Gerry Adams concedes that his party faces a lot of work in the next two years before the council elections in 2009. The sheer size of the gap between current political reality and the party’s own ambition is see when you consider that its performance compares unfavourably with the Alliance party in Northern Ireland. In the recent Assembly elections the Alliance Party garnered 5.2% of the vote and took seven seats in an Assembly of 109 members. Sinn Fein took 6.9% of Thursday’s vote, which brought them just four seats out of a total of 166 in Dáil Éireann. Although on a better day they might have expected to made a gain or two on their previous total, the poor correlation between percentage of the vote and their seat tallies suggests that they have some considerable way to go before becoming accepted as part of the political landscape south of the border. That their sole surviving Dublin TD only made it with the help of transfers from several other leftist candidates also suggests they are fishing in the margins of an over crowded market.
The sheer foreign-ness of the party to most southerners is a major problem. Adams almost completely ignored Roisin Duffy’s question on This Week today that the widely held perception of the party was as ‘political tourists’ whose political legitimacy is part underwritten by their status as MPs, ie the Westminster parliament, and not the Dáil. There is little doubt that the heavily accented northern leadership is becoming increasingly incongruent to southern voters.
The failure to take even one of the two Donegal seats, and the large slippage in the support of Mary Lou McDonald’s vote in Dublin Central, presents a major problem for them going forward in this area.