Irish Republican News · May 29, 2007
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Sinn Féin looks to the future
Sinn Féin looks to the future

Sinn Féin’s hopes for a major breakthrough in the 26 Counties with this election were not borne out, despite some impressive performances and an increase of some 20,000 votes over their 1997 total.

Their was particular dismay and surprise at the loss of Sean Crowe’s seat in Dublin South-West early in the counting at the RDS on Friday.

However, the Sinn Féin vote largely held up elesewhere in Dublin and across the country, ensuring the four sitting TDs were returned. In Dublin Central -- the so-called ‘constituency of death’ -- Sinn Féin’s high-profile selection Mary Lou McDonald MEP fell short.

Meanwhile, in Dublin South-Central, Aengus O Snodaigh clung to his seat by a few dozen votes. In the north of the city, Sinn Féin candidates also fell victim to a working class swing towards Fianna Fail, veteran campaigners Dessie Ellis and Larry O’Toole failed to make their predicted breakthrough.

Outside the capital, Caoimhghin O Caolain enjoyed his expected triumph, taking a seat on the first count in the face of a right-wing gale blowing across the country.

Martin Ferris brushed off some predictions of doom by coming home comfortably in North Kerry, while in Louth, Arthur Morgan had to lookm closely at the tallies before correctly predicting he would take the last seat. Sinn Féin’s anguish may well have been highest in Donegal, where “twenty thousands votes and no seats” was the rueful soundbite doing the rounds after both Pearse Doherty and Padraig Mac Lochlainn were pipped for the last seat in their respective constituencies.

Senior Sinn Féin figures, looking at the results at the weekend, pointed out the party was very well placed for local elections in two years time. But director of elections Pat Doherty was at something of a loss on the first day of counting.

“All of the smaller parties have been caught up in the surge for Fianna Fail and Fine Gael,” he said. “The vote just didn’t come through for us and it’s going to take a bit of analysis after the election.”

The West Tyrone MP admitted the party had been particularly squeezed in Dublin South-West

“We have been building in that constituency for many years and obviously made a big breakthrough there five years ago,” Mr Doherty said.

“We thought we would have held it because we topped the poll last time.”

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams speaking following the election thanked all those who voted for the party. He said that Sinn Féin would learn lessons from this campaign and build on the progress that was made in many constituencies.

“I want to commend all of our candidates and their families and to thank everyone who worked or voted for Sinn Féin in the General Election campaign and helped us secure an increase of more than 20,000 votes,” he said.

“Over the last few weeks there were very high expectations both inside and outside the party and many republicans will be disappointed by the election results. While we did not make the advances that we expected, I am encouraged by the fact that many of our candidates in constituencies across the state, urban and rural, received substantial votes and I am sure that many of them will be elected to the Dail in the future.

“But the surge of support for the two biggest parties has not changed the fundamental issues. The equality agenda, the provision of high quality accessible public services and the achievement of Irish unity have yet to be secured.

“Our political mission is to promote all these issues and to build a process of change right across the island of Ireland, something which is unprecedented.

“So we have a lot of work to do. We will learn the lessons of this election and build for the future.”

PD MELTDOWN

There has been a strong welcome for the departure from Irish politics of Michael McDowell, the provocative ultra-right leader of the Progressive Democrats.

As his failure to hold his seat was about to be announced at the RDS count centre in Dublin on Friday, Mc Dowell said “my period in public life as a public representative is over”.

McDowell’s dramatic and somewhat unexpected announcement amid a media scrum provided one of the few highlights of the election and led to impromptu celebrations at the count centre.

McDowell’s party was decimated in the election, losing six of its eight seats including its leader, deputy leader and president.

Former PD leader Mary Harney retained her seat in Dublin Mid West, while little-known TD Joe Grealish survived courtesy of a strong local power base in Galway West.

Ms Harney is now expected to take charge while the Progressive Democrats considers its future.

Both Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny are understood be contacting Ms Harney in the coming days to discuss the two TDs lending support to a new government, or possibly joining one of the parties.

Yesterday, former PD chairman John Minihan was highly critical of Mr McDowell for resigning on count night without discussing the issue or informing his colleagues.

“I don’t think it was the right thing to do. I think he should have taken stock and he should have certainly hung around for the next few days and spoken to his colleagues. I don’t think it was right that we learned of it through the media because no one, absolutely no one, was aware that that was going to happen.”

© 2007 Irish Republican News