Kathy Sheridan: Will the real Sinn Féin please stand up?

Party members cannot continue to deny legitimacy of the State SF is expected to govern

'Sinn Féin has moved into the political mainstream in that prospective voters expect it to deliver on big, key issues.' File photograph: Alan Betson

'Sinn Féin has moved into the political mainstream in that prospective voters expect it to deliver on big, key issues.' File photograph: Alan Betson

Many on this island seem to lack even a minimal understanding of the State’s electoral system if reaction to the 2020 election is any guide. This included the notion that if a party got a majority of first preferences its leader automatically became taoiseach. Another reaction was that a candidate’s election on a later count meant they were less legitimate somehow than the poll-topper. The intricacies of our PR-STV system, the parties’ good or bad management of multi-seat constituencies, the pressure on the main vote-winners to cede territory to a party rival to maximise seat numbers; all seemed lost on them.

If much of this confusion originated north of the Border it was probably not surprising. MPs are elected to Westminster on the first-past-the-post principle, while Assembly members are elected by single transferable vote. Cabinet selection is mathematically mandated to guarantee powersharing rather than by the more usual thrashed-out agreement to produce coalition government.

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