Left nationalists of Sinn Féin get the most votes in Ireland
Yes, there are leftist nationalists
For the first time, the left-nationalist party, Sinn Féin, received the most votes in the Irish parliamentary elections. The party received almost twice as many votes as in 2016. Even then, the nationalists made a substantial profit.
Due to the complicated electoral system, Sinn Féin is just not the largest party in the Daíl, the Irish parliament, in the seat. The nationalists get 37 seats, a win of 14 seats but still one less than the center-right party Fianna Fáil. It drops from 44 to 38 seats and is therefore just the largest in parliament.
Fine Gael, also center-right, has become third with 35 seats, a loss of 14 seats.
There was a vote in Ireland on Saturday, but it took a few days before it became clear how exactly the 160 seats would be divided. They were all assigned at the start of the night.
Sinn Féin is controversial, because the party was closely linked to the IRA terror movement, which fought violently to unite Ireland and Northern Ireland. The party still wants to merge Northern Ireland into a united Ireland.
Over the past century, Ireland has always been ruled by Fianna Fáil (FF) and Fine Gael (FG). Both parties said during the campaign that they did not want to rule with Sinn Féin (SF), but had to accept substantial losses in these elections.
“This election is a very clear message to the political establishment,” said Mary Lou McDonald, the leader of the nationalist but pro-European and pro-migration party after the result. “Their days of dominance are over.” She demands a place at the negotiating table.
What the two center parties will do now is not yet entirely clear. “This is the big question now. They can ignore Sinn Féin, but then they run the risk that that party will become even bigger,” says correspondent Tim de Wit. “Many Irish voters want change and have therefore voted for Sinn Féin.”
Fine Gael, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s party, was the strongest in the campaign: it is not possible to negotiate with Sinn Féin. But Fianna Fáil, who has won the most seats, seems to have opened the door for a place at the negotiating table this weekend.
A united Ireland or the Brexit does not seem to be an important consideration in the voting behavior of the Irish. “Many Irish in the lower and middle classes have an aversion to the big parties,” says De Wit. “That’s why they voted for Sinn Féin on the left.”
“They think that the Irish government has mainly been involved with multinationals,” says De Wit. “They saw a huge increase in economic growth, but did not feel it in their wallets. In the meantime, rents in Dublin are exploding and there are more and more homeless people on the streets.”
Nevertheless, the result can certainly have consequences for a united Ireland. For Sinn Féin, a referendum in Northern Ireland with London is required. “That does not mean that it will happen immediately,” says De Wit. “But just like with Scotland, it is possible that the discussion will now start.”