If the Northern Sinn Fein surge is replicated in the Republic’s next General Election, then Leinster House will be firmly in the hands of Sinn Fein TDs and Taoiseach Mary Lou McDonald will be leading a majority Sinn Fein government.
Much as it sticks in my throat as a Unionist to admit this, but the IRA’s political wing ran an almost perfect council election campaign in Northern Ireland in terms of voter turnout, vote management and especially propaganda stunts, such as the Coronation attendance.
If there was any fault which the IRA’s ruling Army Council did not tell Sinn Fein, it was that the party made the same mistake as in the last Dail General Election - Sinn Fein did not run enough candidates across Northern Ireland’s 11 super councils.
Even the most enthusiastic of pundits was predicting that while Sinn Fein would become the largest party at council level in Northern Ireland, it was estimated Sinn Fein would peak at around 130 councillors Province-wide.
Instead, Sinn Fein returned 144 councillors - up from 105 in the 2019 local government poll. Given the precise nature of Sinn Fein’s vote management, had the party run more council candidates this month, Sinn Fein could have even pushed through the 150 councillor total.
Indeed, the only way the Dublin establishment could keep Sinn Fein out of government in Leinster House was to form an historic political shotgun marriage between traditionally bitter enemies Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
So just as Unionism and Loyalism need an urgent conversation about greater electoral co-operation, so too, do Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil - and indeed anyone who is not Sinn Fein - need an urgent conversation to establish a new Pan Nationalist Front in the Dail if the Provisional IRA’s political wing is to be denied the ultimate double whammy - in power in both the republic and Northern Ireland simultaneously.
If the DUP agrees a Windsor Framework cash compromise which will enable the party to trigger the Stormont power-sharing Executive, Unionism will have to swallow the bitter medicine of having to serve under a Sinn Fein First Minister even though the posts of First and deputy First Minister are supposed to be joint.
But knowing the Sinn Fein propaganda machine, Sinn Fein MLA Michelle O’Neill will easily be spun in PR terms as Northern Prime Minister.
The key issue now becomes - have all the Southern parties and Independent candidates enough political savvy to form a cohesive Pan Nationalist Front to once again deny Mary Lou McDonald both the Taoiseach and Tanaiste offices?
The problem any new Southern-based Pan Nationalist Front against Sinn Fein faces is that there is a new generation of first-time voters and young voters as well as middle class voters for whom the atrocities of the Provos during the Troubles are merely dates and times in history books.
Sinn Fein has been very effective in its revisionism of Irish history and especially in its ‘we must move forward’ campaign. It has been able to keep its republican heartlands on board with commemorations for dead IRA terrorists, without the wider Southern community becoming too annoyed about terrorist atrocities and massacres in Northern Ireland or the murder of Gardai in the Republic.
If the Southern opinion polls are accurate and Sinn Fein does make significant gains in Leinster House, then this will be the most historic situation Sinn Fein has been in since the 1918 Westminster General Election when the entire island was part of the British Empire.
In that immediate post Great War poll, Sinn Fein raked up around 70 of the 105 House of Commons seats on offer to assume the mantel of the largest political party in Ireland. But Sinn Fein was incapable of doing democratic government.
Having established the a Dail and negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty, instead of using it as a springboard for eventual all-island Irish Unity, Sinn Fein split over the Treaty sparking a bloody civil war which saw more IRA people executed by the pro-Treaty Free State forces than were killed by the Black and Tans during the previous War of Independence.
Put bluntly, does Sinn Fein have the political maturity to run a democratic government north or south in geographical island, or would its loony Left-wing policies - especially on social housing - bankrupt the Irish Republic, bearing in mind - post Brexit - there are no British millions to bail out the Celtic Tiger economy if Sinn Fein tries to covert Southern Ireland into some kind of old-style communist East German mythical utopia?
Perhaps what could kill off any notion of Irish Unity for at least a generation to come, would be a good dose of Sinn Fein in government in both Stormont’s Parliament Buildings and Dublin’s Leinster House?
Up until the 1981 republican hunger strikes, Sinn Fein was nothing more than a social club to mark the failure of the 1916 Easter Rising as well as an apologist for Provisional IRA terrorism.
The republican movement realised the power of the ballot box when the first IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands won the Fermanagh South Tyrone Westminster by-election in 1981. After his death, the seat was held by Sands’ election agent Owen Carron.
Then again, the republican movement cannot get over that it is merely a protest organisation. The British Government was effectively willing to give in to republican demands after the second hunger striker, Francis Hughes, died in 1981. So why did republicanism insist on letting the other eight IRA and INLA hunger strikers die?
In short, Sinn Fein’s political Achilles heel is that it doesn’t know when to wind its neck in and say ‘enough is enough’. It needs to constantly protest and ‘be agin something’.
So Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Irish Labour et al have some political soul searching to do before Christmas. Do they form a genuine, workable Pan Nationalist Front that no matter how many TDs Mary Lou McDonald walks into Leinster House with, she will again be denied the top posts in the Dail?
Or, do they accept the polls, allow Sinn Fein into government and watch this traditional party of protest wreck the economies north and south of the Irish border. Sinn Fein’s new East Germany vision would be punished at the polls in later years.
Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter
Listen to commentator Dr John Coulter’s programme, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 10.15 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM. Listen online.