So what can we say? Stunning, fantastic, brilliant. It’s Sinn Fein doing what they do best, which is winning elections and running a great campaign..
Some will draw negative inferences from 15% rate which significantly underruns their polling rate of around 20%. But the party had to run their southern campaign on a roster of skeleton teams, with northern sponsors to brand new cummain.
As Micheal Martin put it, they have pretty effectively cannibalised the Labour vote. In the process they’ve also got three MEPs to Labour’s none and FF’s one. If you take Chris’s view (and indeed the party’s) they are the most popular party on the island.
It only applies of course if you count the Euro vote in two countries. That said, their candidate selection for the Euros was excellent. Lynn Boylan successfully positioned herself as the political cypher for leftist discontent in Dublin.
In Liadh Ni Riada they have a modest and urbane scion of a highly respected family from the West Cork Gaeltacht. Matt Carthy is a smart, personable and young man with a long term future in prospect.
All are articulate, new and maybe, if they’re allowed, ready to tell a new story.
There are challenges. The party has the lead role in Dublin City council without having the majority to guarantee getting a controversial budget past their council colleagues.
Mary Lou McDonald would not be drawn on what her party would do in the council. The Ard Comhairle rather than the democrats have the last say on everything the party does.
That in itself is interesting. One thing the party has managed to do in getting this far is to not reveal what it would when it replaced the Labour party.
Given its positioning with the left, you might think it would eschew the austerity policy of cutting the rates (in real terms) by 2% year on year it has pursued in Belfast City Council.
But Mary Lou has promised to be ‘creative’ when it comes to the crunch.
It’s a handy trick to get into a position of executive power without telling anyone what you are going to do with it.
The pure fact of lifting 16 new city councillors almost certainly guarantees them rich pickings at the next election. But in gutting Labour, they have also inherited Labour’s hinterland.
In the north they have prosper subsisted on borrowing other people’s votes and policies. Dublin council will be their constitutional baptism of fire and a steep learning curve.
And from the off, the larger parties will look for every opportunity that having taken Labour’s place, that’s exactly where they stay.
It’s hard to see what the downside is here. The Republic has a new major party, full of new generation politicians to replace a tired and increasingly remote Labour party.
The competition ought to sharpen the party’s offering. They have finally broken through to big politics. The party hype about Dublin, Cork, Belfast and Derry is largely PR.
In the south there’s no traditional Prods to wind up, and no easy political capital to be earned. They will have to be creative and good at getting stuff done if they are ever to realise their ambition of getting into government as a lead party.
Their real hostage to fortune is not the new team, but the centrality of their leader to the new project, and not least because a large chunk of their own support are willing to state to pollsters that they think he is lying about his IRA past.
But for now it’s eyes down, and looking in for the very first ever Sinn Fein crafted city budget…
A second northern Irish profile to follow later in this short series…