A new poll putting Sinn Féin support at an unprecedented 35% in the 26 Counties has added to public pressure for Mary Lou McDonald’s party to be involved in the next coalition government in Dublin despite the refusal of the leaders of Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael to countenance the idea.
Sinn Féin support is currently just short of the combined support for both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Ms McDonald is also now clearly the most popular party leader in the South, with a 53% satisfaction rating, 22 points ahead of Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who is second.
The survey for the Sunday Times puts the support for the parties in comparison with last month’s general election, as: Sinn Féin 35% (+10); Fianna Fáil 20% (-2); Fine Gael 18% (-3); Green Party 6% (-1); Solidarity / PBP 3% (no change); Labour 3% (-1); Social Democrats 2% (-1); Aontú 1% (-1); Independents 10% (-3).
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s rating has dropped by eight points to 27 per cent, with satisfaction with the government dropping nine points to just 21 per cent.
With almost no public support for the idea, Micheál Martin has continued to pursue a coalition with Fine Gael, and the first formal talks between the two parties took place on Thursday.
Both Varadkar and Martin have continued to attack Sinn Féin with wild accusations and insinuations and the cheerleading support of the mainstream media. However, even they are growing to that the rising support for Sinn Féin is a result of public anger at the exclusion of the party.
Ms McDonald said Sinn Féin can no longer be permanently excluded from government in the South. She said it was “not democratic”.
“I do think the people who vote for us have an entitlement that their representatives are respected, to the extent we are not told that you, singularly and in perpetuity, are to sit on the sidelines.”
Former US Congressman Bruce Morrison, a key figure during the 90s peace process, accused Martin and Varadkar of attempting to “quarantine” Sinn Féin. He said the road to peace for Sinn Féin had included a pathway to government.
“When we urged them forward to ceasefire and disarmament.. we said peaceful politics was the way forward. Now that they have done that, the previously dominant parties are trying to change the subject to the past. It makes no sense,” he said.
“They are draining much of the goodwill Irish Americans have for Irish political leaders. We believe it defies logic to face backwards after so much has been accomplished.”
Sparks reportedly flew at a meeting of Fianna Fáil’s party meeting on Thursday afternoon amid a backlash over a bad general election and dismay at the direction Micheál Martin is taking.
A number of TDs condemned the rhetoric being used to attack Sinn Féin. One veteran party member said Martin was “rattled” by the confrontation.
Limerick City TD Willie O’Dea said the party faces an “unpalatable” decision to either work with others in coalition or face a “disastrous” second election at which more Fianna Fáil seats would be lost.
Tipperary TD Jackie Cahill spoke about “getting grief” locally since the disappointing vote for the party, as did others who said the strategy of attacking Sinn Féin was not working.
Mr Cahill and others, including Carlow Kilkenny TD John McGuinness, talked about how Fianna Fáil had lost the election in part because of the message delivered about Sinn Féin.
Meanwhile, Solidarity-People Before Profit TDs are urging people to attend a march this Saturday in Dublin to stop what they described as “the Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil stitch-up”.
They said that any coalition between the two parties would be a “slap in the face” to people who believed they were voting for change in the general election.
Speaking along with student and homeless activists, TDs Paul Murphy, Bríd Smith and Mick Barry said that such a government would seek to “halt the demand for radical change”.
They insisted that a minority left-wing government was still possible if Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil stepped aside from the government formation process and abstained to allow Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald be elected Taoiseach.
Mr Murphy said that he could be part of a government that would implement far-reaching measures such as tackling corporate landlords, eliminating health insurance profiteering, and taking the worst polluters into public ownership.
Their march against a Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael government takes place in Dublin this Saturday, meeting at the Garden of Remembrance at 1pm.