The good news from last week’s election in the Irish Republic is that Sinn Féin, the party of terrorism, bank robbery, and cop-killing, garnished with half-baked sub-Marxist economic theories, achieved only a 0.4 percent increase in its first-preference votes, and actually lost one of its seats in the Irish parliament. Gerry Adams, the Sinn Féin leader, had predicted a doubling of their number of parliamentary seats, from 5 to 10; instead they have gone from 5 to 4. The “boost” for SF from all the publicity about their participation in the new power-sharing arrangement in Northern Ireland failed to happen, confirming the view of us cynics that hardly anyone in the Republic gives a fig about Ulster.
Fianna Fáil, the party of incumbent prime minister Bertie Ahearn, is overall winner; but Ireland has one of those complicated voting systems, like Israel’s, that make it hard for one party to get an absolute majority. Bertie will be looking around for coalition partners, his main partner in the previous coalition, the neoliberal Progressive Democrats, having cratered. The chance he will sign upSinn Féin as partners? Zero.
Irish politics doesn’t “map” very well onto anyone else’s (that neoliberal party, for example, wants less immigration), but this is a good result, Ahearn being cautiously rewarded for having delivered much market-driven prosperity with, by traditional Irish standards, only a minimum of social bossiness. The failure ofSinn Féin to make any progress with Irish voters is a triumph for decency.