Sinn Féin members have been told that they need to maintain “maximum unity and cohesion” as they enter post-election talks aimed at forming a government. They have named a public negotiation team, but members have been told that others of the “core group” of the party are involved.
The final election results present an interesting dilemma as Sinn Féin is now only very marginally a minor potential coalition partner. That has been the key issue within the party for years: as to whether it should enter a government as a smaller party.
Now, even the left of the party can claim that it will be entering government as a more or less equal partner. In any event, whatever the leadership decides will be approved by the members.
Perhaps the more interesting aspect of the negotiations, which at this stage basically involve Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and whoever else might be needed to make up the numbers, is the attitude of Fianna Fáil members, including prominent elected representatives to any deal with Sinn Féin.
From contact with members of Fianna Fáil there does appear to be a genuinely hostile reaction to the prospect of the party sharing power with Sinn Féin. At least one Dublin TD has said he will resign if the party enters a coalition with Sinn Féin.
Now, we also have to bear in mind that this is a party which eventually made friends with the Progressive Democrats whose very raison d’etre was to take down Haughey and Fianna Fáil. So, if the numbers stack up, a deal will likely be made.
So in the aftermath of an interesting election perhaps it is time to take pause. There are positives.
Not only did all of the TDs who had the moral conviction to vote against abortion on demand get re-elected, but many of the most arrogant and nasty repealers like Ruth Coppinger and Kate O’Connell lost their seats.
Pundits like to claim that this country is divorced from the “populist” sentiment that is sweeping the rest of Europe. The sad fact is that Sinn Féin tapped into that on the basis of their history as a former nationalist party. Polls have proven that the opinions of Sinn Féin voters on issues like immigration are pretty far removed from the party itself.
That so many pro life TDs were re-elected is a positive. God only knows what conglomeration will emerge when the ultimate cynics of Fianna Fáil and the new kids on the block make a deal. It shall not be good. Fine Gael also need to contemplate how they lost so many decent people.
There is a space for a true opposition, partly evidenced by Aontú and independents like those my colleague John mentions here, but this is a long term project which needs further articulation.