Back in February, which now seems like a lifetime ago, Sinn Féin were understandably cock-a-hoop with their performance in Election 2020, and were predicting a change for the good in Irish politics.
Then along came Covid-19, an unprecedented lockdown, and the media collectively knighting Sir Leo the Great Saviour of the Country. Almost overnight, Sinn Féin seemed to become irrelevant.
Now a new government has finally officially been formed, and we’re in for more of the same from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil – but this time with the Greens on board to destroy what’s left of agriculture and rural Ireland.
Mary Lou McDonald says that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are conspiring to lock her party out of power, and that, because more than half a million people voted for Sinn Féin, this is “wrong”.
“Our mandate is as legitimate as anyone else’s and our voters have the same rights as everyone else,” she wrote in the Irish Times. “While Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar may wish to keep us out of power; 535,595 people disagree and rejected their politics of exclusion.”
Funny, isn’t it, that the same party who’ve been busy hushing the 33% of Irish people who voted No in the abortion referendum, are now acting as if 25% means they have some sort of majority.
More than 723,000 people rejected the politics of excluding preborn babies from legal protections, but I don’t remember Mary-Lou saying it was wrong to exclude their views from decisions on what the abortion regime would look like, especially in regard to conscientious objection or forcing taxpayers to fund abortion.
Like Kate O’Connell of Fine Gael, the Sinn Féin attitude was that the pro-lifers were in the minority, and that meant they needed to be silenced and their voices beaten down because they lost and no longer deserved representation.
Yet one in three people voted to retain the 8th despite an unprecedented media and establishment campaign, while just one in four people voted for Sinn Féin – or for Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil.
Kate O’Connell, Lisa Chambers and many others who joined in the most vitriolic attacks on pro-lifers have lost their seats, yet all 15 of the pro-life TDs who voted No were returned to the Dáil. A swing to Sinn Féin in February meant people like Louise O’Reilly kept their seats, but who knows what the next election, whenever that takes place, will bring.
That’s the thing about being “for change” – that meaningless phrase used by Mary Lou so often – change can swing both ways. The wavering middle who were persuaded to vote for Repeal because they were falsely told a No vote would kill women, can change.
Sinn Féin’s rise in the polls can change – in fact, it can collapse, as was shown in the local elections in 2019. Change can bring new parties like Aontú. And then there’s a driving force for change that no-one is paying any attention to, but which is waiting in the long grass.
That’s demographics, and it’s a force for change which doesn’t favour the politics or the policies of any of the established political parties. We live in unprecedented times where many people are having less than two children or having none at all. Pro-life families will, over time, come to represent a significantly large – and growing – section of society. They will be acutely aware who brought about the anti-family, anti-life, and deeply intolerant culture now its ascendancy in Ireland, and will vote accordingly.
In the meantime, Sinn Féin needs to get real. 25% is not a majority – for any party. And if real alternatives to the main parties can continue to develop, the 33% of voters who are continually kicked to the kerb may bring about a change that none of the current hashtags anticipated.