The Greenami and Sinn Fein’s squandered opportunity in the Republic…

Two big stories emerging from the southern elections overnight are: one the rise of the Greens; and two, the fall of Sinn Fein. It will be interesting to see if there are similar reverberations in our Euro count tomorrow.

Apart from topping the poll in Dublin, the Green Party is also competitive in the other two Euro constituencies in the Republic. And a major inflow of councillors means that they are likely to see a new clutch of TDs coming in in the next general election.

I’d be looking at Clare Bailey afresh not necessarily as a contender but as a more significant king/queen-maker of that third seat. Northern Sinn Fein did not make the critical mistake of the southern party in arguing against a carbon tax at the very moment the “Greenami” was about to hit.

But that’s largely because historically in Northern Ireland, policy hasn’t mattered. That may not have changed radically, but there’s no other reason for people voting in such numbers for Green candidates if  they were not signalling for some kind of action.

Then there is the point I made after the 2017 ‘election to nowhere’, that the pure Orange and Green is slowly declining as people begging to conclude (as John Hume once said) that you cannot eat a flag:

A united Ireland may be more popular than ever, but the party who’s whole raison d’être it has been is falling in the south where it has sunk most of its talent and a large chunk of its precious resources. As Newton remarked on Twitter…

The losses at council level are likely to be the most politically damaging. Councillors provide the material for new TDs, so the double corollary of losing councillors while others fill their places is that your own sitting TDs are clearly losing the support that put them into office whilst rival parties are developing viable new candidates.

Pat Leahy in the Irish Times reports:

In Mary Lou McDonald’s home patch in Dublin Central, the party will be struggling to win one seat. The general election candidate in Tipperary won’t even win a council seat, it looks like. In Cavan, the party ran two candidates in the three local electoral areas and runs the risk of having none of them elected, early reports said. Same in Galway. Bad day in Louth, too

That encompasses the bases of Mary Lou, Euro candidate Matt Carthy, and the old boss, Gerry Adams. For the record, Slugger understands that the turnout in the home boxes of the leader of the party in Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill was nothing particularly special either. Leahy probes the reasons for the party’s slump:

Many voters seem unimpressed with the record of Sinn Féin councillors – several of whom, of course, have left the party amid internal difficulties. Nor have voters haven’t responded to the party’s trenchant opposition to the Government on every issue that emerges in national politics. But if everything is a scandal, nothing is a scandal. The party’s campaigning on Brexit has done it few favours, it seems, perhaps unimpressed by the failure to revive the Northern power-sharing institutions, or even take its seats at Westminster. [Emphasis added]

In truth, Pearse Doherty comes across as angry now as he was after he finally broke into the Dail after having to take the Fianna Fáil government to court to move the writ in Donegal South West in 2010. That can quickly turn into a pastiche of the Self Righteous Brothers, particularly when voters are again asking for things to be done.

The problem in Dublin is particularly acute. They were the top party in the last council, now eclipsed by the steady return of Fianna Fáil on one hand, but the centre left (in the shape of a combined SD and Lab vote) who’s lunch they stole in the 2016 general election is returning with hungry new councillors.

In the view of the erudite Alison O’Connor the murder of Lyra McKee, the continuing absence of Stormont (not to mention the party’s appalling handling of the Paudie McGahon’s abuse case which broke on Monday) threw a shadow over them. Whatever happens next in the south, the inevitability myth of their inexorable rise is broken.

All of which will no doubt be confusing to a whole slew of Northern Irish commentators who have been pushing the Sinn Fein will be in government line for some years now. Time to sluice the KoolAid lads and lasses. As I noted in 2011

Sinn Fein is no longer an anti state actor. Amongst other things, it is an organisation which possesses substantial democratic power to effect real change for those who lodge their trust with them.

Taking down (or in this case merely wrong-footing) the opposition, will now become great deal less important than the quality of overall delivery (not least because the opportunities to do so are few and far between). The crisis management regime of the party’s ‘war time’ days will no longer suffice.

And increasingly the public will want to have some idea of what kind of politics they are buying before Team Sinn Fein delivers it…

If the Greens had run enough candidates to collect their vote lift things might have been even worse. If a small party like the Greens can invest in policy that people actually want, its long after time Sinn Fein did. And if they can’t, almost everyone else in the southern market certainly will.

But with the following thick shadow of the past ever behind them, I’m not sure how able they are to rise even to that modest challenge…

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald and Vice President Michelle O’Neill” by “Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald and Vice President Michelle O’Neill” is licensed under “Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald and Vice President Michelle O’Neill