Europe

Irish election: Sinn Féin 'expected to do well' even if there is a hung parliament

The Republic of Ireland's general election will take place on Friday but no party is expected to gain an overall majority
Image caption The Republic of Ireland's general election will take place on Friday but no party is expected to gain an overall majority

On Friday, voters in the Republic of Ireland will go to the polls with all the indications that no party will come close to getting an overall majority.

However, Sinn Féin is expected to do well in the vote, regardless of the likely hung parliament (Dáil).

Dublin Bay South is a four-seat constituency that is largely, but not wholly, middle-class.

If it were summer, it could be described as a leafy suburb, but one festooned with election posters.

Image caption Election posters adorn lamp posts in Dublin ahead of the closely contested poll

It is where you would expect someone with a family background in Fianna Fáil - the largest opposition party and a once-dominant force in Irish politics - to be a candidate.

Chris Andrews is the grandson of a founding member of Fianna Fáil, the son of former Fianna Fáil member of parliament (Teachta Dála) and a nephew of David Andrews (who was minister for foreign affairs at the time of the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement).

But this one-time Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála (TD) fell out with his party and is now - in what may be a sign of changing times - standing for Sinn Féin.

"Sinn Féin, for me, takes sides and in politics today we have to take sides," he says.

Image caption Chris Andrews has a strong family background in Fianna Fáil, but is now standing as a candidate for Sinn Féin

"Sinn Féin is taking the side of low and middle income families and that, for me, was probably the strongest attraction for joining."

'Coming back'

Jim O'Callaghan, the current Fianna Fáil candidate, is a barrister and a brother of the RTÉ broadcaster, Miriam O'Callaghan.

Image caption Fianna Fáil candidate Jim O'Callaghan said he did not foresee voters "going in their droves to Sinn Féin"

The once dominant party is hoping to regain many of the seats it lost in the last election - its worst general election performance in its history, with voters punishing it for the European Union and International Monetary Fund bailout.

Mr O'Callaghan says that while Sinn Féin may have pulled a bit of a stroke in their candidate selection, it is not one that will work, as both men believe they are in a fight with Labour for the last seat.

"People who supported Fianna Fáil are coming back to us," says Mr O'Callaghan.

"I think a lot of people regard the fact that Sinn Féin have engaged a former Fianna Fáil TD as quite opportunistic for both Sinn Féin and Chris Andrews.

"So, I don't see either middle-class or working-class people going in their droves to Sinn Féin."

Crowded battleground

Next door to Dublin Bay South is the four-seat Dublin South Central constituency.

It is a much more working-class and left-wing area, where Sinn Féin hopes that Councillor Máire Devine, a psychiatric nurse, will join Aengus Ó Snodaigh in the next Dáil.

Image caption Sinn Féin's Máire Devine said her party had a proven track record in government in Northern Ireland

But, in a crowded battleground, she is having to look over her shoulder at more left-wing candidates and parties.

Canvassing outside a school as parents collect their children, she says: "Our unique selling point is that we can prove that we can govern.

"We govern in the north and we've done that very successfully.

"And, as a left-wing party, I want myself and Aengus returned in this constituency to work as a team. Teamwork works."

Fundamental differences

It is expected that People Before Profit - which also organises in Northern Ireland - will be fighting with Sinn Féin for the last seat.

From a Dublin republican family, its candidate Brid Smith says she would not go into coalition with any right-wing party, something she believes Sinn Féin is not completely ruling out.

Image caption People Before Profit candidate Brid Smith accused Sinn Féin of adopting contradictory positions on austerity on either side of the Irish border

And while she accepts that Gerry Adams' party is left-of-centre, she says she has fundamental differences with Sinn Féin .

"In the north, where they are in government, they are imposing austerity measures," Ms Smith says.

"Letting go public sector workers, closing schools, etc. And there is a real contradiction between what they say down here and what they do up there."

Sinn Féin had 14 seats in the last Dáil. It is widely believed they will come close to doubling that in the next one.

But even with that, in the centenary of the 1916 Rising, few expect the party to be in government by Easter 2016.

Nevertheless, barring unforeseen surprises, it should still be a good election for Mr Adams and his party.

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