#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

  • Jag

    (1) Can’t remember an election where candidate gets 30% of 1st preference votes but then loses election. Paul Murphy won by 600 in the end or a “handful” as SFers say – mind you, as shown by Nolan yesterday, SFers not the best with figures.

    (2) Stephen Collins is a prat

    “law breaking on water charges” – so, if you don’t pay a bill now, you are breaking the law?

    (3) SFer position on water charges is still as clear as….. Roscommon water. Here was GA’s interview on Morning Ireland yesterday (posted elsewhere, in case you have sense of deja vu)


    (scroll down to SF/by election)

    GA says “we won’t be calling on people not to pay..we want
    to be responsible, these parties jump up and call on people not to pay the bin
    charges, the family home tax and then the poor punter has to pick up the bill
    at the end of all that”

    And then, RTE asks

    “are you going to pay on your houses” to which the bould GA

    “Well I don’t like the way you use the term “houses””

    “Well, you have more than one, correct?”

    “Well, no I don’t have one. I have a house in Belfast
    belonging to my family and my family has a holiday home in Donegal”

    “And you have a house in Louth?”

    “No, I don’t have a house in Louth, I’ve never had a house
    in Louth [indistinct] media. And by the way, it’s all irrelevant”

    “Sorry, whether it’s two or three, it doesn’t matter, are
    you going to pay”

    “Well, it isn’t true Cathal and you shouldn’t be –“

    “Sorry, what’s not true”

    “I don’t have a house in Louth”

    “I didn’t say you had, I simply asked the question”

    “Will you be paying?”

    “Yes, I will be paying but but we have left party members if
    they pay or not let’s not be distracted by the real focus here”

    So, there you have it. Gerry doesn’t even have one house,
    but he’ll still be paying the water charges. Pretty confused, huh?

  • Megatron_

    I think the world would be a better place if we didnt try and assign over reaching narratives to binary events. SF could have got another couple of percent and won the seat and this article is totally different. Smart people see the big picture rather than ascribing narratives to binary outcomes, whether they be sports matches or by-elections. Paul Murphy was an impressive candidate and the fact that he got a huge vote share is actually good news for SF in the big picture because those dissaffected with gov policy have to vote somewhere and in most places SF have the best organisation to pick up the votes.

    Thats not to say Gerry covered himself in glory but its not really important. I think your analysis of FF / middle class vote was much more spot on using the MRBI poll last week. SF has 2 goals – to make the majority of people for whom the current system is not working for them actually vote to change the system (Paul Murphy et al helps in this regard) and to be the leading party of that majority (they are unassailable).
    No way can they be so stupid to start targetitng “middle class” votes – whatever that is anymore. There is an upper class, a scared class and a nothing to lose class. The upper class are FG and maybe FF. The nothing to lose class has gone to SF and Lab. SF are making some minor changes to persuade some of the scared class to vote for them. Not a bad strategy as long as you dont lose too much of your support to other small parties, which they won’t.

    PS So you cant oppose water charges unless you advocate breaking the law? For crying out loud.

  • chrisjones2

    So where is Gerry domiciled and where does he pay TAX? Ireland? The UK? Neither?

    And where did his family get the money for all those houses? Book sales? Grateful donations? Book sales?

  • Megatron_

    you cant deny using houses there was a red rag – though Gerry should have let it pass. And he did say he had a house in Donegal no? Presume he pays on that.

  • Megatron_

    I think it is pretty clear he is normally resident in the UK. As all of us who work in ROI live in UK know, you pay TAX in both jurisdictions.

    Gerry’s ROI TAX will be deducted at source like everyone else’s and then he will make a return to the UK.

    Calm down.

    PS do we have to put TAX in CAPs? Is that the rule around here?

  • Michael Henry

    Well- it is not Sinn Feins fault if the bookies made them the outstanding Party to win and the bookies and others who make predictions lost out and were of the mark by a few hundred votes-this was a Fine Gael seat that the government lost-

    30 per cent and then a knock- out- that’s PR for you-

  • Robin Keogh

    No i am not confused but its clear you want to be. If u go back thru PR elections in the state you will find plenty of examples where poll toppers missed the finish line due to tactical transfers. Actually you also find mimilar phenomona in the FPTP were voters dont vote for thier team in order to ensure their least favourite losses out. No big shock really.