Sinn Féin’s Irish ‘revolution’

Sinn Féin to try to form ruling coalition after Irish election success

Party disrupts Ireland’s centrist tradition by taking almost a quarter of votes

Sinn Féin will try to form a government in Ireland after apparently winning more votes than any other party in Saturday’s general election – a historic result that upended the political system.

The party leader, Mary Lou McDonald, told cheering supporters on Sunday that a “revolution” had occurred and she would try to form a ruling coalition with other parties. “This is no longer a two-party system,” she said.

Sinn Féin, once a pariah for its IRA links, won almost a quarter of first-preference votes, possibly pipping Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, two centrist rivals that have taken turns ruling Ireland for a century.

It rode a wave of anger over homelessness, soaring rents and hospital waiting lists as well as disillusionment with the traditional political duopoly.

McDonald, speaking over rapturous, deafening chants at a Dublin count centre, said she had spoken to the Greens and small leftwing parties in hope of forming a coalition without Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil – an unlikely scenario. She did not rule out a deal with either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil.

Parliamentary arithmetic may exclude Sinn Féin from power, however. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael ran more candidates and are expected to each win more seats than Sinn Féin in the 160-seat Dáil Éireann, the Irish parliament’s lower chamber, leaving unclear which parties – if any – will be able to form a viable coalition. Deadlock could lead to another election.

Read also:
Letter from Athens: Kasselakis Turns SYRIZA Hard Right, Left Left in Shock

During the campaign Leo Varadkar, the taoiseach and Fine Gael leader, and Micheál Martin, the leader of Fianna Fáil, both ruled out entering government with Sinn Féin, citing ethical and policy reasons.

On Sunday evening, Varadkar told journalists in Dublin: “For us, coalition with Sinn Fein is not an option, but we are willing to talk to other parties.”