SF increases seats, blames media for Slab Murphy trial
Published 29/02/2016 | 02:30
Sinn Féin has significantly increased the party's seats in Leinster House, despite the wide range of controversies surrounding Gerry Adams throughout the election campaign.
It was on course last night to add 10 new TDs to its parliamentary party, bringing the number of Dáil seats it holds to around 24.
Exit polls showed that the party took around 14pc of the national vote. However, this was significantly off the 26pc vote predicted in opinion polls last year.
Despite this, Mr Adams yesterday claimed that his party secured "more or less" the seat numbers it had expected to get before the election.
Mr Adams was put front and centre by Sinn Féin during the election campaign but was involved in a number of high-profiled public gaffes, which stalled the party's popularity.
The Sinn Féin leader struggled with questions on his plans to abolish anti-terrorism laws, which legislate for the Special Criminal Court.
Mr Adams's grasp of economics was also exposed during a series of 'car-crash' interviews, in which he became confused when setting out Sinn Féin's policies on tax, pensions and Irish Water.
His relationship with convicted tax cheat Thomas 'Slab' Murphy, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison on election day, also caused huge problems for the party during the election campaign.
After the General Election, senior Sinn Féin members launched bizarre attacks on the media over the reporting of Murphy's tax fraud case and on the courts for imprisoning the former IRA chief for cheating the State out of €189,000.
Soon after successfully contesting her seat in Dublin Central, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald suggested that reporting on the conviction of Murphy for tax fraud was politically motivated and that the case was only highlighted because of an election - despite the courts having set the date for the case.
Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness also launched a staunch defence of Murphy and attacked the Special Criminal Court's decision to sentence him on the day of the election count.
Mr McGuinness said that throughout the trial Murphy and the people of south Armagh had been subjected to an unfair level of accusation.
"I think it's not lost on the electorate out there, who watched the shenanigans that took place during the course of the election and how different decisions were made, and I think those decisions were made to have an impact on the election and that is totally and absolutely undemocratic," Mr McGuinness said.
He added: "Many people have been asking questions as to why Tom Murphy was brought before the Special Criminal Court, for basically failing to pay taxes allegedly on a part-time wage.
"I think the level of accusation that was placed before, not just him, but the people of south Armagh, in the course of this case was absolutely deplorable."
Newly elected Sinn Féin TD John Brady said media criticism of Gerry Adams would not result in Sinn Féin deciding "to ditch" him as leader.
The Wicklow TD criticised negative campaigning against his party when asked about the 'Slab' Murphy controversy.
"Obviously, everyone has to pay their taxes," Mr Brady said.
"I wonder why there isn't the same focus on all political parties, even though Slab is no member of Sinn Féin or anything like that.
"He's a republican but there are other members of political parties who have been in similar positions and haven't paid."
Other successful candidates included Sinn Féin senator David Cullinane, who took a seat in Waterford, and Kathleen Funchion, who won in Carlow/Kilkenny.
Party strategist and South Dublin councillor Eoin Ó Broin took a seat, as expected, in Dublin Mid-West. Another first-time election candidate, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, secured a seat in Cork South Central.
Other first-time TDs include Pat Buckley in Cork East, Louise Reilly in Dublin Fingal and Carol Nolan in Offaly.
The extra seats won by Sinn Féin in the General Election came at the expense of senior Coalition TDs in both Fine Gael and Labour.