Gerry Adams is riding the anti-austerity waveby David McKittrick / February 19, 2015 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2015 issue of Prospect Magazine
A sustained surge by Sinn Féin has placed the party within reach of power in the Republic of Ireland, establishing it as a major political force—with its president Gerry Adams the country’s most popular party leader.
With a general election due next year in an exceptionally volatile environment, the republican party will be among the contenders for a place in government. Opinion polls consistently place it neck-and-neck alongside the two major parties which have for many decades controlled the Republic’s politics.
The rise of Sinn Féin—which has taken place in spite of its identification with the violence of the now-inactive Irish Republican Army (IRA)—has dismayed and alarmed the traditional parties and the Dublin media. Both have viewed the party as a pariah.
Political life has been in a state of flux for several years, ever since the Republic’s economic crash led to the 2011 election that decimated the once-dominant Fianna Fáil party. The coalition that replaced it, made up of Fine Gael and Labour, came to power with a large majority but has suffered a dramatic slump in support. While Fianna Fáil has staged a partial recovery the most striking advances have benefitted Sinn Féin and a bevy of independents, taking the Republic into uncharted political waters.
A poll of polls, averaging the last 13 opinion surveys, puts Fine Gael at 24 per cent and Fianna Fáil at 19 per cent. But Sinn Féin has more than doubled its 2011 election performance, its showing of 22 per cent putting it alongside the county’s two largest mainstream parties.