Ireland: revolution at the ballot box

The left-nationalist party Sinn Féin has for the first time won the most votes in Ireland's parliamentary elections, securing 24.5 percent. Due to the complicated electoral system it is not yet clear whether Sinn Féin will also be the strongest force in parliament. European media ask what the party's success and potential participation in government could mean for Ireland and for Europe.

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The Irish Times (IE) /

Left-wing election winners cannot be ignored

The strong results of the left-wing parties mean they must be involved in the next government, The Irish Times demands:

“That makes it difficult to envision a stable administration - and one that is seen to reflect the mood of the country - without including Sinn Féin and another of those parties. If an apparent softening of Martin's position on talks with Mary Lou McDonald is maintained and Fine Gael acts on Simon Coveney's signal that it should regroup in opposition, the first serious option to be explored once initial shadow-boxing is complete, could be a Fianna Fáil-Sinn Féin alliance, perhaps with the involvement of the Greens.”

The Independent (GB) /

Sinn Féin could be stronger in opposition

Sinn Féin should avoid participating in government for strategic reasons, The Independent counters:

“The two established parties were committed to keeping Sinn Fein out of government. To do so they will have to ally with each other and perhaps the Greens, who had a good election and will use their bargaining power to demand greater action on climate change. But being out of power may suit Sinn Fein. Freed of the responsibilities of government, they can continue to feed off domestic grievances. And when the shockwaves from a hard Brexit cross the Irish sea, anger at Britain will feed a nationalist agenda, north and south. We may not yet have seen peak Sinn Fein.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Voters put their hopes in outsiders

One reason for Sinn-Féin's success is the conviction among voters that the established parties cannot or will not be able to cope with the necessary reforms, Die Welt believes:

“This is a phenomenon that has long led to the collapse of the established party landscape in other European countries. For decades Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil alternated in government in Dublin. The citizens are so fed up with this pattern that they now want to give control to an outsider. ... But there is a great danger that the Sinn Féin electorate will be in for a gruelling wait and potentially bitter disappointment. Both of the big parties are ruling out an alliance with the left.”

Göteborgs-Posten (SE) /

Established parties can still be successful

Göteborgs Posten argues that traditional parties can still be successful, citing Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party as an example:

“Johnson is socially liberal in spirit, but at the same time he is economically liberal and pragmatic. ... When it comes to migration he advocates a points system based on the Canadian or Australian model. According to Johnson, climate policy should be ambitious without going to extremes. His politics can't be described as a sudden shift either to the left or to the right, but as a new centrism. ... Johnson and the Tories are not populist but pragmatic, and in an extremely clever way. They may be the first 'old' party to successfully adapt to the altered political landscape after 2000.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

A woman of stature

Sinn Féin owes its success above all to its leader, La Repubblica notes:

“Mary Lou McDonald. Fifty years old, married with two children, she is the first leader of the party - once the political face of the [Irish Republican Army] IRA - who was not among the Republican terrorists, and the only truly prominent woman in Irish politics. Many in Sinn Féin believed she was no match for her controversial predecessor Gerry Adams, who gave up the position to his deputy in 2018. ... But the opposite is true, and as she said when she took office two years ago, she hadn't come all this way to fill Gerry's shoes, but she had 'brought her own'. Mary Lou was right. Now she's telling the whole world: 'A new Ireland was born on Saturday'.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Social rifts giving Sinn Féin a boost

Growing inequality is causing the Irish to break with the traditional two-party system, La Vanguardia concludes:

“The cause lies in the dissatisfaction of broad sections of Irish society - and especially the young - with the direction the country is heading in. In short this can be described as a gulf between the rich elites who are profiting from globalisation and those who are suffering from rising prices for housing. ... This is in itself nothing new in Europe. But Ireland is probably the EU country where the contradictions are most apparent and extreme. The economy is doing well, but citizens feel excluded from the supposed increase in prosperity.”

Irish Independent (IE) /

Young voters indifferent on subject of IRA crimes

The Irish Independent accuses young Sinn-Féin voters of double standards:

“While congratulating themselves for emoting over the horrors perpetrated by the Catholic Church, they're indifferent at best, and hostile at worst, if asked to show compassion when presented with testimony from victims that SF and its private army did exactly the same thing. ... Forgiving and making excuses for the Provos, but not the prelates, is young voters' choice, but it is a choice, and they shouldn't expect to have their hypocrisy overlooked just because SF promises to put it up to 'the rich'.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Young Irish want reunification

The debate about a united Ireland could reignite, the Süddeutsche Zeitung believes:

“There's a saying in Ireland that almost everyone knows: 'Tiocfaidh ár lá' - 'Our day will come'. This was the unofficial slogan of the IRA, which once fought violently for a united Ireland. ... The day Sinn Féin longs for never seemed as close as it does now. ... Depending on what role Sinn Féin assumes, the question of a united Ireland cause could gain new momentum in the course of the Brexit negotiations. ... True, a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland was prevented with the withdrawal agreement. But the young Irish in particular see unification as Ireland's future. And it's largely to them that Sinn Féin owes its election success.”