Here’s a big question: is Sinn Féin now established as one of the three big parties in the south, thus ending the Tweedledum and Tweedledee rule that existed over the last 100 years?
You’re probably putting down your cereal spoon and wondering if I’ve taken a knock on the head. Sure aren’t all the commentators – and even politicians – saying that the old two-party dominance is now over?
If that was for certain – in other words, that Sinn Féin’s dazzling success wasn’t a one-off, as their slump in the presidential, European and local council elections now look – it would give them a very powerful card in negotiations with other parties. With the threat of another election hanging over them and Sinn Féin fielding a full quota of candidates and probably coming back with a considerable bigger number of TDs, the other two big parties would be willing to agree to something, anything to avoid an even more severe pummeling at the poll-booth.
But is the accepted wisdom right – that Sinn Féin is now a big southern beast and will stay that way? Most commentators say they’re her to stay. In fact I can’t think of one voice saying Sinn Féin’s electoral performance was a one-off .
But just as no one saw this electoral triumph coming, no one saw the disastrous slump in Sinn Féin fortunes in the presidential, European and local elections. Pundits got both those events wrong. Could they now be wrong about the permanence of this latest Sinn Féin rise?
Personally I believe it is permanent – especially if Sinn Féin manage to come to some arrangement and becomes the lead party in government. That said, I’ll bet that if you approached the average SF TD and asked them if they’d fancy another general election within the next month or so, they’d recoil. So another election isn’t really a strong card in negotiations.
But here’s a prediction: except Fianna Fail gets off its high horse – and I see today it’s reiterated its determination to remain pure and not form a coalition with Sinn Féin – the attempt to form a government will founder, and the second election that nobody wants will happen.