No one had seen the breakthrough of Sinn Féin, a leftist party, the political wing of the former Irish Republican Army (IRA), in Ireland. Mary Lou McDonald’s party not only won the popular vote, with 24.5% of the vote, but with only 42 candidates running, 37 of them were elected.
The two other historic parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gail, in power, with 22.2% and 20.9% of the votes respectively, won 38 and 35 seats, while each of them presented more than 80 candidates.
A strong personality
Without his manager Mary Lou McDonald, 50, Sinn Féin would probably not have made this score. His background contrasts with that of the historical leaders of the party, notably his predecessor Gerry Adams, born in Northern Ireland, whose personal history merged with that of the Civil War and the IRA.
Mary McDonald was born in Dublin to a wealthy middle class family. Strong personality, excellent communicator, she proved to be a formidable debater during the campaign. She was surrounded by a vice-president, Michelle O’Neill (43), government deputy prime minister in Northern Ireland.
Rejuvenation, feminization, social origin more in line with the current sociology of the country, these three criteria have modernized the image of Sinn Féin, making it more attractive to young Irish people, especially the 18-24 year olds whose subjects of concern are access to care and housing (rents have increased by 40% in some counties and the number of homeless people exceeded 10,000 in 2019). Brexit only comes far behind.
Aspirations for change
This popularity of Sinn Féin in the cities extends to the countryside. Polls show it to be the most popular party among Irish people under the age of 65. A revolution in a country where in 98 years of political existence, the Fianna Fáil ruled for 60 years, the Fine Gail, 38 years.
Will Mary Lou McDonald be the next Taoiseach? As no party won a majority of the 80 of 160 seats in the legislative elections, negotiations began to form a coalition. If Sinn Féin wants to govern, he must find compatible partners.
On the left, Mary Lou McDonald met the Greens (12 deputies) Wednesday, February 12 with the people in charge of People before profit (a small anti-austerity party). Labor and the Social Democrats, met on Thursday, February 13, may also allow him to broaden his base, but the four of them, Sinn Féin and these parties total only 66 deputies. There remains the pool of Independents: a group rather than a party, made up of personalities (22 deputies) “ some of which could be seduced Explains a diplomatic source.
A centrist alliance?
Mary Lou McDonald does not rule out the possibility of an alliance with Micheal Martin’s Fianna Fáil which she may soon meet. “ Last night (Wednesday February 12), I also wrote to the head of Fianna Fáil Micheal Martin to request an interview “, she said.
Even if, according to her, “Strong incompatibilities” exist in the two-party roadmap, she felt that a “Government of change” was necessary in Ireland to respond to the most pressing problems of the population. “The question is: will Fianna Fáil support this type of change? The type of change that people voted for? “, she added.
A challenge launched to Micheal Martin, who had previously excluded any coalition with Sinn Féin, as also with Fine Gail by Leo Varadkar. The latter offered to work in constructive opposition with Fianna Fáil, while excluding from governing with Sinn Féin.
Is a centrist alliance, Fianna Fáil-Fine Gail possible? The two of them don’t have enough seats, they need more support. ” In the case of such a combination excluding Sinn Féin, the voters who voted for the change would feel cheated “Notes the diplomat.
Brexit, the strategy of the “deal” at all costs of the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar
The 33rd Dail meets on February 20
If negotiations are unsuccessful, a parliament without a majority remains a possibility. But neither Fianna Fáil nor Fine Gail wants it. So any legislative news? Not sure that center-right parties have an interest. Sinn Féin, carried by its momentum, could present more candidates and capitalize on its success to obtain more seats. Thursday, February 20, the 33rd Dail – lower house of parliament – must meet to elect its president and take note of the balance of power within it. Or see the impossibility of forming a government.