“Republicans had expected to do better because the conditions were so favourable”

Liam Clarke in the BelTel today with his views on Sinn Fein’s performance in #Aras11 (Liam says 6, and maybe 7 out of 10):

It was less than they expected, but it left a solid base on which to build in every constituency. Their share of the first preference vote was 13.7%, compared to 9.9% in the recent general election which was, itself, an all-time high.

Sinn Fein’s internal target during the contest was 20% and on the afternoon of the count Mary Lou McDonald, a Sinn Fein TD, predicted 14-18%. Republicans had expected to do better because the conditions were so favourable.

It’s hard to judge from a northern point of view what these results actually mean within a political market that’s very different to that of Northern Ireland. Impossible, for instance, to conceive of a party of government in the Republic taking a five week leave of absence from the Taoiseach’s office and rival parties sitting on their hands and keeping quiet.

I think Clarke is being a tad too generous when the party clearly missed its publicly stated target (gotta be a 4 maybe 5 on that criteria alone). It’s worth looking back at Anthony McIntyre’s (highly accurate IMHO) assessment of Sinn Fein’s progress in this year’s General Election:

Since then (2007) Sinn Fein has made a remarkable recovery. Its fortunes are linked to the implosion of Fianna Fail. Its electoral success earlier this year came in the wake of Fianna Fail’s disastrous management of the economy. Votes that could otherwise be expected to go the way of the Soldiers of Destiny instead landed in the laps of the Soldiers of Decommissioning.

The opportunity to make further gains has been gifted to the party because Fianna Fail, having botched the Gay Byrne option, then pulled up short in the warm up to the race for the presidency. Fianna Fail left dangerously exposed by its own ineptitude can hardly claim to be taken aback by the appearance of a menacing Sinn Fein U Boat alongside its own rudderless vessel.

At the heel of the hunt, it turned out not to be so menacing after all. Scraping all else to one side, this is a shoring of the base, with a borrowing of votes from previously uncontested constituencies and weak penetration of the independent vote.

And whilst in constituencies (where the telling detail often lies in southern politics) like Donegal South West their incumbent TD will survive; McGuinness came second to Gallagher with 28.4% compared to Doherty’s 33%, the prior appeal to Fianna Fail voters seems to be receding.

Further reading: See Mark McGregor’s follow up to his earlier Slugger analysis here.

  • I think if SF had got 1%-2% more they could claim a better than expected performance.(yes I know they were managing expectations).
    And 1%-2% less than the actual total might give people a reasonable claim that they had performed poorly.

    Non partisans will recognise it as a steady build. But I wonder if they actually lost some votes in that final 48 hours for being just too cute……and whether thats worth sacrificing to keep Gallagher out and get Higgins in.

    What we are really left with…is the actual result……..and partisan analysis along “the glass is half full/half empty”and not very illuminating.

  • Mick Fealty

    FJH, anything can be true if you ignore everything that happened or was said more than five minutes ago!

  • lamhdearg

    I would think, they would have needed at least 5% more, to claim “a better than expected” or even a good performance. but what they got, is not low enough to call poor, they just dodged a red face and no more, pity.

  • andrew2

    I think it was a poor result.

    It has been said that ‘they didn’t expect to win’. When they entered this may well have been the case, if one argued from party percentages in the previous election. However it soon emerged that there was very little correlation between previous choices and who the individual intended to vote for for President. This being the case a very large number of votes were ‘up for grabs’.

    Sinn Fein had the great advantage of having been, in many minds, right about the Celtic Tiger, and in fact being practically alone in being right. Martin McGuinness’s ‘industrial wage’ could also have been a vote-winner. They might have grabbed a very large share of this floating vote.

    And yet they didn’t, for obvious enough reasons. Indeed they stirred up a lot of sentiments which had been decaying or even decayed.

    Surely to get any credence in the South, they must now get rid of their has-beens, so that in seven, fifteen, twenty years time, even someone like myself may say – they are not too bad considering where they came from!

  • Cynic2


    I think this article is disgraceful and dangerous.

    Before you published, did you not even consider the possible impact this dose of reality might have on poor Chris Donnelly, whose hyperbole gland has been in overdrive since last week? To even suggest that:

    1 the sun does not now shine out of Marty’s fundament

    2 it was he that graciously gifted Aras to Higgins or

    3 SF may not (yet again) be on the verge of the ‘big breakthrough’ (TM) in the Republic

    could have a devastating impact on the poor man’s whole psychology and world view.

    Be gentle please. You trample on his dreams.

  • Mick Fealty

    Chris is made of sterner stuff than that! And a valued member of the blogging team.

    Does not mean we have a prior agreement pact on everything. In fact, if anything, we have a prior agreement to disagree.

    I think where Liam’s possible 7/10 might be justified is if you take the degree of difficulties faced by McG. But as I have said ad nauseum on here throughout the campaign, you cannot drive a southern campaign based on your experience and titles from the north.

    A lot of people (not just republicans) will be rightly disappointed at this result. But to some extent, you have to blame the campaign that never materialised. As I have also said, a politician of McG’s stature deserved much much better. Peace Process/Mandela/Industrial wage looks like a grab bag more than a strategic advance.

    Time for the AC to admit some operational staff from the Republic if they going tomove on from pure opportunism.

  • Cynic2

    AC = Ard Chomhairle or Army Council? +

    We should avoid any confusion

  • OneNI

    In the end it all became a desperate effort to prevent Sean Gallagher (and FF by proxy).

  • keano10

    Mark McGregor’s piece smacks of revisionism – namely in relation to his own predictions! To remove the five constituencies in which SF did not stand in the General Election is a bit disingenuous bearing in mind that they will almost certainly contest all of them next time around as the votes cast for SF now provide viable opportunities for gaining new seats (unexpectedly). You make stats do anything, but Mark has stretched his discression a bit too much here.

    I cant believe that an increase of 3.8% has come undet such vitriolic attack in comparison to the armageddon style collapse in the Fine Gael vote.

    And lets know also forget that 1 week before the election an opinion poll put Sinn Fein on 19% (2nd place) when people were asked who they would vote for in the next election.

    Statistics, damn statistics… 🙂

  • lamhdearg

    Keano, are you saying 13.5% matched your predictions.

  • keano10


    13 just about matches the number of different aliases that you use on this site…

  • Blissett

    This is the second such article which rather plainly, misses the point. 7 out of 10 performance quite easily.
    The key factor which is being neglected by commentators here is the party political opinion polls conducted during this campaign. These saw SF rise from 11 to, variously, 16, 17 and 19pc, all times highes, and in 2 opinion polls above the LP and FF.
    McGs vote was not what it might have been, and is disappointing from that perspective. However, this was not all about electing a president (though some more giddy shinners, thought that might have been possible.
    It was about increasing the profile of the party, and building it, and announcing its arrival in the mainstream. On that criteria it must be considered an acceptable run out. New members (the rallies for martin were an impressive show of strength, 400 in cork, 500 in sligo, 700 in galway, 200 in meath, offaly, 600 in louth, 500 in dublin etc etc), increased profile, apparent increased support.
    Why did some of these people apparently supportive of SF not back mcG? Hard to know, but my best guess is that people like to back a winner, and it was apparent that he wasnt going to win. Hence backing MDH and to a lesser degree SG.
    Was it all it could have been? No, probably not. Was it a good idea and are the party better off for doing so. Chalk it down!
    Also, consider, this heightened profile leads them straight in to the budget. While FF may have got a significant shot in the arm, they are still struggling in the polls, and they will have little of interest, or of credibility to say come budget time. And not to mention the Mahon Tribunal.

  • Decimus

    And lets know also forget that 1 week before the election an opinion poll put Sinn Fein on 19% (2nd place) when people were asked who they would vote for in the next election.

    That was before Coco made his decisive intervention on RTE and gave the voters an insight into the sort of person he really is.

  • Decimus

    New members (the rallies for martin were an impressive show of strength, 400 in cork, 500 in sligo, 700 in galway, 200 in meath, offaly, 600 in louth, 500 in dublin etc etc), increased profile, apparent increased support.

    It would be interesting to know how many of those supporters had northern accents.

  • Alias

    The “heightened profile” consolation doesn’t work. It presupposes that there are a substantial group of voters who would not have heard of the Shinners if they didn’t enter Marty, and so this group would now be aware of them. But which group of voters is this exactly?

    There was a large group of voters who didn’t know who Frank Hegarty was, but who now do know. I don’t see that the “heightened profile” was any different than when a large group of voters who didn’t know who Liam Adams, so not all publicity is good publicity but all of it is redundant since the existence of the Shinners was all well known before the election as it was after it.

  • J Kelly

    In 2002 sinn fein polled 120000 votes, in 2007 7%, 2011 under 10% yet less than 9 months later sinn fein have moved to just under 14%. in my view far from disaster. it may not be the breakthrough that the polls predicted but its solid steady progress and puts sinn fein bang centre of irish politics. job done. three elections in 2011 and a steady increase in votes and influence a very good year for republicanism.

    the next election will the most important since…..

  • Decimus

    the next election will the most important since…..

    1918? 🙂

    The increase in the voter percentage can be accounted for by the fact that in previous elections the Sinners didn’t stand in all the constituencies. This time they had a whole range of factors in their favour and they still managed to blow it.

  • Jimmy Sands

    The last election on which everyone had the opportunity to vote SF was the Euros in 2009. The vote share was 11.2%. on a slightly higher turnout.

  • Alias

    J Kelly, the Shinners could only claim that they increased their vote in this presidential election if they had a previous presidential election result to compare it to.

    Are their supporters really as stupid as the Shinners think they are? I doubt it, but then again they do vote for them…

    The trick that the Shinners are trying to pull on what they assume are their dimwitted supporters is to compare a presidential result with a general election result and to then claim that will have increased their share of the national vote in a general election (when one is held in 4 years hence).

    If Labour were to try to make fools out of their own supporters in the manner that the Shinners are doing then Labour could now claim to have increased its share of the vote from 19.4% in the last general election to 39.57%, making it the largest political party in the state.

  • galloglaigh

    Republicans had expected to do better because the conditions were so favourable

    Does that include Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail, as all are republican parties?

  • Jimmy Sands

    I think you’d have a hard time arguing it included Labour.

  • Political_Animal2011

    Of greater significance is their performance in existing strongholds. They lost out to Gallagher in Donegal SW (Pearse Doherty’s constituency), Cavan-Monaghan (Caoimhin O’Caoiain’s seat since 1997), and Cork SW (Jonathan O’Brien) Gallagher ran McGuinness a very close race in Donegal NE and came first in 1st preferences. It’s all very well saying they increased their share of the vote but under our system, if it’s too thinly spread you can lose half your seats if you are a small party..

  • lamhdearg


    13 just about matches the number of different aliases that you use on this site…”

    i have trouble getting the wife to let me go on slugger long enough to be Lamhdearg. i can not think of a way of proveing that i am not the other aliases you claim, and must admit that i am a little flattered that you, and some other paranoid types on slugger, think i have the mental capacity to be, but then i remember that your claims, have no basis in any knowledge of me, and the feeling of being flattered go’s.

  • slappymcgroundout

    I think that some are reading way, way, way too much into this election. Re the immediately above comment, helps to remember that the border counties are The Cable Guy’s stomping grounds. Also helps to remember that a vote against Fianna Fail in the last GE was not necessarily a vote against the party forever, or even against all party members. Recall the various and sundry elections in my country. Repubs get blasted out of office and so do the Dems, on occasion. No rise of any third party to contest those two. Gallagher might simply be the phenomenon of the Fianna Fail vote being unhappy with the last crew, thinking they lost the run of themselves, as you all would put it, but nothing wrong with basic party ideology itself. And if they bought into The Cable Guy’s line that he was disgusted by all the cronyism, etc., then they might be prepared to vote for him.

    Also hard to interpret the Marty is a terrorist with blood on his hands meme. Simply recall Mr. David Kelly, the soul who confronted Marty there in Athlone. If David Kelly resides in the Longford-Westmeath constituency, well, Sinn Fein’s Paul Hogan polled 7.5% of the first preference vote in the 2011 GE, while Marty polled 13.1% of the first preference vote in the presidential election. So what effect did David Kelly have on the Longford-Westmeath vote? Apparently, none.

    And there are other constituencies to consider, considering again the immediately above comment. You can look at the bad and say they are screwed. How about the good? Roscommon-Leitrim, 2011 GE, Martin Kenny at 9.8% of the first preference vote, while Marty bagged 14.6%. In Wexford, Anthony Kelly rec’d 5.8% of the first preference while Marty rec’d 14%. You all can run the numbers for Cork SW and Dublin MW for yourselves.

  • Mick Fealty


    I’m not going to delve into the back end of the site to confirm or deny whether LD has multiple aliases, because I don’t see the reason for doing so.

    But I can tell you that the Jimmy Sands ID pre dates Slugger O’Toole itself and does not appear to have anything like LD’s politics.

  • OneNI

    Liam’s article is dissappointing – showing his weaker grasp of politics in the Republic. Sam Smyth in the Independent is much closer to the mark. This election was a bitter dissappointment to SF their dreams of replacing FF are rapidly receding

  • keano10


    There was a thread on Saturday night involving Lamhdearg and his many aliases (you will know them better than I ) in which he basically had a conversation with himself uttering the same old buzzwords under many different names. Not only did it ruin any chance of a proper conversation for normal bloggers like myself but it also demeans the site itself such was the very sectarian nature of many of the comments.

    I was absolutely amazed that there seemed to be no red or yellow cards dished out that night in light of some of his/their comments. I also cant understand why you tolerate all this. Surely you must agree that it is bizarre for such individuals to continue doing this?

  • Chris Donnelly

    I don’t really whose arse you think the sun shines from, but am somehwat concerned that you have a fetish for such things.

    Perhaps that’s why you use a nom de plume on Slugger…

    Mick is as entitled to his opinions on McGuinness’ performance as anyone else- including Liam Clarke and myself.

    To be honest, though, the effort being made to convince people that a near 4% increase in percent of the vote coupled with a strong performance in what will be target constituencies in any forthcoming Dail election amounts to a bad showing lacks credibility.

  • Mick Fealty

    Yeah, you had Jimmy in the frame for that. If you have real suspicions of duplication, ping me an email. I’ll deal with it directly.

  • lamhdearg

    Mick, i dont think i have that much in common with 57’s politics (or anyones else’s on slugger for that matter), 57 made up the 3some to which keano referes,ps, i have also being accused by others of being some kind of spook.
    Keano, you also have somethings that appear to have similarities with others, but you dont hear me claiming you are somone else, why?. M.V. is a man whos claims off exposure, in relation to double jobers on slugger, may carry some weight, maybe you should correspond with him, to see how its done.

  • Jimmy Sands


    In the frame for what exactly?

  • Munsterview

    Mick : “…McGuiness came second to Gallagher with 28.4% compared to Doherty’s 33%, the prior appeal to Fianna Fail voters seems to be receding….”

    I am really surprised at that comment as if it was not for the purpose of prejudicial spin, it displays an inability to read a basic political landscape rather than an insight!

    There is a particular situation in Doherty’s Donegall constituency where a in addition to Sinn Fein’s core vote, other factors also lined up, including a very accomplished and attractive candidate with cross party appeal to bring in a high vote.

    The same factors may be seen at work in Kerry/West Limerick in regard to Martin Ferris. To take a specific constituency such as Donegall or the one where Ferris is elected in and try to compare those individual % to the overall % of a candidate in a National election where some constituencies were contested for the first time, is not a valid comparison ( and I am very much carefully choosing my words here, if this were face to face I would be restating this a little more emphatically).

    I just have not had the time to get out the files the weekend but from the few phone conversations that I have had on the performance, Sinn Fein are very far from licking their wounds on this one as most anti-Sinn Fein commentators are either stating or implying.

    All political insiders could see the usual Fianna Failed cute hoorism at work, they could not get a candidate in by the front door and Michael knew that he would fail at the first hurdle as even if he agreed to the waste of finances the selection process would have seen him stuck with the same problem as his attempt to change the Senators, he would have some unelectable, bland Gay Mitchell type Senior FF figure coming through that would have inflicted even further damage on Fianna Failed’s attempt at rehabilitation.

    Gallaher was a good two way bet :once in FF could have crowed his FF over 11,000 days of FF membership as against his his measly 180 days or whatever of ‘ Non FF’ before his election campaign. If he failed then that also vindicated the Bold Micheal, he would have been the very first to say…. ” Told you it could not be done lads. now will you listen to me”

    The Phoenix Magazine spelled out Seans other and perhaps real goal in this election, to show that Fianna Failed under a different leader unassociated with a toxic past could lead a resurrection. He is now shown to be part of that toxicity and whatever support he can muster locally, nationally both his political and business halo is gone. That is one scalp all Sinn Fein people will stop and admire on the totem pole as they pass in and out of the Republican tent.

    Who took that scalp and how it was taken will not be forgotten in the Irish Body Politic for a long, long time!

    In years to come Sean’s faltering ” I may have collected an Envelope” remark will yet rank alongside Brian Lenihan’s ‘ On Mature Recoollection ‘ comment as the defining moment of a particular election. The circumstances of how it came about is now but academic interest, the only salient fact is that it happened and was devestatingly succesfull in stopping his personal bandwaggon.

    Sean is no longer FF great white hope, he is now publicly exposed as up to the same shenanigans as the rest of the inner core and very much ‘Old Fianna Failed’ rather than new departure. He could have been a credible leader for Fianna Fail, now politically he is yesterdays news!

  • lamhdearg

    “Who took that scalp and how it was taken will not be forgotten in the Irish Body Politic for a long, long time!”
    this may indeed me true, but in the end may not be to s.f.’s liking,
    M.v. had a envelope type card, been played in reverse, and Martin been the victim, i dare say you and others would not follow thin line of “The circumstances of how it came about is now but academic interest”, but would be calling for the heads of RTE to roll, dirty tricks would be the s.f. cry (and rightly so),
    ps can you give keano some tips on spotting sluggers double agents.

  • lamhdearg

    I have just noticed that m.v. and keano both use smiley faces, and are both irish nats of the s.f. kind, and both spend time on slugger outing double agents, do i think this is proof they are one and the same, NO.

  • Jimmy Sands


    God point, and I’m not just saying that because we are really the same person. Had Marty been stitched up by the FF candidate like that you can imagine how appreciative SF supporters would be at the next ballot.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Republicans won the election hands down, Monarchists lost!

  • Publican

    All parties in the election were republican. No monarchists were involved.

  • FuturePhysicist

    All parties in the election were republican. No monarchists were involved

    Exactly a comprehensive walkover for the Republic.

    An Phoblacht abú!