Sinn Féin and squaring the circle


A chara, – Several commentators have said that getting 25 per cent of the vote in the general election does not automatically entitle Sinn Féin to a place in government. However, the fact is that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil got 43 per cent of the vote, while those voting against them thus amounted to 57 per cent . In that context, Sinn Féin is not of course proposing a one-party government, but rather a coalition excluding Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and led by Sinn Féin. That, to many people, would seem the most democratic outcome of the election.

In his column in your newspaper (“Fine Gael hoisted on its own petard”, Opinion & Analysis, February 19th), Michael McDowell tries to argue that only a minority in an exit poll favouring Sinn Féin participation in government justifies its exclusion.

One wonders, therefore, if one should dispense with elections and allow the determination of government to be set by opinion poll companies. I suppose that that would save a lot of expenditure, but one hopes that it is not actually substituted for the normal democratic process. – Is mise,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – Much has been written about what the people voted for. The consensus seems to be that people voted for change, and that Sinn Féin won the election and should therefore lead, or at least be a major player in the next government.

While I agree that people voted for change, it is not clear exactly what change they voted for. And as has been noted, more than three-quarters of the voters did not vote for Sinn Féin to lead the next government. Although Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil “lost” the election, together they attracted the largest bloc of votes, and that bloc is on the centre right.

Putting this together, I believe that what the people voted for is conservative economic management and radical social policy. This will be devilishly hard to square. But what it seems to mean is not radically overhauling the tax system and meddling with the economy, but rather reallocating where public money is spent, or driving hard for operating efficiencies. I’m not sure if that plays to Sinn Féin’s strengths.

The solution to the two top-line issues is also quite different.

Whereas housing will require new and innovative solutions, the problems in the health service must be addressed with engineering, strong leadership, and competent organisational change management, and all without political interference. Tough choices will have to be made. No political party in the last number of years has been able to pull that off.

So it seems that if a centre-right coalition comes to power it must adopt radical solutions to housing and improve management disciplines, while conservatively managing the economy.

If, on the other hand, a left-oriented coalition ends up governing, it will have to abandon some of its more radical fiscal policies, enforce strict management disciplines while implementing its radical social reforms. – Yours, etc,



Co Galway.

Sir, – Simon Harris, who was elected on the 15th count after not reaching the quota, said that listening to Mary Lou McDonald, who was elected on the first count, with almost a quota to spare, you would think that she had won 80 seats in the recent election.

Listening to him, and several in his party who were elected under similar circumstances, you would have to wonder if it should be Mary Lou who is the one questioning if he and his party are worthy of being engaged with. – Yours, etc,