Suzanne Breen reports that the two governments will not want to be the agency that excludes Sinn Fein from any future arrangements. Instead it will be up to the party’s local rivals to exert political pressure at the up and coming elections in May.
At the moment however, this appears to be unlikely:
Sinn Féin is unlikely to lose votes in May’s Westminster elections. Indeed, it’s poised to take at least one seat (Newry and Armagh) off the SDLP, and possibly two more, (Foyle and South Down), potentially leaving the SDLP with no Westminster representation. The worst scenario for Sinn Féin in the North is that it loses some second preferences from hardened SDLP voters in the council election, likely to be held on the same day as the Westminster contest.
The more telling contest is likely to be a litmus for the party’s fortunes in the Republic:
The big test in the Republic will be the Meath by-election for John Bruton’s old seat. Sinn Féin candidate Joe Reilly has long been expected to perform strongly. Sinn Féin sources are unconcerned by last month’s Irish Times poll. At eleven per cent, the party’s share of the vote has fallen only one per cent since the Northern Bank raid.