Gerry Adams is riding the anti-austerity waveby David McKittrick / February 19, 2015 / Leave a comment
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.
The splintering in political strengths is shown by the fact that Labour has plummeted to 7 per cent while assorted “Independents and others” are at 28 per cent, illustrating a continuing and highly unpredictable fragmentation in Irish politics.
Gerry Adams has taken a sustained battering in both the Dáil (the Irish parliament) and in the media, facing allegations of ordering the 1972 murder of a Belfast mother and of helping to cover up sex abuse…