- Wall Street Journal – Sinn Fein Gains Clout, Irish Polls Show: Sinn Fein’s campaign to reject the European Union’s new fiscal treaty seems set to fail, but it has succeeded in boosting support for a party that has become the rising power in Irish politics.
Just as Greece’s Syriza party has seen its popularity surge as a result of its opposition to austerity, Sinn Fein has emerged as Ireland’s second-most popular party thanks in large part to its campaign against the EU accord…
An Ipsos MRBI poll published in the Irish Times Monday found that Sinn Fein, led by Gerry Adams, has significantly boosted its profile by leading opposition to the austerity imposed by the EU and International Monetary Fund in return for a bailout deal. The party has urged voters in a monthlong campaign to reject the treaty…
Sinn Fein’s support has surged to 24%, according to the Ipsos poll, putting it in second place behind only Mr. Kenny’s Fine Gael. Sinn Fein has also eclipsed the junior coalition partner, the left-of-center Labor Party, whose support has halved to 10% since the election that propelled it to power last year.
“The polls show there has been a growth in Sinn Fein support,” a party spokesman said. “That reflects our work on the ground with people who are not just looking to express anger but want solutions to the economic mess.”
Ben Tonra, associate professor of international relations at University College Dublin, said the likely passage of the treaty Thursday shouldn’t be read as some sort ofendorsement of the bailout austerity facing the country…
And Sinn Fein appears to be extending its appeal beyond small farmers and its base in deprived urban areas, analysts say, to appeal to Ireland’s middle classes, who have become frustrated by the imposition of a myriad of austerity taxes, including property and sewer charges.
The collapse of Ireland’s much-vaunted Celtic Tiger economy prompted the Irish government to take on the debts of its delinquent banks from 2008. The authorities pumped in the equivalent of 40% of Irish annual economic output to keep its banking system from collapse. But the effort proved too much for the government, which was forced to strike a deal for €67.5 billion ($84.6 billion) in bailout loans in late 2010.
Sinn Fein and its leader have been relentless in their opposition to the austerity, a stance that has borne fruit in the public-opinion polls. “The cherry on top for Sinn Fein from today’s poll is Gerry Adams’s satisfaction rating, which is up eight points to 37%, making him the highest-rated party leader in the country,” Damian Loscher, Ipsos managing director, wrote in the Irish Times Monday…
Playing a leading role more than 14 years ago in the Good Friday peace accords that were brokered by the U.S., Irish and U.K. governments, Sinn Fein subsequently rose to be the largest voice of Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland. More than five years ago, it struck a historic deal with former bitter political rivals to share power over the U.K. region’s local government.
Now, Sinn Fein aims to replicate such political success in the Irish republic.
“Their rise since last year’s election has just been extraordinary, and all the indications are that they will continue to ride high” by tapping discontent with austerity, said Brian Feeney, head of history at St. Mary’s University College in Belfast, and author of several histories of the party.
Sinn Fein’s challenge will be to hold its newfound popularity through a general election, due in early 2016, said Richard Colwell, managing director of polling firm Red C…
But with the Irish voters facing many more years of austerity and the economy still mired in the euro-zone debt turmoil, the electoral prospects for the protest party Sinn Fein remain bright, analysts say.
- Washington Post – In test for euro zone, Ireland votes on fiscal treaty: Inside a standing-room-only meeting hall in downtown Dublin this week, Gerry Adams — head of Sinn Fein, long seen as the political wing of the Irish Republican Army — held court as the man of the hour. With Sinn Fein the only major party to oppose the treaty here, Adams has surged in voter surveys to the point where he is now the most popular politician in Ireland. At 37 percent, his approval ratings best even those of Kenny. And even if Irish voters approve the treaty, political analysts say, one side effect of the referendum could be a new era of strength for Sinn Fein.
After a stirring performance by an Irish folk singer, Adams offered up a speech that seemed to associate the “bureaucrats in Brussels” with Ireland’s former British occupiers.
“We need to seize the moment,” he said to thunderous applause. “If something is bad for your country, you need to say ‘no’ to it.”
- Washington Post – Ireland voters strongly approve European fiscal treaty: Opponents of the treaty had argued that the budget cuts forced on this nation by the terms of its $113 billion international bailout have already crippled its economy and that pledging years more through the treaty would only make things worse. Led by Sinn Fein… opponents also called the treaty a dangerous forfeiture of national sovereignty that would see the European Union become Ireland’s fiscal master.
- Financial Times – Irish Take Pragmatic Mood into Fiscal Vote Pact: …“there will be a lot of angry Yeses”, said Joan Burton, a senior Labour party minister in the Fine Gael-Labour government. The surge in the polls of Sinn Féin, the republican party, and the high level of undecided voters going into the plebiscite, signal that Irish citizens are decidedly fed up after being bundled into an EU-International Monetary Fund rescue programme in 2010, when vast bank debts run up in a property binge overwhelmed the national finances. The crisis has helped Sinn Féin shrug off its paramilitary past and eclipse Fianna Fáil, the near-hegemonic party until its implosion at last year’s general election, as the voice of Irish nationalism. One recent poll even ranked Gerry Adams, the Sinn Féin leader, as more popular than Enda Kenny, the Fine Gael prime minister. Speaking in front of the General Post Office, where the Easter Rising against British rule was launched and the republic proclaimed in 1916, Mr Adams said all such gains had “been given away”. “The Taoiseach [MrKenny] says he’ll win back sovereignty by the centenary in 2016, but this is not the way to do it,” Mr Adams said. “We need to send a very clear signal to the rest of Europe that we need a different direction”… all sides agree the referendum campaign must now give way to a debate on the future. Yet the mould of Irish politics, set by the tribal divisions of the 1922-23 civil war, looks to be cracking as a result of the crisis. Sinn Féin is moving out from its working-class base into the middle classes, while starting to recast its populist economics and anti-EU attitude. “The question now is, are you going to get a Sinn Féin that swallows up Fianna Fáil and eclipses Labour, and get you to a left-right divide,” says Diarmaid Ferriter, one of Ireland’s leading historians. But Ireland’s politics are conditioned not just by its small export-dependent economy, bobbing in the wake of the eurozone crisis, but the sensitive issue of sovereignty, as it approaches the centenary of 1916. “There’ll be a scramble for ownership of 1916,” says Professor Ferriter. The winner will be the party that can plausibly link regaining sovereignty to the day-to-day concerns of a reeling nation. Mr Kenny’s government must tackle issues ranging from a gathering crisis over home loans to a stimulus – of up to €10bn – it hopes EU institutions will facilitate and co-fund. Dublin has also been fighting [Oisin.org notes: a rather generous interpretation of the word ‘fighting,’ when you preemptively surrender your sovereignty and then ask for a favour…] for a deal to restructure €31bn of the banking debts assumed into its sovereign debt, without which it is hard to see it regaining entry into the bond markets in 18 months. Ms Creighton adds: “In the event Spanish banks have to be bailed out, and it happens through the ESM function, we will be looking for the same opportunities retrospectively.” [Oisin.org notes: How is that all working out?] But aspects of the Irish model, such as how to build bridges between the buoyant export and foreign investment-driven economy and a domestic economy on its knees, are also entering the debate. Neil O’Leary, chairman of Ion Equity, a leading private equity firm, suggests a short-term rise in Ireland’s cherished 12.5 per cent rate of corporation tax to 15 percent. “What investors worry about is high taxation and uncertainty, but 15 per cent is still low taxation. If you made clear the country needs five years at 15 percent you could do it without too much damage,” he says.“It would demonstrate that the country as a whole is sharing the burden.”
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