Why did SF do so badly in recent elections?
Many people have different explanations.
Take your pick from what’s below
Oddly enough, several overlap with reasons Marisa Mc Glinchey
identifies as motivating “Dissident” or “Radical Republicans” in
Here we go with what’s doing the rounds
1) No USP?
SF was bred from the Troubles.
Under Gerry Adams it fought against British rule
Its big achievements were the ceasefires, the GFA & doing a deal with the DUP.
That’s all history now . . .
SF had its day in ‘war time’
It is out of place now.
Remember: “The Moving Finger writes; and,
having writ, Moves on.”
The hand of time leaves the past ever more behind.
There was a demand then for action
Comment: BUT now ?
SF don’t know where to go next.
They don’t articulate positive vision and are unclear on policies
They change policy according to public opinion.
They have lost the support pf traditional republicans
especially on issues like the poppy and
participation in events commemorating members of the British Army.
They have sold out on so much of what they used to stand for.
2) Changes in leadership?
who commanded personal loyalty.
They were completely different to anything that other parties could offer.
Gerry Adams got votes, no matter what the media said.
Their loss must have impacted on SF voters.
Mary Lou on the other hand just blends in with background
Although an excellent opposition TD, she has no personal USP.
She is like so many other middle-class politicians (and so is Liadh O Riada)
Both of them could well fit into most other parties.
Queries: After these results, will Mary Lou’s leadership be in question?
And what about Michelle O’Neill?
Is there a disconnect between SF and their voters north and south?
3)Targeting the wrong voter pool?
Comment: Martina and Lynn
SF grew out of a community that was fuelled by the ideals of a socialist republic
due to poverty, gerry-mandering, discrimination, sectarianism, B-Specials,
the Special Powers Act, internment i.e. imprisonment without trial etc.
In recent elections SF lost a lot of the Dublin working class protest vote.
Many of the working class are homeless, live in over-crowded accommodation,
suffer due to crises in the health service and/ or are strangled by high rents.
Yet their voters refused to come out for SF or went to other left-wing candidates.
Much of the conservative rural SF vote switched to FF.
SF were the largest party in Dublin City Council for the last 5 years
In that time homelessness has gone up and up.
SF seemed to think it was someone else’s problem
Comments: People aren’t impressed with SF
They feel they’ve become too comfortable and Establishment, simply by getting so big.
They court the Dublin Establishment in the hope of getting support for the unity project.
They started caring about what the Irish Times, RTE, and FG/FF think of them.
Remember : a)
b) SF fiscal policies won’t get them traction in middle class areas, so they are in a bind.
c) Professional, ambitious people want out of the Troubles mindset
(or were never in it), so SF are losing those votes too.
Comment: There is really no way to ride both those horses
Warning: SF has neglected its core voters.
If they dont’t reconnect with them, low turn-out will be the least of their worries
4) Competition from the Left, Greens and Independents?
SF is suffering from the crowded left.
Many independents and protest parties attracted younger voters and ate into SF’s core vote
SF was outflanked
- on the left by parties such as People before Profit
- on environmental issues by the Greens.
- by feminists, socialists and diverse independents (some former SF councillors) who creamed off votes
Query: Does SF look a bit middle-aged?
5) SF are just not competent?
SF’s rise was built on a reputation for local politics and constituency work.
They are now suffering massive losses across councils in cities and rural areas
after only one term in office.
Presumably, they have not resolved local issues as was expected.
For whatever reason
Comment: You can only be a protest party for so long
Eventually, sooner or later, you have to deliver “something”
6) SF have an attitude?
- Whipping on the 8th amendment
- The hard line taken with Peadar Toibin which led to the emergence of Aontu
- Alienation of traditional voters who were anti-abortion and loyal to the Catholic Church
- Lack of internal debate and unwillingness to question the party line
- Unwillingness to take constructive criticism
- The resignation / sacking of 20% of sitting councillors (some of whom were re-elected as Independents in the local elections)
- Councillor lossses were due to: a) allegations of bullying with no effective intervention from central office and b) internal discord between old, established members and “newbies”
Comment: if all the above are true (and some are) SF seem to have become arrogant and detached with a patronising “Only we know what’s good for you” mentality.
7) What of Republicanism?
The SF message is now tied to Europe and Equality,
Factor in Brexit, the Stormont shut-down,
and the changes Irish society has undergone (is undergoing) in the post-recovery Republic
Comment: SF has always been pro-Unity. That was its USP
BUT . . .
A united Ireland is now a topic of mainstream discussion (thanks to SF)
It is no longer marginal in the national consciousness (thanks to SF)
Sinn Féin’s electoral losses will encourage Unionists to feel
“we’ve nothing to fear”
Even Though . . . .
an election day poll indicated that 65% of Irish voters favour reunification.
Comment: Therefore, the issue is bigger than Sinn Féin’s base.
Query: Are SF the right people to carry the Re-Unification project forward?
They are detested by the DUP, UUP, Loyalists and the Unionist community in general.
For the first time ever, FG and FF are starting to focus north
Because of Brexit, and its potential impact on Ireland’s economy,
they are thinking about the benefits of a United 32-County Republic.
They are not thinking about a 32-County (Democratic / Socialist) Republic
So SF is not needed (and maybe even not wanted) to drive that issue forward
Query: Should the Government of the Republic take Re-Unification forward together with NI non-Unionists?
Conclusion: All of this can’t be good for the future of SF
BUT . . . .