#DSW14: Sinn Fein’s handbrake turn on water charges a prelude for a dash for the country?

So Dublin South West? An unlucky loss for Sinn Fein. With a sitting TD, they should have easily wrapped it up. Fiach Kelly in the Irish Times:

Dublin South West should have been the perfect constituency for the party. Last week’sIrish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll put it in first place in Dublin, on 26 per cent, and at 39 per cent support among the poorest social categories.

While the reconfigured constituency for the next general election will bring in more middle-class areas such as Rathfarnham, the existing boundaries applied for this contest, with Tallaght and its environs the crux of Dublin South West.

It should have been fertile Sinn Féin territory, as it was in the local elections in May, which saw it emerge as the largest party on South Dublin County Council.

Several things went against them. Paul Murphy for one. The former Socialist Party already had national profile. But then there was the party’s own apparent last minute handbrake turn on Water Charges.

Stephen Collins is right of course, “the party’s refusal to advocate law breaking on water charges is a reflection of the fact that it sees itself as a party of government in the not too distant future”. 

Anthony McIntyre puts it even better…

The party simply refused to commit decisively against water charges on the grounds that in its pursuit of the middle class vote it senses that water charges are not viewed as unfavourably in Dublin 4 as they would be in Ballybough. Thinking is: better to be all things to all comers even if the seat is lost short term. In the long term the more prosperous belts within Irish society, whose income makes water charges relatively affordable, might view the party a safe bet, not just responsible but also respectable.

More concerning was the comic vacillation of the Party president when he first said he didn’t have to pay (like his fellow citizens), and then later admitted that he did and he would.

That display detachment is odd for a man keen to associate himself in the public mind as a man of the people. But with Gerry Adams all manner oddness that would not be accepted in another political leader appears to be becoming more and more priced into the deal.

Been to South Dublin, done that.. but as McIntyre also notes, that’s only a way stage the party hopes to bigger fish…

There is a relationship between the decline of Fianna Fail and the rise of Sinn Fein which tells us something about Sinn Fein’s orientation even if the bulk of Sinn Fein members are unaware of it. It was never the intention of the party to restrict its ambitions to displacing the Labour Party, helpful as that might be. There is a limit to what the leader of Labour can achieve. It is called Tanaiaste.

Sinn Fein, given the break, has for long been intent on displacing Fianna Fail. Adams aspires to being Taoiseach not merely Tanaiste: chief of staff, not adjutant general. Too many people have been sent to the wall and the country littered with graves, secret and otherwise, in the course of his political career for the crown to be placed on the head of another who realised their political ambitions via more conventional means.

As one FF insider put it to Slugger back in May, now they’ve captured the Labour vote in Dublin, what are they going to do for their next trick…

And perhaps with the help of an aggressive budget statement from Fine Gael this week, I think we may just have seen it…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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