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That last opinion poll and the remarkable rise of Sinn Féin July 18, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, The Left.

There’s not a lot to say about the latest Sunday
Independent/MB poll. It diverges only partially from the trends of
the last RedC poll. Granted one of those divergences is that Fianna
Fáil is well up, and Fine Gael down, and that seems to run counter
to the Drumm/Anglo tape narrative that the latter would impact very
badly on FF. Well perhaps it has, and perhaps it has also brought
to the fore another thought, that getting on for three years since
FF was removed from power little has changed, in fact, in truth,
matters have worsened on the level of the everyday, whatever about
the grand claims emanating from the government as regards corners
turned (indeed Michael Noonan had some stunningly panglossian stuff
at the weekend about austerity being close to being over). So FF
and FG while remaining the largest formations are clearly
problematic for voters and there is an interesting variability,
perhaps even contingency, to their vote. It will be some election
if they enter it on similar levels of support, but that’s very much
an open question. Still, that aside matters remain much as one
might imagine. The Labour Party polling at what most would consider
the floor of its support, the Independents retaining twenty odd per
cent support. As has been said many times now, the longer that
support consolidates the more likely much of it will remain when
facing into the election, because surely some of it will dissipate
to the parties. Though that said in 2011 the Independent vote went
up from just above 11 per cent to 15 per cent in the final month
before the election. So it is possible that most of that vote might
stick with them.

And then there’s Sinn Féin. Let’s put aside
caveats about policy, position, and so on. All those are important,
some of those are issues that can’t be addressed by the party,
others that should be, particularly in relation to left critiques
of it. But as a phenomenon it is well worth assessing. A party that
in 2007 gained 7 per cent of the vote, in 2011 gained 9.9 per cent
of the vote and now appears in both RedC and this latest poll to be
tipping up towards the higher reaches of the late teens. That’s
quite some achievement in two and a half years. The reasons for
same? Well, obviously the McGuinness candidacy at the Presidential
election worked extremely well, whatever the final vote, in terms
of paving the way for future gains. It normalised. We hear a lot
about how there are those who will not vote for SF. I know people
who say that themselves, but the thing is that clearly there is an
increasing number who will vote for SF. And some of these are
people who it would appear would not have voted for SF ten or
fifteen years ago. Of course, that suggests an upper limit on their
support, but that is, if one thinks of it, true of any political
party. How many dyed in the wool FGers will vote LP or FF, or vice
versa? To put the question is to answer it.

All that is in and of
itself a remarkable achievement, to see it poll so well, and
presumably most would think that there will be some slippage come
an actual election, that is certainly what we saw at 2011 when in
IT polls it lost a couple of percentage points. But it’s worth
reflecting that that initial gain before that election was on foot
of Pearse Doherty’s by-election win, just as the McGuinness
campaign did no harm. That suggests that the more some see of SF
the more they like, rather than being put off the party. That too
is important (and in truth it projects a very cohesive image in the

But, and this is another point. This rise of SF is quite
unusual. At one point, pre-2002, their progress was, naturally
enough compared and contrasted with the WP. Smallish parties,
gaining a specific political niche and growing. The WP went from 1
TD to 7 across a decade. SF went from 1 to 5 in a slightly shorter
period. And then of course it stalled in 2007 losing one TD at
that election. And then… subsequently it increased rapidly to 14
pushing itself way ahead of the WP category (which at its height
never gained more than four per cent of the vote) and into a
category of parties perhaps best typified by the PDs or the LP (at
least in general). So granted, that sort of variability in Irish
politics is not unheard of. The prospect of coalition and PRSTV
allows for smaller parties to not merely grow, or contract, but
also to enter government – though as we know that’s been a mixed
blessing. For those of us on the left of Labour this is of obvious
interest, and not just in terms of SF occupying an amorphous
traditional social democrat area. If SF can do it it suggests
others might, perhaps, one day, or maybe not. But look at the
timescales. A decade and a half to move from 1 TD to 14. Two
decades to most likely breach the 20 TDs barrier. This is truly
what is meant by a political project, though worth considering that
SF, like the WP before it, has the mixed, but not entirely negative
blessing, of coming from a tight political/military organisational
structure and having a wide geographic dispersal. Indeed even now
that heritage/legacy and remains of same functions remarkably well. Small wonder that the partial apostasy of Toibin is so surprising.

Still, looking around Europe it’s educative to consider other
polities where third/fourth and fifth parties have seen
significant, long term growth. Die Linke was formed from breakaways
from the SDP and the already extant PDS plus assorted others and at
Federal level it gained 11.9 per cent of votes in 2009. Current
polling puts them well below 10 per cent on about 7 per cent, which
interestingly enough is the combined figure the WASG and the PDS
achieved prior to merger. The Socialist People’s Party has been
plugging away in Denmark for decades and in 2011 gained 9.2 per
cent of the vote. However this was far from its highest point,
having previously reached as high as 14.6 per cent in 1988. SYRIZA
is perhaps a better analogue in terms of growth, although in terms
of structure quite radically different. It has grown from 3.3 per
cent in 2004 to 16.8 per cent in May of last year and then a
remarkable 26.9 per cent in June of the same year. Currently it is
a couple of points ahead of that position and a point or two behind
the ND. It’s a long hard slog, even if you’re in SYRIZA, where its
primacy at the next election is far from assured (although the
resilience of its vote is intriguing). As for SF? Well, keeping in
mind an upper limit, it does seem as if SF has managed to prise
away a chunk of the LP vote and another chunk of the FF vote plus
assorted others. If it can retain them through to 2016 the chances
of it emerging as the third party in the Irish political system are
very very strong indeed. And the chances of retaining that through
to 2021 or whenever? Well that’s a different matter entirely. But
one could argue that success in these instances breeds success, and
crucially there will be the issue of government participation. We
saw how both the GP and the LP were hit very very badly by being in
government during recession. Some in SF might be wondering if the
chance presented itself to participate in government would they
buck that trend by arriving at a time of improving economic
circumstances? That’s a big risk to take given the precedents.
Though they may not be afforded the opportunity. Questions


1. Blissett - July 18, 2013

Good piece, though on a minor, point, SF elected 5 in 02, not 6, and lost 1 in 07 rather than two 😉


WorldbyStorm - July 18, 2013

Yes, and I am embarrassed about that. Been a bit under the weather this week and look what happens!

Amended the figures.


Blissett - July 18, 2013

Im being pedantic!


Bob Smiles - July 18, 2013

I was disappointed in Caiomain O Caolain’s reaction to the Anglo tapes. He said this would prove the Quinn family were right. Does anyone in SF have an explanation for why some in the party condemn these shysters but others cuddle up to them?


Florence O'Donoghue - July 20, 2013

As noted in Colm Tóibín’s ‘Walking along the border’, Quinn refused to have any dealings with the British army – in terms of supplying them etc. He also seemed to benefit from a rumour that he’d run over a soldier at a checkpoint, and he was not shy about declaring that he was a nationalist.

I’m no Quinn fan myself, but I’m sure there is some fair amount of nuance involved in the border counties that go above our heads.

Is mise srl.,


2. workers republic - July 21, 2013

An achievement ! Of what? are elections a means to an end or an end in themselves? That is the question . Michael O Regan, politican correspondent is always saying ” if Sinn Fein want to increase their vote they’ll have to move towards the Centre” The “Centre” is becoming a very crowded place.
Socialism is now a word nevet used by SF , it would’ nt please their Right Wing corporate US backers


WorldbyStorm - July 21, 2013

I’ve never harboured any illusions that SF is more than traditional social democrat and that there are some very contradictory currents within the party, from people whose politcis would be near indistinguishable to mine to people whose politics I’d find deeply problematic. Indeed it’s always seemed to me odd that people think they’re much more than that or that the rhetoric used in the late 1970s early 80s was all that substantive. But there is an achievement is in growing party support because that is what elections represent as well as anything else, and of course each additional TD brings them potentially closer to some form of state power. Just because they’re not optimal doesn’t detract from that (and that doesn’t prevent me from critiquing them either). Thing is they aren’t really pushing for a workers republic, and IIRC in their post 1970 incarnation they never did (Éire Nua being a pretty rhetorical doc, and likewise the post 86 stuff too). So where’s the surprise?


que - July 21, 2013

that line about elections showing growing party support is key. An election means someone has to go out of their way and vote for that party. Whatever the limits of electoralism its activism to vote and if you cant get someone to take 30 mins out of their day every 2-3 years to doodle a x beside your name then your chances of getting them onto the streets in mass protests or as part of a general strike are zero.

However accepting the point that votes do represent an indication of support is to conclude that this means the further left has very little support. Thats not an acceptable position so therefore votes can never be regarded as important and it remains a realistic option to call for people to go out on general strike for a few days despite the fact you cant even persuade them to spend 30 mins expressing support for you.

Regarding the use of the world socialism by Sinn Fein its would be hard for them to match the insistence of others left of them to use the word socialism in nearly every statement or interview. People know you are socialists. They get it without a shade of doubt but still the need seems to exists to reaffirm it in every missive. If Sinn Fein use the word socialist too little or hardly ever then them to the left over use it to the point of exhaustion. So how can they ever please those to the left of them.
If they moved left into the realm the ULA was supposed to own then would they not just be another addition to the internecine fighting of that patch.

Fair criticism is welcome but a lot of these anti Sinn Fein comments are to condemn Sinn Fein for not choosing a course that would reduce them to near nothing as a political force.


WorldbyStorm - July 21, 2013

“if you cant get someone to take 30 mins out of their day every 2-3 years to doodle a x beside your name then your chances of getting them onto the streets in mass protests or as part of a general strike are zero.”


Also on your last point, it’s to demand that SF become or act as something it is not. It’s not an M-L party, it’s not a Marxist party. And it’s doing pretty damn well without being either. Demanding that it be one seems strange.


3. que - July 21, 2013

@Workers Republic

No I dont think Sinn Fein have seats as the be all and end all. But what do others left again have as their end goal. Even if you dont like Sinn Fein you have to appreciate that they can get a lot of working class people to vote for them.

Dont worry about Sinn Fein. The problems of the further left are not Sinn Fein. The problem of the further left is it cant avoid having a row and it finds it near impossible to get the working class to back it.

If all those to the left of Sinn Fein dislike Sinn Fein so much then how you solve the problem is you grow faster and bigger than Sinn Fein and you replace them in every community in Ireland.

But rather than growing you are dividing, electorally you are fracturing, and campaign wise it has petered out at least for now.

But lets focus on Sinn Fein instead as clearly they are the reason things are going down the tubes for the further left.


WorldbyStorm - July 21, 2013

Can’t disagree que, there’s far too much made of SF on the further left. SF is what it is. A lot to admire, a lot to critique. But never make the mistake (deliberate or otherwise) that SF is something that it isn’t.

And all the while SF is consolidating. It’s an interesting thought to reverse that and consider how much attention SF pays the further left. Little to none I’d suspect. And given the fractious state of the further left who would blame them?


que - July 21, 2013

well look at the further end of the spectrum from the further left parties like FG or the old PD. Not just a difference in tactics, or certain degrees but polar difference fundamentally against even the most basic entitlements the left might ever ask for. How worried are they about them. They dont even thing about them. There isnt one fat cat worried about them. Look at it this way when SF lost the Dublin MEP seat Joe got the easy treatment and Mary Lou was vilified.

Doesnt match the plot line of the plucky socialist standing against the power of the right wing media in his efforts to defend the working class but Joe got support on that one because the right new electing a Shinner would mean a boost to a political project growing state wide while electing Joe would be a localised threat, and likely temporary.

If you were a PD man would you rather have a party like SF opposing you or rather have a few TDs from SWP and SP ULA etc who spend most of their time gutting each other to win a single council seat.


WorldbyStorm - July 21, 2013

Interesting point, to be honest. For all the talk about SF coming in from the cold and joining the soggy centre it is striking to me just how antagonistic so many on the right and centre remain to it (let’s not even start on what some of those on the left think).

All that said, I think that if the further left got its act together it could present a significant problem to the right. Big if .


workers republic - July 22, 2013

I’m not focussing on Sinn Fein, I’m involved in campaigns against home taxes,the sell-out of oil anf mineral resources, the privatisation of our water , which is a first step towards it’s sell-out to carpet-bagging vulture capitalists and as an active member of Independant Workers Union I oppose Parnership with our exploiters, oppose the colaboratiom of the

beurocrats of the Congress and SIPTU who have accepted the precepts of the market-driven economy.

I have’nt time to write long blogs,I’ll be brief.
An achievment for SF is not one fot Socialism.
A document only becomes mere rhetoric when it’s not acted on or not intended to be acted on. The LP pre-election promices, “one tends to do that at election time” (Rappitt) is an example. At Stormont the


workers republic - July 22, 2013

Sorry,I don’t know what the gnomes did there!
To continue,
The Stormont gov. latest bill , rather amendments to the Planning Bill will enable the OFMDFM, allow SF & DUP, to over-ride the Dept of t Environment and railroad through “pro-business” planning decisions.This does not all court challanges to OFMDFM decisions.
of t problems of left DIS-unity; I attended CAHWT
I am only too well aware, NSC meeting Sat last. Thats nothing new, same in Larken’s time and Connolly encounted it here and in t US , it’s part of t course , there were victories in t past , there’ll be more in t future. Pessism is not an option for revulusionaries.


4. felicitaciones navideñas - November 21, 2013

un amigo me había pedido que el primer año cuáles
eran mis planes para la Navidad . para garantizar la Navidad es
la ocasión agradable que debe ser , considerar algunas
ideas para aflojar hacia el final del año , y evitar la aparición repentina de la tensión
. La capacidad de personalizar sus tarjetas con el logotipo de su empresa es probablemente la cosa más importante a tener en cuenta .


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