When I find out the results of the Irish General Election on February 9, 2020, the surprise is total. Sinn Fെയ്in, known for his proximity to IRA paramilitaries, won the Republican Army of Ireland 24.5% of the vote and 37 seats in the legislature. The two traditional parties, the Fine Gayle (Progressive Center) and the Fianna Fൽil (center right), are forced to form an alliance with the Greens and downgrade their troubled opponents to the opposite position.
“At the time, politicians thought that voters were interested and that they would quickly change their minds to protect the status quo. They found that the desire for change would disappear with the epidemic. Martina Anderson, in charge of European relations with Sinn Fin, explains.
The party attracts youth, families and workers through its determined Left program. One of its promises: freeze rent, build community housing, allow retirement at age 65, reduce childcare costs or extend maternity leave. In the last poll, Sinn Fin was 32%, ten or twelve points higher than Fine Gayle and Fianna Fil, respectively.
If there are limits to the votes, they confirm the basic trend: Sinn Fin is now a major party in Ireland. “There has never been a strong left party in the Irish political landscape because the country was not very industrialized and the Church played an important role there”. Kevin Cunningham, professor of political science at Dublin University of Technology, explains.
Since the 1990s, the decline of religion has paved the way for the politicization of the working class. A vote that decided to capture Sinn Fin, aiding the unpopularity of the current government. “When we learned why voters supported Sinn Fin, they gave us two answers: either they did not want to see the two historic parties in power, or they wanted change.”, Kevin Cunningham continues. It remains to be seen whether the desire for this innovation will suffice to move from opposition benches to cabinet ministries.
Disappointment after Brexit
In Northern Ireland, Brexit shook the political establishment. The province is ruled by unionists (pro-UK) and Sinn Fin Republicans who sit together in a coalition government. Here, Sinn Fin does not benefit as much from the increase in voting intentions as an explosion of competition.
The DUP, the ruling Unionist party, negotiated and approved Brexit, and continued to work with the governments of Theresa May and Boris Johnson. However, the outcome of leaving the European Union is contrary to their ideology. The DUP, which defends a strong UK where trade rules remain the same everywhere, is giving special treatment to Northern Ireland.
Restrictions on the free movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland are hampered by restrictions in the Irish Sea. An unavoidable situation for their voters. The party is its third leader in a year, losing the election. Only 13% of the voting purpose is credited to it, leaving it behind other Unionist parties that have been in power for more than two decades.
So in Northern Ireland, too, Sinn Fെയ്in dominates with 25% of the vote, 9 points ahead of the other parties. Northern Ireland is more and more temperate Kevin Cunningham assures. But the political system encourages locals to vote hard. Two communities [catholiques républicains et protestants unionistes] Will be represented and they will contest for the post of Prime Minister. “
Currently, elections are scheduled for May 2022, but the current instability could lead to the dissolution of the legislature and speed up the process. In the absence of a unionist coalition, Sinn Fin would be in a good position to head the government.
Is this good news for those who support Irish reunification? Although a referendum was held on the issue in the 1998 peace treaty, it depends on the sanity of the United Kingdom responsible for initiating it. Even the most optimistic of Republicans does not deny the need to take their time. “If we learned something from Great Britain, how could we not hold a referendum! “, Do they like to be recalled? Because this question is related not only to the reconstruction of the two parts of the island, but also to the membership of the European Union.
Read also: One Hundred Years of Northern Ireland: “Fear of Returning to a Long, Still and Recent Conflict”
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