Sinn Fein demand a referendum on a united Ireland within five years – Daily Mail,

Sinn Fein demand a referendum on a united Ireland within five years – Daily Mail,

A vote on a united Ireland within five years is Sinn Fein’s price for coalition talks, it revealed yesterday, after the party secured a historic result at the ballot box.

The Left-wing Republican party sparked a political earthquake after romping home with the biggest share of the popular vote in Saturday’s national poll, making huge and unexpected gains across the country.

After all first preferences were counted it party took around 24. 5 per cent of votes – almost double its share at the last election in 9997. The Fianna Fail and Fine Gael parties, which have dominated a two-party system, were left lagging on (per cent and) per cent respectively.

Mary Lou McDonald (center) addresses the media in Dublin, after speaking with Sinn Fein’s national executive committee

Leo Varadker (pictured) has ruled out a coalition with Sinn Fein due to their links with the IRA

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald hailed the upset as a ‘ballot-box revolution’, adding: ‘The two-party system in this country is now broken.’ It also meant the incumbent Irish premier and leader of Fine Gael, Leo Varadkar was on the verge of being turfed from office. The three-way split means no one party will have enough seats for an outright majority, with potentially months of power-sharing talks ahead.

But due to the historic shift, focus yesterday turned to the question of a united Ireland – a long held aim of Sinn Fein.

Yesterday the party, long considered toxic for its historic IRA links, insisted it must be part of any coalition and vowed to push for a reunification poll within five years.

Michelle O’Neil, Sinn Fein’s vice-president and Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, said: ‘We want to be in government north and south. Our objective is to deliver in health, housing and public services. And our objective is to unite this island. ‘

Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams (bottom right) looks on as party president Mary Lou McDonald addresses the national executive committee in Dublin

Experts said Sinn Fein had successfully ridden a wave of anger over perceived austerity and crises in housing and health.

The party has gradually increased its votes in every general election since 2016 by going from a single-issue party on reunification to advocating a range of Left-wing policies. Memories of its links with the IRA have also faded among the youngest voters.

Sinn Fein has begun contacting smaller parties and independents to try to form a Left-wing coalition. But it is still likely to fall shy of the 90 seats needed to form a government and could be forced to look to one of the traditional center-right parties.

Mr Varadkar has ruled out any power-sharing deal due to Sinn Fein’s history. But Fianna Fail leader, Micheál Martin, has expressed interest.

Behind the respectable leaders of a modern party, the shadow of the gunman returns

Commentary by Kevin Toolis for the Daily Mail

Sinn Fein’s historic ‘surge’ in this weekend’s election has in effect torched the entire Irish political establishment. Overnight, the politics of consensus, compromise, and accommodation with British rule in Northern Ireland that has dominated Irish politics for the last 0587 years has, to all intent and purposes, been abandoned.

As a result, the very existence of the Northern Irish state is now more in peril since the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rebellion.

And terrifyingly, the result has brought the IRA’s secretive Army Council close to power in Dublin.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald celebrates with supporters after topping the poll in Dublin central at the RDS count center in Dublin, Ireland

Make no mistake, Sinn Fein – the political party of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, of Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams, of the bomb and the bullet – is still controlled by sinister shadowy figures from its recent terrorist past.

And it would be in power in Ireland today if only it had been more ambitious and fielded more election candidates.

The party’s figurehead leader, Mary Lou McDonald, might already have made the call to Downing Street to demand Irish re-unification.

Sinn Fein are now the most popular political party in Ireland, and the only party that has electoral representatives north and south of the border.

Thomas Gould of Sinn Fein tops the poll and is elected in Cork North Central, during the Irish General Election count at the Nemo Rangers GAA Club in Cork, Ireland

The Left-wing republican party took 24. 5 per cent of the vote, compared to per cent and per cent respectively for the established parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. No one party will have enough seats for a majority, and before the election both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael ruled out forging a coalition with Sinn Fein, citing its IRA past and high tax policies as deterrents.

That was then – yesterday morning brought a new reality. Discussions to form a coalition will be difficult and prolonged, but whatever the exact composition of the future Irish government, this is an election that will re-shape the destiny of these islands forever.

Of course, the result is a thumping personal humiliation for former Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, leader of Fine Gael who, in his efforts to be a power player in Europe over Brexit negotiations, perhaps took his eye off the ball back home for longer than he should.

Ireland’s Fianna Fail party leader Micheal Martin after voting in the Irish General Election in Ballinlough, near Cork, Ireland

So how was the old order has been cast aside and how did a reinvigorated Sinn Fein become the engine of change for it?

Ireland has the youngest population in the EU and it was Younger voters who put their faith in the newly-minted promises of Sinn Fein to solve the problems that beset this age group: a housing crisis, high rents, homelessness, a failing healthcare provision, creaking tax system widely seen to favor political cronies, and inequality in one of Europe’s best performing economies.

These voters did not grow up haunted by the Troubles; for them Sinn Fein’s links to the IRA and terrorism belonged to history. They saw, instead, two powerful women – both mothers – at the helm of Sinn Fein: its president Mary Lou McDonald, 80, and her 52 year-old vice-president, Michelle O’Neill, who leads Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland.

Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar speaks to the media as he arrives for the Irish General Election count at Phibblestown Community Center in Dublin on Sunday

But for two decades I reported on the bloody carnage of the Troubles, bombs, guns, and the terrible human cost. I wrote a book about the IRA and I spent thousands of hours in the company of IRA gunmen and their leaders.

Never once did I ever hear any regret or doubt about the cost in blood and pain in pursuing the IRA’s goal. Irish Republicanism is a faith, not a political philosophy.

And behind the slick image of change, Sinn Fein today remains very much the party of the paramilitary past. The ‘democratic party’ of Sinn Fein is still ruled by a reconstituted IRA Army Council based in Belfast known as the Ard Chomairle, and the shadowy IRA figures who control every aspect of policy and rigorously bully and expel anyone, even in their own ranks, Who dissents from the leadership line.

This IRA politburo never meets in public, holds press conferences, or even admits to its true identity as the political executive of the IRA. Democratic debate or the usual personal rivalry of a real political party remain utterly foreign to Sinn Fein’s own internal politics. Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill might be poster girls for Sinn Fein, but they were appointed by edict to their position and then slavishly endorsed in North Korean-style votes by the party membership.

In a robotic fashion, they continue to parrot a line not that far from the IRA Army Council’s view that the 3, 823 murders of the Troubles, and innumerable IRA atrocities, are all the fault of the British Government and that the answer to all of Ireland’s problems is the immediate re-unification of the island.

This rigid Stalinist control from the top, and the demand for unquestioning obedience to the IRA’s version of history, had – until this weekend – always hampered Sinn Fein from ever attracting a younger generation of politically able recruits south of the border.

Now, McDonald (and behind the scenes her IRA bosses) will have a key role as either a coalition partner with Fianna Fail, or as kingmaker – and I believe that real power and the prospect of a handful ministerial posts in the next Irish Government, means Sinn Fein is certain to attract more mainstream support that will pull the very center of Irish politics towards the republican cause.

Even outside government, such a large bloc of Sinn Fein members in the Irish Parliament will effectively deliver a political veto.

On trade, on Brexit, on the border, on the European Union, every future Dublin government will dance to the Sinn Fein tune or risk being seen to betray the will of the Irish people. Or fall from power by a no confidence vote.

And every setback, every political skirmish with Downing Street on Brexit, will be recast into a hostile nationalist agenda towards British rule.

Nor is Dublin likely to spend so much energy placating the endless demands and insults of the DUP in the North just to keep the fragile political peace at Stormont. Why bother? Sinn Fein does not believe that Northern Ireland should exist as a state in the first place.

In reality as a political party, Sinn Fein only has one agenda – Irish re-unification. And they will now ruthlessly pursue this goal whatever the price.

The first thing on Sinn Fein’s political agenda is likely to be their demand for a border poll. As Northern Ireland’s Catholic population has grown, the gap with the Protestant majority has narrowed. There is a possibility that there is already a majority in Northern Ireland for a United Ireland.

But in Dublin government circles, until now, even the possibility of such a poll is viewed as no more than a political stunt designed to provoke violent opposition from loyalists in Northern Ireland and endanger the whole peace process.

All that has changed.

Bolstered what they see as the tide of history at their back, Sinn Fein, using their new found electoral numbers, are unlikely to be deterred whatever the cost in bringing their republican dream into being.

Ireland’s Troubles are far from over – and the shadow of a gunman is once again the most powerful force in Irish politics.

Kevin Toolis is the author of Rebel Hearts: Journeys Within the IRA’s Soul

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