World of Politics with Harry McGee
Getting elected to a local council is the most common springboard to national representation. Sinn Féin’s nine new TDs in 2016 were all councillors, elected for the most part in the 2014 surge when the party tripled its seats on the State’s councils.
Five years ago, the party had almost 160 councillors, its largest ever representation in the south. With traditional two-and-a-half party politics fractured, it was Sinn Féin which was primed for the greatest advances, in succeeding general elections.
That played into its calculus in Galway West. The party came from nowhere to win three seats on Galway City Council and also got a bit of a foothold in the county.
Its senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh did well in the general election – but in common with Sinn Féin candidates elsewhere could not attract a meaningful number of transfers and slipped out of contention.
Mairéad Farrell was seen as the rising star – but that was before the bitter corrective of the 2019 elections.
All of which illustrates that there are some lessons to be drawn from the Irish electoral experience of the past decade.
The first is there is a growing wedge of voters with little loyalty to a party, individual, or even a philosophy, who change their votes with each election.
The second is that local elections have tended to be the most reliable weathervane for possible outcomes of general elections.
The third is that there no such thing as permanent or inevitable rises or falls, as Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Labour and the Greens have all experienced.
And now Sinn Féin will have to brace itself for this reality. After a decade of being on the rise and growing, it has had three poor elections: the presidential; European and local.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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