Just where did it all go wrong for Sinn Féin?

Changing of the guard: Sinn Fein's transition from Gerry Adams to Mary Lou McDonald hasn't gone as smoothly as they'd hoped.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

So what went wrong with Sinn Féin – or has the party simply gone out of fashion?  It’s only five years ago that Sinn Féin was the party du jour, leading the campaign against austerity. With an enfeebled Fianna Fáil still gasping for air, it had the field to itself. There was even talk of it emasculating Fianna Fáil in the way it had smothered the SDLP in the North.

The party won 159 seats in the local elections and coasted home to win seats in all three European constituencies.

In the general election less than two years later, the party won 23 seats, up nine on 2011. It came very close to winning seats in other constituencies too, but was still transfer toxic to some voters.

But taking on Fianna Fáil was a different proposition to the SDLP. It has been around for 80 years and has a huge network and is very well organised.

In addition, a substantial (but falling) proportion of the population identify themselves with the party. With a very thorough (and ruthless) root and branch reform of the party’s structures, and a return to its 1926 Corú values (nominally anyway), the party was always going to make a recovery.

The unknown factors were how big that was, and how quickly it happened. In the event, it happened more quickly than people imagined.

The party had a very good local election in 2014, along with Sinn Féin – and that was a portend it was on the way back.

Sinn Féin’s own rise in the South was built on a foundation of sand.

To read the rest of this column, see this week’s Tribune

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.