Irish elections: is Sinn Féin fit to govern?

The Irish will elect a new legislature on Saturday. Polls put the left-wing nationalist Sinn Féin - which is highly contested due to its historic ties to the IRA - in the lead. Commentators discuss why voters are pinning their hopes on Sinn Féin and whether the party is fit to be in government.

Open/close all quotes
Irish Independent (IE) /

A threat to democracy

The Irish Independent warns that a party like Sinn Féin must never be allowed to take part in government:

“Private armies are an affront to democracy. Since the Basque paramilitary group ETA dissolved itself, Sinn Féin is the only political party among Ireland's peer countries to have a private army behind it. ... Giving a party such as Sinn Féin a role in its government would not improve the democratic fabric of this state. On the contrary, it would put it at risk of degradation. Anyone minded to vote for Sinn Féin on Saturday should be conscious of that.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Young generation inspired by leftist patriotism

The left-wing patriotism propagated by today's Sinn Féin has nothing to do with the IRA terror of the past, The Guardian writes in defence of the party:

“The electorate is not just looking for change, it's looking to the left for it. The main beneficiary of this sentiment is Sinn Féin. ... Its popularity is not just about being in the right place at the right time, though that's certainly part of it. Younger voters view Sinn Féin's association with the IRA as historical. Their republicanism is no longer a turnoff but taps into a new, inclusive patriotism that is characteristic of a generation forming and embracing a modern Irish identity. Mary Lou McDonald is a popular leader, especially with younger women.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Late revenge of those who lost out in the crisis

Columnist Una Mullaly explains in The Irish Times why the Irish electorate has apparently shifted to the left:

“While how we categorise and describe the traditional binaries of left- and right-wing politics have changed, what the Irish electorate seems to be on the cusp of demanding is a particular type of change that chimes more with left-wing ideas and ideals than the centre-right floundering it has experienced from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. ... Could it be that this election is actually a recession-era echo? The crash was the seismic moment in many of our lives. What's very clear now is that a lot of people are dissatisfied with, and perhaps even morally opposed to, how its aftermath was dealt with.”

Irish Examiner (IE) /

Expensive promises

Many of the plans and proposals presented in the election campaign are not financially viable and could jeopardise growth, the Irish Examiner criticises:

“All parties are pledging to significantly increase the spending base of the country, which is all well and good if fair winds continue to blow. We should all remember that once spending is committed to, it gets embedded in the system and is very difficult to row back on should economic times change, and then taxpayers become the easy victims. At the end of the day, the resources to finance expenditure on public services derive from economic activity. We should be wary of policies that might damage growth.”