|Volume 50 Number 6, February 22, 2020||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
The Irish general election of February 8 concluded with no party holding a majority of seats in Dáil Éireann. Sinn Féin made significant gains; it received the most first-preference votes, and won 37 of the 160 seats, the party's best result since it took its current form in 1970. Fianna Fáil also won 37 seats, but with fewer first-preference votes. Fine Gael, the governing party led by Leo Varadkar, came third both in seats (35) and in first-preference votes. Of the 51 remaining seats, one is held by the Irish Speaker, uncontested, 19 were won by independent candidates, and 31 by other parties: Green Party, Labour Party, Social Democrats, Solidarity-People Before Profit, Aontú, and Independents4Change.
Sinn Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald announced her intention to try to form a coalition government. She affirmed that what the electorate had voted for is a Government for Change; they had rejected Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael's record over the past four years. She condemned those two parties who now want to block the change that the people had voted for. She said on February 21 regarding the first day of the new Dáil: "Yesterday was a historic day. For the first time in the history of the State, someone other than the leader of Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael received the most votes to become Taoiseach." The voting had been: Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald 45 votes, ranking the highest among the four candidates, followed by 41 votes for Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin, 36 votes for Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar, and 12 votes for Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. An overall majority is required. After a 2016 vote it took 70 days for a minority coalition government to form under Fine Gael, which was supported in a confidence and supply agreement by Fianna Fáil .
On the discussions to form a coalition the Sinn Féin leader said: "These discussions are about how we address the issues that were central to this election campaign - building homes, cutting rents and freezing them, guaranteeing the pension age at sixty-five, health and the trolley crisis, climate change and Irish Unity." Mary Lou McDonald condemned Micheal Martin, Fianna Fáil leader, for arrogantly refusing to speak to Sinn Féin.
Leo Varadkar resigned as Taoiseach (Prime Minister) after the vote on February 20, but according to the constitution he and his government will continue in office until a successor has been appointed.
Addressing the Sinn Féin representatives on February 12, Mary Lou McDonald said that the party wants to advance Irish Unity. "This not only possible but necessary at this time. The process is clear. A referendum on unity is a key part of the Good Friday Agreement. It is a duty of the Irish government to commence this process. Unionists should not fear debate and discussions about the future. This must be an engaging and forward-looking debate. Sinn Féin want real change. We want to implement our solutions, that are grounded in common sense and to implement our policies. And we have the team with the ability to deliver. There is a massive appetite amongst the electorate for something different from government. That is what the people voted for - for change."
The conflict in the north of Ireland ended more than two decades ago in 1998 with the signing of a peace agreement, the Good Friday Accord. In that internationally binding accord, the British government committed itself to Irish unity if a majority of the population on the island agreed to it. Now the Irish people are showing the way forward with the show of confidence given to Sinn Féin. That party has declared that the Republic is within sight, and this vision, after the struggle of the British ruling elites to prevent it, is bound to win out. This will provide political progress and stability as the Irish people put themselves in control of their own destiny on the island of Ireland.
Workers' Weekly warmly congratulates Sinn Féin on its results in the election, and wishes them well in their attempts to form a government and point the way to reunification and progress in Ireland.