In An Phoblacht, Eoin O’Broin pinpoints at least three problems for Sinn Fein the wake of the last election, the poor media performance from Adams, policy confusion, and positioning difficulties in the very differently grammared southern polity:
Update: Mícheál Mac Donncha’s analysis from last week.
A substantial reduction in negative media coverage coupled with significant progress in the peace process ensured that on television and radio, in the papers and on the doors, we were involved in policy debates about the economy, taxation, health, housing and crime.
On all of these areas we have strong, radical, left-of- centre republican positions. However, we clearly failed to defend these positions effectively. The leaders debate on RTÉ was just one of a number of interviews post Ard Fheis in which senior party spokespersons appeared weak and uncomfortable with our policy positions.
Our attempt to avoid the issue of taxation was seen by the media for what it was: an exercise in evasion. The pre-election abandonment of our policies on corporation tax, capital gains tax and a 50% upper band made us appear inconsistent to many, irrespective of their actual view on the policy.
More importantly, it also alienated left-of-centre voters, who chose instead left independents such as Brid Smyth and Joan Collins, almost costing Aengus Ó Snodaigh his seat. The centre ground is a crowded political place. Sinn Féin does not belong there and should not be in the business of trading fundamental redistributive policies in the hope of short-term electoral gain. That’s a kind of politics that we should leave to Fianna Fáil.
The real difficulty is the apparent fiscal stranglehold British ministers seem to have left for their local Sinn Fein counterparts. The (albeit forced) actions of ministers in Northern Ireland are hardly compatible with a left wing identity in the Republic.
Partition may be sufficiently strong to demand two approaches north and south, but it also porous enough for the populations north and south to see where policy doesn’t join up.