Monday 19 August 2019

Kevin Doyle: 'That people 'couldn't be bothered' with Sinn Féin is grim news for McDonald'


European candidate for Sinn Féin Lynn Boylan and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald TD speaking to the media outside the European Election count in the RDS, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
European candidate for Sinn Féin Lynn Boylan and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald TD speaking to the media outside the European Election count in the RDS, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Sinn Féin didn't get much negativity on the doorsteps, people "just couldn't be bothered".

That was the very honest assessment of its MEP candidate in Dublin, Lynn Boylan, who is worried about where the party is going.

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There can be no papering over the cracks here. Fine Gael may have failed to find a 'Leo Leap', but it held its own.

However, since Mary Lou McDonald took over at the helm of Sinn Féin, the party has nosedived.

Boylan's analysis suggests it was somewhat irrelevant in an election where the hot topics were Brexit and housing. That must be deeply concerning for Ms McDonald.

Sinn Féin has always focused on the angst of voters, but people just aren't angry enough right now. On housing, the party has hammered the Government. Last September it risked forcing a general election by placing a motion of no confidence in Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy.

The minister survived because Fianna Fáil abstained from the vote, which many believe was actually the whole idea again. Bash the Government and embarrass Fianna Fáil. Yet the constant attacks on Mr Murphy didn't register with the electorate. Will Sinn Féin change tack? It seems unlikely. Constructive opposition isn't exactly the party's forte in the Dáil.

The Sinn Féin vote halved in Dublin and suffered huge falls in Cork, Limerick and Galway.

In Ms McDonald's backyard, Cabra-Glasnevin, the party is left with just one councillor. It's a similar story in the north inner city.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach last night boasted about having the largest number of seats across the four Dublin local authorities, with 36 seats. Fianna Fáil has 34.

The Sinn Féin post-mortem on Brexit will be even more interesting.

Mary Lou McDonald has used the crisis to try to beef up her credentials with the Northern voters.

While most people were focused on the immediate need to maintain an open Border, she has relentlessly exploited the situation to put a Border poll on the agenda.

The RTÉ exit poll suggests the vast majority of people in the Republic favour a united Ireland. However, there is no national rush for it to happen.

Sinn Féin lost substantial numbers of seats in Border counties, including Louth, Cavan and Monaghan.

It's possible many voters in those areas felt Fine Gael has represented them well on Brexit.

Whether they love or hate the Government, it's hard to deny that the backstop is an achievement. What happens next is another story.

MEP Matt Carthy, who is in a battle for his seat in the Midlands-North West constituency, sat down with his campaign team on Thursday night to look back on the campaign.

He "genuinely" feels they couldn't have done anything differently.

"I can't point to any particular issue that is the reason why, so we're going to have to do an awful lot of analysis of the reasons why," he said.

But there's no doubting it was a lacklustre campaign. Compared with the other main parties, Sinn Féin had fewer media events.

The launch of its European manifesto was poorly attended by journalists.

And last Thursday, when the leaders of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Labour and the Greens had journalists hopping all over Dublin for final updates, Sinn Féin was nowhere to be seen.

It's possible it wanted to avoid awkward questions about kangaroo courts but brazened that stuff out before.

Ms McDonald says "the buck" stops with her.

No matter how bad things got, they never turned on Gerry Adams.

Will she be as lucky?

Irish Independent

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