Sinn Féin is the big loser from the presidential election. Given a golden opportunity to present itself as the principal alternative to a triumvirate of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and the Labour Party, it offered the Republic’s electorate a package so bland that it blended in with the wallpaper.
Surely someone in Sinn Féin must now be asking how the movement has strayed so far from its core base. Did they really think they could succeed by wooing the middle class—a strategy that failed miserably in the past for both Labour and the Workers’ Party?
The choice of Liadh Ní Riada was not the cause of their problem: it was the thinking that led them to choose her that lies at the heart of her party’s rejection. Misreading the political situation, believing that rebranding as a middle-of-the-road, conviction-less liberal organisation, soft on business and, above all, “no longer Provo,” would seal the deal, was a major blunder.
Moreover, this misconception did not begin with the presidential election. The party that was caught flat-footed at the beginning of the anti-water-tax campaign has changed direction on the EU, with all this implies for its economic outlook. In a two-tier economy, there is no middle ground.
Unable to decide which side of the fence to stand, it has opened the door for the type of Trump-like populism that took Peter Casey from obscurity to winning 23 per cent of votes cast in the recent election.
The need to continue constructing a dynamic socialist republican mass movement remains an imperative.