Monday, 31 October 2011

Has the Irish presidential poll damaged Sinn Fein?

Had it not been for the beyond abysmal performance of Fine Gael's dreadful candidate for Ireland's Presidency, Gay Mitchell, who managed to amass a mere 6.4% of the votes in Thursday's election, and who couldn't be bothered to show up for the final declaration, there would be a lot more attention on the relatively poor performance of Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, and on the arrogant assumptions that lay behind his candidacy.

Before doing so, it is worth acknowleding that McGuinness's intervention in last Monday's TV debate certainly secured the presidency for Michael D Higgins, although I still think Gallagher's vote was pretty flaky even before it, as a cursory look at the raw polling data showed.

However, McGuinness was supposed to garner at least 20 per cent of first preferences and place Sinn Fein's vote at least on a par with the Labour Party. And while it is true that his 13.7% is up on Sinn Fein's 9.9% in the general election, such a marginal improvement hardly justifies endangering the entire Northern Ireland government and opening up the can of worms that is the IRA's not too distant past. Sinn Fein expected Irish voters to be grateful to them for standing McGuinness, and then were astonished at the extent of their ingratitude. The renewed focus on the IRA's unsavoury past may also have lasting consequences for Sinn Fein's vote in the Republic: if their leading celebrity candidate cannot advance further than this in such a volatile campaign, what hope is there for the less elevated retired gun-runners and gullible groupies that the party puts up in more prosaic circumstances?

McGuinness made an important contribution to the final result through his interventions in the final debate, but even he must be wondering whether the damage that the whole campaign has done to his and Sinn Fein's reputation was quite the masterstroke that Sinn Fein thought it to be six weeks ago.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think though, that McGuinness's candidature will have helped Sinn Fein in the North, where the Catholic/Nationalist sense of having been betrayed in 1921 will have been heightened by both the doing McGuinness got in the media and his bitter responses to it - which above all made him look alien to the South but which played heavily on the Northern bitterness.
And, of course, all the stuff about McGuinness going on about the"Free State Army" must have made him look like an ancient relic in the South but can seem like normal discourse in the North.
It is ironic that SF - supposedly the arch enemies of the "two Ireland's" thesis have now become its chief handmaiden.