LONDON (UrduPoint News / Sputnik – 30th June, 2020) The refusal of Ireland‘s two mainstream parties to engage in coalition talks with nationalist Sinn Fein (SF) despite the latter’s electoral success in February will likely play into the hands of the opposition force, which may emerge as the biggest winner in the next vote, Mick Wallace, a European Parliament member for Ireland South, told Sputnik.
Last week, Fianna Fail (FF) party leader Michael Martin formally took the position of Irish prime minister, ushering in a power-sharing deal with its main coalition partner, Fine Gael (FG), and the Greens. This ended the political uncertainty following the inconclusive February election, which saw the previously sidelined Sinn Fein winning the most first preference votes and being only one parliamentary seat behind FF. Immediately after the election, the two traditional center-right parties ruled out coalition talks with more leftist SF.
“They [Sinn Fein] got the largest popular vote of all the parties and they’d have got more seats if they’d stood more candidates. It should be said it was a blow to democracy that they [FF and FG] wouldn’t even talk to them. This was their way of trying to prevent their [Sinn Fein’s] rise to prominence in Ireland but in actual fact, come the next election, you’ll find that more than likely Sinn Féin will become the largest party, given what we’ve just witnessed,” Wallace, a member of the socialist Independents 4 Change party, said.
“Fianna Fáil are in a very difficult place. It could be the end of the party. We always felt that if Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael went together one would lose out and I think the one to lose out would be Fianna Fáil. I think Fine Gael will more or less take over the mantle of the right wing party in Ireland and FF will be diminished. You will see a continual rise of Sinn Féin, I would imagine,” the lawmaker argued.
As for the political differences between FG and FF, he went on, they have been “minute for a long time.”
“Their hard core voters though have gotten smaller and smaller. So when you think that only two thirds of the population are voting you can see their popularity is waning. So they’re really on the slide,” he added.
“Close to 50 percent of the population have never really regained their standard of living from 2008 … the austerity that followed the banking crisis has left a huge mark on the lives of close to 50 percent of the Irish people and they do struggle to pay the bills at the end of the month,” the lawmaker stated.
The absence of Sinn Fein from the current government would therefore not necessarily lead to voters becoming disillusioned with the electoral system, especially in the context of continued economic and social inequalities.
“Inequality has been rising over the past 20 years and is a big problem … so will less people vote in the next election? I don’t think so. I’d like to think young people might change their approach and start engaging, so things may change and I think people are becoming more aware,” Wallace said.
Green Party members assured the entrance of their party into the coalition last week, having voted decisively to approve a deal that would see Ireland‘s new government commit to lowering carbon emissions whilst introducing schemes to maximize public transport and carbon tax schemes.
Questions have arisen however as to whether the coalition is serious about implementing such policies, especially given the seemingly likely scenario of both FF and FG continuing to dominate the decision making process.
Just ahead of the Greens’ final vote to enter into coalition earlier in June, Paul Murphy, a member of Irish parliament for Dublin South West, told Sputnik that it is an attempt by the two main parties to hold on to power, with the ultimate goal being to deny Sinn Fein’s evident electoral success. The two mainstream parties, he believes, use the Greens as a “mudguard” for their austerity policies.