Ireland PM Leo Varadkar set to fade as Sinn Fein bids for power
The left-wing Sinn Fein, which shares power in Northern Ireland, has upset calculations with its remarkable performance in Ireland, even though it fielded only 42 candidates.Updated: Feb 11, 2020 05:28 IST
The chances of Ireland Prime Minister Leo Varadkar heading the next government receded on Monday as Sinn Fein – long considered the political wing of the Irish Republic Army – won the largest of the first-preference votes following the February 8 election.
The left-wing Sinn Fein, which shares power in Northern Ireland, has upset calculations with its remarkable performance in Ireland, even though it fielded only 42 candidates. The results so far point to a coalition government with an influential role for Sinn Fein.
Varadkar’s Fine Gael party ended third with 21 per cent of the first-preference votes, behind 22 per cent for Fianna Fail and 24.5 per cent for Sinn Fein. The final results will be declared after the second and third preference votes are counted.
An upbeat Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Féin president, said: “This vote for Sinn Féin is for Sinn Féin to be in government, for Sinn Féin to make a difference, for Sinn Féin to be tested, for Sinn Féin to deliver”.
“There are very serious issues facing our society and we have a duty and feel that responsibility very keenly to deliver solutions. We want to talk to anyone who is interested in delivering a programme for government, that is about getting to grips with the housing crisis and solving it, getting to grips with the crisis in health and giving families and workers a break and giving a new lease of life to government”.
Seeking reunification of Ireland and Northern Ireland (part of UK), Sinn Fein was controversially linked to IRA during the violent phase that ended with the signing of the Good Friday agreement in 1998.
The Dublin-based McDonald does not have the IRA baggage, making her more acceptable in a country wracked by anger, particularly among the young, over rising rents, low housing stock and issues facing the health system.
Now the third pole in Ireland politics, Sinn Fein remains toxic for Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, but post-election compulsions may lead to new linkages in coalition negotiations that are expected to last days, if not weeks.