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How Sinn Féin's efforts to boost support in rural Ireland finally bore fruit

Sinn Féin's agriculture spokesperson Brian Stanley tells Ciaran Moran that the party's recent surge in popularity among farmers is the result of a rural focus developed over several years

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Big swing: Sinn Féin's agriculture spokesperson Brian Stanley says: "The myth that other parties want to portray that we are 'urban-based' is nothing but nonsense". Photo: Alf Harvey

Big swing: Sinn Féin's agriculture spokesperson Brian Stanley says: "The myth that other parties want to portray that we are 'urban-based' is nothing but nonsense". Photo: Alf Harvey

Alf Harvey

Big swing: Sinn Féin's agriculture spokesperson Brian Stanley says: "The myth that other parties want to portray that we are 'urban-based' is nothing but nonsense". Photo: Alf Harvey

Speaking to a farmer prior to the general election, Sinn Féin's agriculture spokesperson Brian Stanley began to realise that his party's strategy to improve its performance in rural Ireland was about to bear fruit.

"The farmer told me I would be getting two votes from his house in the election," he recalls. "'Well, thanks very much,' I said. 'Oh, it's not from me,' he said, 'it's from my two children.'"

The encounter encapsulated the key shifts that shaped February's election, when young people and rural people voted for Sinn Féin candidates in unprecedented numbers.