This article is from the July 2004 edition of Socialist Voice
Gains for New Sinn Fein
SINN FEIN made important and significant gains in the local and European elections. Of all the major parties they are the only ones with a real momentum and enthusiastic support. However, this growth is taking place at the same time when the party leadership is moving sharply to the right.
At the Dublin Chamber of Commerce Gerry Adams stated that Sinn Fein would operate "pragmatic politics" when it comes to service charges and privatisations - i.e. Sinn Fein will support these policies. However it is likely that Sinn Fein will only be fully exposed to the mass of working class people when they participate in an anti working class government. Until then, they are likely to continue to grow.
It is quite possible, depending on developments, that they could be returned with up to 15 or 20 TDs in the next general election. Such a result would be posed as the most dramatic electoral breakthrough in Ireland in decades but it would also have a double edge. It would also bring closer the time when Sinn Fein are likely to assume "responsible" positions in a capitalist government.
The pull of Sinn Fein is not universal or irresistible. They went from 3.5% and 21 council seats in 1999 to 8% and 54 seats. Their vote in 2002 was 6.5%. Large sections of the working class still show a clear preference to vote for a left alternative as opposed to Sinn Fein. Labour still retains a significant section of working class support. In the four local councils in Dublin Labour has 34 councillors while Sinn Fein have 14. In the Dublin European Constituency, with huge resources and massive publicity Sinn Fein polled 60,000 votes while Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party, in a campaign fought with threadbare resources and with only a fraction of the publicity given to Sinn Fein, polled a very credible 23,200 or 5.5%. In the seven wards in Dublin where the Socialist Party and Sinn Fein both stood, we out-polled Sinn Fein in five.