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The big question in Irish politics: how has Sinn Féin become so strong?

  • Housing crisis and struggling healthcare system among issues undermining Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil
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Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Niall Carson

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Niall Carson

Kevin Cunningham, MD and founder of Ireland Thinks. Photo: Mark Condren

Kevin Cunningham, MD and founder of Ireland Thinks. Photo: Mark Condren

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Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Niall Carson

The big question in Irish politics is how Sinn Féin has become so strong? And why have attempts to stem its rise been so unsuccessful? The answer to these questions requires a nuanced understanding of the emergence of the Irish brand of populism, something our poll today highlights in Technicolor.

Rival parties often highlight Sinn Féin’s connection to past atrocities with a view to dissuading supposedly naive young voters. Such a strategy has failed to have any impact. This is because support for the party has relatively little to do with Sinn Féin itself. Indeed, when its voters are asked why they vote for their party of choice, their most common explanation is their opposition to Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.


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