Brexit and Sinn Fein’s success boost talk of Irish unification

It would not be an easy process

Feb. 13, 2020

UNDER THE cavernous roof of the Royal Dublin Society’s Simmonscourt Hall, Mary Lou McDonald, the president of Sinn Fein, is facing a gaggle of reporters. The atmosphere is electric; the day before, February 8th, Sinn Fein had won more first-choice votes in the general election than any of Ireland’s other parties, which was a stunning upset. “We asked people to give us a chance, a chance to deliver the platform that we have set out,” Ms McDonald says, “and that platform is about solving the housing crisis, it’s about getting to grips with the crisis in our health services, it’s about giving families and workers a break, giving them some breathing space.”

The words could belong to any European politician whose insurgent party has broken up a staid political establishment. But Sinn Fein is also something more. All major political parties in the republic are, in principle, committed to seeing the six counties which remained in the United Kingdom in 1922 rejoin the 26 counties which gained their independence, and thus create a united Ireland. Sinn Fein, though, sees that cause as a real and pressing ambition. The party has international standing; as well as now being a force in the Irish Dail, it is the second-largest party in Northern Ireland. And it has a deeply troubling past.