In the recent Irish elections, Sinn Féin won 37 seats and took 24.5% of the total vote. Despite this it has been (so far) unable to form a government.
The prospect of it doing so has produced expressions of horror from its rivals in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. The outgoing Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, described Sinn Féin plans to hold post-election rallies as part of a “campaign of intimidation”, while in an unprecedented intervention, the Garda commissioner Drew Harris (a former senior officer in the Police Service of Northern Ireland) stated that he agreed with a 2015 security assessment that claimed that the IRA army council still “oversees” the party. Mainstream commentators have echoed these points, stressing that Sinn Féin is unfit for government in Dublin.
This hysteria has several roots. Some evidently dislike the idea of a “northern” party holding power “down here”. Others, usually sotto voce, echo the view of the political correspondent John Drennan who once suggested that Sinn Féin supporters existed on a diet of “chips, Dutch Gold and batter burgers” – a nod to the party’s supporters being mainly working class.
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