AS voters in Ireland went to the polls, Tom Tugendhat MP tweeted: “Today’s election in Ireland will shape our most important foreign relationship. I’m pretty surprised at the lack of comment in the UK.” An ex-army officer, he is capable of geo-political analysis. When his compatriots did comment, it was an avalanche of gibberish.

Darren Grimes, a self-appointed spokesperson, declared he knew nothing about Irish politics and then went on the BBC to prove it. John Simpson declared Ireland had succumbed to populism. In fact, all the Irexit, anti-immigrant candidates got annihilated. Whatever Ireland’s challenges of the day, the country isn’t blaming immigrants. The Telegraph declared that Ireland’s Brexit stance was “anti-Brit”. I began to think of the lyrics from the Carly Simon song: “You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you.”

One hundred years after independence, Ireland has matured into a modern European state with a functioning democracy, built on an engaged electorate and informed commentariat. In an exit poll, only 1% of respondents declared Brexit their number one concern. Britain doesn’t fully appreciate that Ireland is independent and has moved on from the dark days of British rule.

When counting finished, Fianna Fail had 38 seats, Sinn Fein 37, Fine Gael 35, Greens 12 and others 44. Fianna Fail came first but Sinn Féin had won; something the best British political journos struggled to dissect. The established two-party system appeared to be history; a new era had dawned. Caveat: in 1992, Labour (in Ireland) made a similar breakthrough that wasn’t sustained. But this seems different. Time will tell.

The result was not populism, an endorsement of the atrocities of the Provisional movement or to do with Britain. The reality was less sensational. People had become agitated about the shortage of housing and a poor public health service. Sinn Fein met that mood with a bold manifesto and the electorate responded.

The Green Party had another unprecedented electoral success, reflecting a demand for climate action. The horse-trading has started and whatever the final make-up of the government, it will have a programme that reflects the wishes of the people.

Despite boxing themselves into an early corner, Sinn Fein are strong contenders to be in government. For some, the atrocities of Sinn Fein’s “private army” are still too raw but, on a more fundamental level, if Sinn Fein is serious about governing a country, it needs to declare loyalty to one army only – the army of the state.

Its leadership is ready, but some in the ranks need to learn quickly. When we had the spectacle of one of their newly re-elected TDs shouting “Up the RA” and “Tiocfaidh ar la” at a victory party, Sinn Fein made him “explain himself” to the media. One-nil to the leadership.

Another interesting exit poll showed a clear majority in favour of a united Ireland. Others besides Sinn Fein support a united Ireland, notably Fianna Fail, The Republican Party. Fianna Fail and the SDLP may need to adopt a bolder strategy than their partnership arrangement and Sinn Fein could learn a better message than “Brits Out”.

Like Scottish independence, a united Ireland is no longer a pipe dream and Sinn Fein would do well to learn the language of Fianna Fail/SDLP and the SNP/Yes movement if Ulster’s undecided voters are to be convinced.

The constitutional questions of Ireland and Scotland are inextricably linked because they both involve the British state. In that respect, the song is about Britain. Still an outside chance but, oh to be a fly on the wall when An Taoiseach, Mary Lou McDonald, and the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, have their first meeting.

Feargal Dalton is an SNP councillor in Glasgow and Fianna Fail member who was part of a group of activists who first organised the party in Belfast and throughout the Six Counties.