Sinn Fein needs more than media exposure in the Republic…

Setting aside all polls and forecasts, and even the party’s reverse in its electoral fortunes last year, the Irish Examiner believes it is the party’s preoccupation with Northern Irish politics that poses it’s biggest difficulty in making headway in the southern polity.

Mr Adams was strongest when talking about northern issues — the proposed transfer of policing and justice powers, the campaign by some unionists to force out Ian Paisley, the commitment to establish a “high-powered taskforce” to drive forward “the roadmap to Irish unity”.

By contrast, when he delved into the issues dominating the agenda in the south right now, there was little of substance.

He had a couple of good moments — a soundbite about how Dustin the Turkey could have done better than the Government when negotiating the Lisbon Treaty, and a call for the highest standards in public life. “Public office should never be used for private gain or personal advantage.”

But even that statement’s impact was lessened by Mr Adams’ reluctance to criticise Bertie Ahern directly — perhaps because Sinn Féin still needs the Taoiseach’s support on northern issues. And the rest of the speech lacked specifics. He said prosperity and job creation were “key priorities” for Sinn Féin, but didn’t really spell out how the party might improve matters.

He said it was unacceptable that a large number of people still lived in poverty and children still went to school on empty stomachs — but again there was little in the way of detailed solutions. He got the obligatory standing ovation — and a hug from Martin McGuinness — but they seemed almost cosmetic to events happening elsewhere.

Elsewhere Chris has argued that Sinn Fein must not shift from its tradionally socialist identity, which given the left is already a fairly small and unprosperous ground in the Republic may not be the easiest way to curry electoral favour with southern voters. But when one of the party’s four TDs suggests that the party still has not got a “credible tax policy”, all the media exposure world is unlikely to be enough to turn the corner.