognised as the most astute and incisive independent commentator of modern Ireland.


    The Shinners also seem to be getting under O’Brien’s skin with their lobbying of the EU Commission to review media ownership in Ireland, which has prompted a series of Independent Group attacks on Lynn Boylan. O’Malley’s insidious piece for that stable is pretty much the journalistic equivalent of “taking (O’Brien’s) shilling”. There is absolutely nothing coming from that Group which can be taken seriously in relation to Sinn Féin. Unfortunately Mick you seem to be directing Slugger down a similar route.

  • Teddybear

    I suggest you read some history books. Sinn Fein thought it was a fine idea to blow up innocent people over a 30 year period. No harm to some of you English folks but you’re a hopelessly naive lot sometimes

  • Gingray

    Ach Mick, you can do better – O’Malley never lets truth get in the way of an attack on Sinn Fein, hence the cherry picking of polling to support views. Completely meaningless.

    If the current deal goes down then FF will be in the position of “opposition” while keeping the Government in power. SF will in turn become the defacto opposition. This still scares your chums at the Sindo.

  • Jag

    “remember the 1% transactional tax?”

    Is that the financial transaction tax, which at 0.1% of each transaction would generate around €500m from tax in a year, though with €500m of additional overheads in Ireland, financial companies would very quickly divert transactions to London, and would possibly relocate operations there also.

    And when that happened, there would be no €500m in tax, and no employment and other economic activity associated with the businesses which had relocated elsewhere.

  • Jag

    It’s incredibly difficult to pin SF down these days.

    It has grown at a rate of knots since 2011, probably peaked in support in 2013/4 as the economy plumbed to its low-point, and its performance over the past 5 years has been patchy: the high point was the 2014 European elections, it did okay with the 2014 locals, its low point was probably the Dublin South West byelection when Paul Murphy pipped the SF dead-cert amidst the pinnacle of the anti-water charge protests. SF didn’t win a single one of the seven by-elections in 2011-2016 (FG won two, socialists won two, FF won one, Labour won one and Indies won one). There have been a raft of internal discipline matters in the past two years, not just in Cork. The recent election was a massive disappointment when compared with the 2014/5 polls, though SF grasps the fact it has increased its TD count by 60% from 2011.

    Attendees at recent SF rallies have been difficult to categorise. There’s still the 1970s hardman, and older lefty types, but there’s also a lot of young people (who, as Labour have found out are notoriously fickle) and a fair smattering of professional types. Women are particularly drawn to SF.

    It’s a cliche to say parties are at a cross-roads but that’s where SF is. Despite the grandeur of the Ard Fheis, the party’s fortunes have declined in the past year. It has an uncertain position in the Dail, it has some good people but a lot of dross, and is light on realistic policies (see financial transaction tax below). They’ve been dealt their hand though, it could be worse, they have opportunities, but it’s difficult to see the Shinners going anywhere fast anytime soon.

  • Jag

    Ah now Ulick, Denis O’Brien’s skin had been gotten under by the Shinners long before the very recent EU review of media concentration in Ireland. The Independent newspaper group under the O’Reillys and latterly under Denis O’Brien (though remember, Denis only owns 30% and he gets touchy when people says he controls the newspapers), have always been hostile towards the Shinners, who in the 1970s were regarded as subversives, in the 1980s were regarded as marxists with guns and in the 1990s-2000s were seen as being anti business and anti private sector (remember it was SF policy until 2007 to increase corporation tax).

    In a democracy, the press is free is hold politicians to account, and let’s face it, SF has an especially rich closet of skeletons.

    I much prefer a democracy where the Indo has the freedom to castigate SF than say, a compromised press which give us the fawning frontpage apology from the Andersontown News to Gerry Adams after it correctly reported West Belfast was a sh*thole under the Shinners.

  • Jollyraj

    “(SF) probably peaked in support in 2013/4 as the economy plumbed to its low-point”

    Very much the key problem for SF. How well things are going generally is inversely proportional to their success as a party. If things go badly, SF prosper – hence their vested interest in making lives miserable in NI. Doing so boosts their vote. A true jackal of a party.

  • submariner

    GF ive a sneaking feeling Teddybear is the latest incarnation of our old friend Covenanter/Cue Bono

  • Ulick

    There is but Eoin and Mick won’t want you digging too deep in case you might find something that contradicts their analysis.


    But here’s what I found in under 5 minutes. What they (O’Malley & Fealty) describe as those “currently supporting Sinn Fein in the south” is actually those who gave them a 1st preference 5 years ago in 2011. Since then the SF popular vote increased by 74,658 (34%), so the survey data they use to draw sweeping conclusions about the current SF support excludes 34% of the actual SF support.

  • murdockp

    It seems to me the issue at its core not about flags or national identity, it is about SF’s values

  • mary

    Great keep him in there, do his party more harm than good.wreck NI Civil Rights country is in a mess thanks to Psf in Stormont buddies dup

  • Jag

    When you’re in Opposition, it’s always helpful when the economy is going down the toilet because that boosts your chances at the next election.

    Perversely, in NI, it is the unionists who need to be able to portray this place as a basket case forever dependent on the teats of the Westminster parliament. God forbid this place would ever stand on its own two feet, which increases the likelihood of reunification!

  • Jag

    If that’s correct Ulick, the survey is 5 years old, then maybe Mick might have pointed that out. A week is a long time in politics, 5 years in the South has been a few lifetimes.

  • Ulick

    FG got 801,628 first preference votes in the 2011 election against 220,661 for SF. The FG vote came from all sections of society mostly voting against FF. Any fundamental understanding of statistics would suggest it is very likely that the FG vote incorporated an extremely large church of opinion. As such it’s understandable that a quantitative tallies would show much less polarisation of views. Of course the two gentlemen know this as well. A fairer more insightful analysis would have used closer or more appropriate comparators instead of the polar opposite. As I said somewhere else, the article is insidious. Quite deliberate in it’s intention although maybe not as blatant as the usual Indo fayre. Plug it in with other similar articles from supposedly independent southern commentators such as Derek Mooney and the Populist Watch Ireland (chortle) dude and you can see exactly what Slugger is doing.

  • Jag

    Don’t know how Brexit links to a financial transaction tax, Green?

    As for the £10bn, aren’t we past that at this stage. We know that’s the gross payment from Westminster to NI. What we don’t know are the taxes raised on economic activity in NI. We can isolate around £7bn in VAT and income tax. But we don’t know what corporation tax is generated, say, by the likes of Sainsburys, Tesco, M&S which are all headquartered in London and pay their corporation tax there.

  • Jollyraj

    Republicans have always tried to have their cake and eat it on that one (and probably later will deny ever having been in the bakery). 30-year campaign to cripple the place economically (now laughably blamed on unionism) to convince the rest of the UK to jettison it, whilst trying to convince Ireland proper that they should even want a union with us. Funny, the things Gerry does have ye’s at, boys.

  • chrisjones2

    What nonsense …. a vibrant self sufficient NI would be even less likely to need a Republic and would benefit ALL our people

  • chrisjones2

    “SF will in turn become the defacto opposition. ”

    Yeah ….like

    So now we have come away from ‘in government’ to ‘leading the opposition”

  • kensei

    If economy is good, Unionist well argue we don’t need a UI. if economy bad, Unionists will argue that we cannot afford a UI. fancy that.

  • Neil

    Sinn Fein’s win was simply protest vote

    Sinn Fein will continue to bask in the glow of the Donegal victory, but a grim day of reckoning is coming sooner rather than later. In the upcoming general election, though to be taking place early next year, the voters will have the final say. Sinn Fein and its supporters may then wake up to political and financial reality.


    That was 2010. Rumours of their imminent demise appear to be somewhat exaggerated. You see for as long as there has been a SF there have been plenty of people saying that their day was just about to come to an end. They simply get a protest vote. They’ve peaked and are on the way down.

    The problem with that analysis is that it flies in the face of every single piece of evidence in Christendom. SF continue to grow. I know you want them to wither and die, but by suggesting you think that’s what’s about to happen, off the back of continuous growth, well it kind of seems like you’re just fantasising really.

  • kensei

    Quite. But the idea that an MP out of power at Westminster has anything other than the most marginal say over what happens in their constituency remains one of the most stupid things I have heard.

  • Gingray

    Sorry, are you referring to me here?

    I was always of the opinion that SF would not be in government in the South at this election, but I could see them as a minority partner for FF in 2-5 years.

    If you are referring to SF themselves, I believe they, like most parties before an election, say they want to be in government. But SF always said they would not be in government with FG or FF (both of whom ruled out coalition with SF).

  • Gingray

    BTW Chris, are you not concerned that Mick is promoting a poll based on information gathered at the 2011 election? Its 5 years out of date …

  • kensei

    If SF voters are apparently as intolerant as made out, the papers and chattering classes in the Republic should be applauding SF for channeling that energy towards economic policy and not demonising anyone.

    The Left is also fractious. Well there’s a shock I’ll never recover form. And the lack of a transfer pact probably hurts the Left overall as much as SF.

    I think I’d still rather be SF in this Dail than Labour. 3 ‘lost’ seats really isn’t going to matter a great deal in the full scheme of things – being the third largest party gives them a platform it’s up to them to use, and FF have a few strategic weakness if they enable the government.

  • Croiteir

    What a very poor piece.

    If that was a bad election for SF I bet they are hoping for a whole lot more of them. It may not be as good as they or others expected but it is good, they have displaced Labour as the third party.

    That FG and FF are not talking is not unsurprising – they said they would not due to the divergence of economic policy. The left will not speak to them because they are rivals in that pool of voters. They have learned what happens when small parties provide mudguards for larger ones, it works in opposition as well as government.

    Odd that he says that SF are against the descendants of immigrants of 400 years ago – considering the roles Adams and Morrison play(ed) in the party.

    Chauvinism – old Chauvin the ultra patriot would be chuffed – is more pronounced in SF – hardly surprising really – they are nationalist and unlike FG who would shudder at the loss of the Czech or Polish nanny the working class – whatever that is – are at the front end of the negative aspects of immigration.

    And the issue of non trust in the institutions of the state – again hardly surprising when one considers the supine nature of the Irish govt and institutions who merely acted as extensions of Britain following being cowed by the Monaghan/Dublin bombs. I am still trying to figure out how that make sthem unhappy though.

    I just could not now be bothered with the rest of the piece.

  • jimjam

    “Any fundamental understanding of statistics” would suggest that what you say is sheer rubbish. There is no reason why a sample from 800,000 people should show more or less variability than one from 220,000 people.

  • Teddybear

    Slugger doesn’t belong to you select folks.

  • Reader

    kensei: fancy that.
    The republican argument is equally adaptable. Your problem is, it appears to have less traction.

  • Ulick

    There’s lots of reasons, don’t blame me if you can’t figure them out. But I’ll give you a clue. Voters are not random “samples” as you seem to be suggesting. They are self-selecting groups based on who they are voting for. However in this case the FG vote given it size in relation to the population will cross more socio-economic groups.

  • jimjam

    As Slugger said, the data came from the European Social Survey which specifies that in each country “Individuals are selected by strict random probability methods at every stage.” The data were then analysed by variables including voting behaviour, social attitudes etc.
    By the way don’t patronise me please – I am a Chartered Statistician.

  • Reader

    jag: …5 years in the South has been a few lifetimes.
    So in the intervening 5 years has SF traded in its sub-standard supporters for more liberal ones from Labour? Or maybe the “Ireland for the Irish” sub-text has been leavened by an influx of ex-FG supporters?
    SF has continued to position itself as a nationalist party of protest. Some of the consequences of that aren’t going to look pretty.

  • Paul91

    Which makes the SDLP slogan ‘Lets make partition work’ all the more baffling.

  • Bill Slim

    I thought that was supposed to be me Cap’n? Perhaps too many years vegetating under the North Atlantic on behalf of Her Majesty have put barnacles on your periscope. It may come as a surprise to you but there are more in this world opposed to the political wing of the most prolific murderers in western Europe than you think.

  • chrisjones2

    From Slugger I always assumed it was viral

  • cu chulainn

    NI is a not designed to benefit all the people, it exists to serve the colonial class.

    However an economically improving NI would soon find the UK model, based as it on on SE England, rather limiting and incapable of delivering the higher living standards enjoyed in the Republic.

  • aquifer

    Sinn Fein recently railed against some token remembrance of British culture in the South of Ireland. I have forgotten the detail as it was typical rather than remarkable. The problem is that this is grave dancing. British culture in ROI was crushed by the sectarian Diva Devalera, and Unionists and all others are entitled to read potential sectarian triumphalism into this behaviour, and reject Sinn Fein as toxic, but also foreign to what the island has become, and can become as a united polity.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Jag, what was this Andytown News apology?

  • Jag

    Sorry, here’s the background, will try to track down apology later http://sluggerotoole.com/2008/03/28/blink-and-youll-miss-it/

  • kensei

    By “British culture” do you mean “british Army”? those are a bit different. But given you’ve been non specific, and veered off to Dev – dead 40 years – i’m not sure it’s SF’s prejudice showing?

  • Ulick

    FFS are you being serious? No one is questioning the sampling methodology or the ESS results. My posts if you read through them again (slowly) assume that the ESS results are correct. However I question the conclusions drawn from the data by O’Malley and Fealty. This is based on the socioeconomic base of the electorate for each Party, not as you seem to think, the sample used in the survey to extrapolate about the electorate. If you can’t tell the difference you really find a new job pal, Charted whatever or not.