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Sunday 18 August 2019

Just 1 in 4 think Army Council doesn't run SF

Sinn Fein denials on who controls it aren't washing with the public who also believe the IRA is still involved in criminal activity

Daniel McConnell

Just one-in-four people believe the Provisional IRA Army Council does not oversee activities in Sinn Fein, the latest Sunday Independent/MillwardBrown national opinion poll has found.

In contrast, one-in-two people surveyed (49pc) said they do believe the party is controlled by members of the terrorist organisation.

The Provisional IRA continues to be headed by an army council, has access to weapons, and has directed members to actively support Sinn Fein, the damning report concluded.

Sinn Fein and its president Gerry Adams have rejected the British authorities report which said IRA organisational structures still exist and that members believe the IRA Army Council oversees both the IRA and Sinn Fein with an over-arching strategy.

However, it is clear the public do not believe such denials.

Just 23pc of people surveyed said they did not believe the British report's finding while 28pc said they didn't know.

Those who felt most strongly that the IRA is in control of Sinn Fein were farmers, Fine Gael supporters and people living near the border.

A majority of people (52pc) also said they believe the IRA is still engaged in criminal activity.

Just 23pc said they felt the organisation was no longer engaged in illegal and criminal activity, while 25pc said they didn't know.

Despite the damning report, Gardai have maintained the stance of Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan that the PIRA is not an organised unit in the Republic.

Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers told the British parliament that the PIRA exists - with a senior leadership and other 'departments' with specific responsibilities.

While they don't pose a terrorist threat, they are involved in smuggling and incidents of violence, including murder.

The report by the PSNI and MI5 was commissioned in the wake of the murder of Kevin McGuigan in Belfast this summer. The aftermath of the killing brought the Stormont Executive to a standstill.

Its conclusions starkly contrast with Ms O'Sullivan's earlier assertions that the gardai had no evidence of PIRA involvement in ongoing criminality.

Sinn Fein is now the "most toxic" party according to Millward Brown's toxicity test.

This test enables us to examine how the mood of the electorate is changing, by asking people who they will definitely not vote for.

As the most toxic party, Sinn Fein surpasses FG, Labour and Fianna Fail for that honour.

It is clear that the British report has had an impact on its standing among voters. This is reflected too in the level of satisfaction Gerry Adams holds as party leader.

The number of people who are dissatisfied with his performance as leader has increased from 51pc to 55pc, while those who said they are satisfied with his leadership have fallen.

According to the poll findings, 38pc of people said they would definitely not vote for Sinn Fein which is up from 31pc. Sinn Fein are most toxic to declared Fine Gael voters, 62pc said they would not consider voting for the party.

But what does all of this mean for Gerry Adams and his party?

Today's poll shows Sinn Fein stalling on 21pc, and it is believed that the party does not have the ability to capitalise on that support base come polling day.

Also, given Sinn Fein's ongoing transfer toxicity and the importance of transfer votes in Irish politics, they are more likely to end up with a support base somewhere in the mid-teens.

While Sinn Fein are popular with younger voters, there has been a reluctance of this cohort of people to turn out on the day.

The ability of Sinn Fein to progress depends mainly on the willingness of 'Middle Ireland' to embrace it, and it is clear that while their influence is increasing, a large cohort of the population just won't have them in Government.

It is clear many people see Sinn Fein as a cult like organisation whose democratic credentials are questionable.

It is not just the links to the IRA that is stopping people from supporting them, they also have a major credibility issue when it comes to the economy.

Standing over austerity cuts in the North while opposing them in the South opens them up to legitimate criticism of hypocrisy.

Ever the opportunists during the worst of the crash, the rising economy has to be bad news for Sinn Fein, who shamelessly exploited public fear and anger around austerity.

While there is limited love for the current Government, Sinn Fein and their friends on the left have not yet been able to show they are capable of running the country.

Even last week's Right2 Change move to try and establish a left bloc fell apart before it even began, because of the lack of willingness to link up with Sinn Fein.

So, I think Sinn Fein's support has plateaued out and will most likely fall back the closer we get to the election.

In contrast to Sinn Fein's most toxic rating, and in some hope for Tanaiste Joan Burton, Labour's toxic rating is diminishing down from 36pc to 30pc.

Labour remain most toxic to declared Sinn Fein voters and supporters of Independents.

But this tells me that there is still room for Labour to win back some of the support it has lost through its bruising time in Government.

It could very well prove to be the case that Labour could be the beneficiaries of Sinn Fein's stuttering form in future polls.

The message of stability maybe a dull one but with a little more in our pockets, it could make all the difference. Until Sinn Fein can definitively say it is a party of peace, law and order and of democracy, then it doesn't deserve to be treated like a normal political party. Their denials about the IRA Army council ring hallow and it is clear most Irish people believe that. And it is the people will decide the next Government and at present Sinn Fein won't be in it.

Sunday Independent

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