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Message from the Editor: As one election finishes, the only talk is when the next one will be

IT Sunday: Athletics success flies in the face of funding levels; Brianna Parkins writes about why she is leaving Ireland

Count staff member Cian O'Connor (left), from Douglas Co Cork, wearing a different novelty T-shirt for each day during vote counting in Ireland's European elections at the Cork count centre. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Welcome to this week’s IT Sunday, a selection of the best Irish Times journalism for our subscribers.

It may have taken five months to count the votes – at least it felt that long – but the results of the European and local elections are in, and already the Irish political scene is consumed with one question: when will the next one take place? Taoiseach Simon Harris is coming under pressure from within the coalition to call a general election for the autumn, before Sinn Féin has had a chance to regroup after its poor showing at the polls last week. The alternative is to allow the Government run its course by waiting until next spring – still the stated preference of all three coalition parties. There are sound arguments on both sides; Justine McCarthy and Gerry Howlin argued it out in our pages this week.

It’s a question that excites political insiders far more than the average voter. A more important one is this: what has changed with the local and EU election results? Are we seeing the start of a long-term decline in Sinn Féin’s fortunes, or is this more comparable to 2019, when the party had a torrid local election only to bounce back strongly when voters chose their TDs the following year? Is the rise of far-right and anti-migrant candidates now a permanent feature of Irish politics or an aberration? And how might Government policy shift as a result of the voters’ verdict last week?

You’ll find lots of news and commentary on these questions on the site this weekend. In her in-depth look at Sinn Féin’s problems, Jennifer Bray finds internal party misgivings about everything from Mary Lou McDonald’s leadership to the apparent malfunction of its ground game. It’s interesting in itself that some party activists are now quite willing to express even mild dissent in public; with Sinn Féin, this has not always been our experience. McDonald has said she will lead a “reflection” on the party’s poor performance, and our editorial suggests some starting points for that exercise. “When McDonald complained this week that Sinn Féin was being blamed for Government failures, she should have asked herself why those voters now associate her party with the establishment,” it remarks. I’d also recommend Pat Leahy’s thoughtful analysis of the results.


Three anti-migrant candidates were elected to Dublin City Council. Olivia Kelly looks at how they will fare in a setting that tends to operate in a more pragmatic and cooperative way than national politics. Meanwhile, Kitty Holland spent some time speaking to voters in Finglas, where she sketches some very useful context behind the success of one of those three newcomers to elected politics.

British voters go to the polls in Westminster elections on July 4th, and Mark Paul has been filing some revealing dispatches from the campaign trail. This week he sat down for coffee with the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was purged by his successor Keir Starmer. Mark was struck by how often his chat with the 75-year-old was interrupted by ardent, sometimes starstruck fans. “This is simply how it is to be Jeremy Corbyn,”, he writes, “the politician in Britain who inspires the most adoration among supporters and, probably, the most scorn among opponents.” Elsewhere, Laura Slattery has a funny, perceptive column on Rishi Sunak, “a man who speaks with all the energy of someone who knows the moving vans are revving up their engines and it’s too late to stop them now.”

It was a remarkable week in French politics, where Emmanuel Macron called snap parliamentary elections after the far-right Rassemblement National swept all before it in the European polls. It’s hard to think of a bigger gamble in recent European politics – it’s potentially bigger, I think, than David Cameron’s botched Brexit referendum. The latest polls suggest Macron’s centrist alliance faces a wipeout. On this weekend, Sharon Gaffney in Paris profiles Jordan Bardella, the Rassemblement National president, who could be prime minister. In his column, David McWiliams argues that France is “goosed”, consigned to years of gridlock, if the far-right wins.

Two other foreign reads I’d suggest taking time over this weekend: this report by Patrick Freyne – the latest in his series from Lebanon with photojournalist Chris Maddaloni – on the situation facing Syrian refugees there; and Lara’s Marlowe’s elegantly written piece about the restoration of Notre-Dame cathedral, which will soon reopen more than five years after it was nearly destroyed by fire.

Róisín Kiberd writes in praise of Vivienne Westwood, the fashion designer who tells us to stop spending money on fashion. For Róisín, even shopping in charity stores now feels wrong: a participation in the excesses of a non-sustainable industry.

“I am leaving Ireland,” Brianna Parkins’s weekly column begins. It’s a terrific piece of writing; read it.

Athletics may be a minority sport that receives desperately little State funding – as our editorial points out, last year Athletics Ireland received €1.3 million in funding while the Horse and Greyhound Fund was allocated €95 million – but success in track-and-field can really grab hold of the public imagination. Medal wins for Irish runners at the European Championships in Rome this week gave some of the best sporting moments of the year. Ian O’Riordan was there for us, and in this in-depth piece he explains why Ireland has just had its best ever championship on the track. Malachy Clerkin was also at the Stadio Olimpico – he was on holiday, but everything is copy – and issues a useful reminder of the dangers of the already-incessant talk of Olympic medals. “Nobody’s saying winning doesn’t matter, or that medals aren’t important, or that taking part is the only thing we should be focusing on,” Malachy writes. “This is elite sport and everything is on the line. But when we jack up the medal chat to being the sole prism through which we judge these people, we do them a huge disservice.”

Have a good weekend,

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic


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