Just 30 years ago, the IRA bombed Downing Street, hurling three mortar rounds at No.10 while John Major chaired a cabinet meeting.
In 2021, Sinn FÃ©in, the political party associated with the IRA for much of the unrest, rose to pole position to lead the Irish government in what could be the biggest upheaval in state policy since its inception. foundation 100 years ago.
Ireland is three years away from the next general election and a victory for Sinn FÃ©in or any other party is far from assured, but the slow seismic shift in Irish politics has barely earned a mention outside the country despite the change of dynamic that it is already creating. .
“It’s not about whether, it’s when Sinn FÃ©in comes to power,” said a prominent businessman who declined to be named.
Such is their transformation south of the border and the pursuit of the middle class court that it creates tensions over the identity of the party north of the border.
Ahead of Christmas, one of his most respected TDs, housing spokesperson Eoin Ã Broin, called Gerry Adams to apologize for a Christmas skit, joke about a slogan associated with the IRA. In times gone by, this subordination would have been a matter of discipline.
Commentators have attributed the party’s remarkable growth south of the border in part to the transformative powers of its leader, Mary Lou McDonald, which has no connection to the Age of Troubles and represents a radical departure from the Adams era. .
But it is also because of a change in tactics – putting issues such as housing, economy and health before a united Ireland and – which is seen as extending its appeal beyond the labor fields that were once its stronghold.
Poll after poll he is extending his lead after a decisive year over the two parties that have dominated Irish politics for a century. From mid-December Irish Times / Ipsos MRBI Poll, support for Sinn FÃ©in now stands at 35%, a seemingly insurmountable gap for the two main parties in the coalition government – Fianna FÃ¡il and Fine Gael – which were each at 20%. Previous polls put Sinn FÃ©in at 32% and 33%.
Labor peer Andrew Adonis, who traveled to Dublin in October to observe the party at its conference and wrote a 3,000-word article for the February issue of Prospect on the Rise, said: “You can see a political revolution is unfolding before your eyes. .
âItâs going to sound like an amazing thing to say, but itâs true, the lust for power and the discipline behind the leader to gain power reminded me of New Labor in the 1990s.â
The businessman explained how the party is fine-tuning its day-to-day eligibility, making statements to remove traces of ties to the darkness of the past and announcing policies deliberately aimed at “detoxifying” Sinn FÃ©in for the middle class . Notably, he did not fight the government over a low corporate tax rate and said he would only raise taxes for “the richest 3%.”
McDonald told party worshipers gathered for the Ard fheis that the pandemic had exposed the failing housing system, a shortage of rental housing, inadequate health services and the rising cost of living. Soon after, she flew to the United States, where she delivered speeches to the National Press Club in Washington DC and the New York Bar Association on the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland and the potential for unification of the island of Ireland.
The party has also reached out to business groups in an attempt to detoxify its position in corporate circles. A report in Ireland Sunday business message noted that while McDonald’s “likes to accuse the government of rolling out the red carpet for vulture funds and institutional investors,” its analysis of the lobbying registry found that business entities that had previously avoided contact with the party were trying to open communication channels.
Sinn FÃ©in is a secretive and highly disciplined party, with its members rarely out of step with what the leadership commands. The report also says McDonald’s has asked its members to contact businesses, unions and industry groups as part of the government’s preparations.
The luck of a Sinn FÃ©in in government in Dublin gives rise to the prospect of a Republican Party, founded in 1905, in power north and south of the border, which could radically change relations with the United Kingdom and influence the debate, which comes together. south of the border, with a view to a united Ireland.
Polls show it has a chance of being the biggest party in the May 2022 election for the Stormont assembly.
Her rise in the Republic was first reported in 2020 when, after a surge of support, she won the most preference votes in the February general election. The results did not translate into power as the party fielded 42 candidates in a race for 159, but “generated significant changes in the political landscape,” said Agnes Maillot, professor of politics at the University of Dublin and author of Rebels in Government, a new book on Sinn FÃ©in. âUntil 2020, its progress could be described as a protest vote,â she said.
Historian Diarmaid Ferriter said 2020 marked greater success with middle-class and affluent voters and the party evolved by “compromising and adapting.” âIt’s Gerry Adams Legacy Celebration. In many ways he is its architect in the sense that he adapted Sinn FÃ©in for constitutional purposesâ¦ He called their positions purist at various times starting in the 1980s.
Ferriter said the Sinn FÃ©in opportunity was not new. The party used to abstain from politics in Westminster and Dublin, abandoning its position on the latter in the late 1980s. Another important moment was the 1998 referendum removing an article from the Irish constitution claiming sovereignty over 32 counties to pave the way for the Good Friday agreement.
âTheir acceptance of the existence of Northern Ireland was another moment as they accepted the principle of consent. All of these compromises made them more acceptable, âFerriter said.
Sinn FÃ©in’s future success will depend on how he performs in opposition over the next three years, as popular housing and health policies come under closer scrutiny and the question of his past is raised. foreground.
Ferriter drew parallels with the Fianna FÃ¡il following the Civil War and independence in 1921. It was branded as a party “in the shadow of the gunmen” but “overcame this fairly quickly by pointing out that “They had impeccable conservative credentials and they weren’t Communist and they weren’t ungodly,” he said.
“Sinn FÃ©in will obviously be confronted with the legacy of the Troubles that crop up from time to time, but this does not seem to weaken their momentum, which suggests that this change is generational,” he added.
Kevin Cunningham, former head of targeting and analytics for the UK Labor Party, who is now a professor of politics at Dublin University of Technology, sees the rise of Sinn FÃ©in based on a nation that is gaining confidence and moves away from the policy of civil war that created the two main parties on the island.
âSince around 1980 and the decline of religiosity in Ireland, you have seen a fairly steady increase in the number of people voting for or supporting political parties that identify with the left,â he said.
âFianna FÃ¡il and the Fine Gael vote stood at around 80% until 1980, then, decade after decade, it steadily declined.
âOther parties have existed on the left during these years. The Progressive Democrats and the Labor Party in particular have been incredibly weak, but at the same time a subset of the population has self-identified as being on the left and Sinn FÃ©in has grasped that and to some extent measure, this is the kind of standardization of politics in Ireland.