Sinn Fein is the big loser from the Irish presidential election. Presented with a golden opportunity to set itself out as the principal alternative to a Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Labour triumvirate, Mary Lou McDonald’s party offered the Republic’s electorate a package so bland that it blended in with the wallpaper.
Surely someone in Sinn Fein must now be asking how the Movement has strayed so far from its core base. Did they really think that they could succeed by wooing the middle-class, a strategy that failed miserably in the past for both Labour and the Workers Party?
The choice of Liadh Ní Riada was not the cause of their problem. It was the thinking that led them to choose Ms Ní Riada that lies at the heart of her and the party’s rejection. Misreading the political situation and believing that rebranding as a middle-of-the-road, conviction-less, liberal, soft on business but above all no-longer-Provo organisation would seal the deal was a major blunder.
Moreover, this misconception did not start with the presidential election. The party that was caught flat-footed at the beginning of the anti water tax campaign, has changed direction on the EU, with all that implies for its economic outlook. In a two-tier economy there is no middle ground.
Unable to decide which side of the fence to stand on has opened the door to the type of Trump-like populism that took Peter Casey from obscurity to winning 23% of votes cast in the recent election.
The need to continue constructing a dynamic socialist republican mass movement remains an imperative.