Sinn Fein has revolutionised Irish politics overnight with its stunning performance in the Irish general elections at the weekend.

Politics in Ireland has for decades been dominated by the two main parties Fine Gael and Fianna Fail with Sinn Fein always seen as a minority party.

Sinn Fein has won the most first preference votes in Ireland’s proportional representation system.

To realise the scale of their breakthrough, Sinn Fein has not been in power in Ireland since 1922, and in all that time either Fine Gael or Fianna Fail have led the Government and provided the Taioseach (the prime minister).

This 33rd Dail Eireann, the lower house of the Irish legislature which is called the Oireachtas, will now see a modern-day record of more than 30 Sinn Fein TDs (MPs).

The fact that the party operates in Northern Ireland as well makes it unique among the major political parties in all of Ireland.


The writer and editor Arthur Griffith founded the pro-independence newspaper The United Irishman and set up a National Council to promote the establishment of an Irish Parliament in Dublin. He came up with a the policy of Sinn Fein which translates to “we ourselves”and presented the policy to the Council on November 28, 1905, which is taken as the date of Sinn Fein’s foundation.

 It did not become a republican party completely until after the Easter Rising of 1916, but has remained committed to republicanism ever since.

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The party’s history is littered with splits and faction-fighting and the most famous of these was after Griffith had negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty which created the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland in 1922.

 Later Sinn Fein would adopt an abstentionist policy that saw it contest elections north and south of the border but refuse to take their seats in either the Dail or Westminster Parliament – it still doesn’t do so for the latter.


Dating back to before the early days of the Troubles, Sinn Fein was moving to a left-wing position and when the violence began in Northern Ireland, the party split over its approach to numerous issues regarding the IRA.

 The abandonment of abstentionism from the Dail led to a further split in 1986, by which time Gerry Adams, with his suspected links to the IRA – he has always denied being a member - was party leader.

The allegation that Sinn Fein was the political wing of the IRA is still made to the party’s detriment.

The National: Sinn Fein have had a historic night after winning 24.5% of the votesSinn Fein have had a historic night after winning 24.5% of the votes


The party has taken 24.5% of the first preference votes, compared to 22.2% for Fianna Fail and 20.9% for Fine Gael.

 The big problem is that after a poor showing in the recent local government and European Parliament elections, Sinn Fein didn’t believe it would do well on Saturday, and did not stand enough candidates to win outright or even become the largest party.This means that it can only be the senior party in a coalition government that on the face of it will not include either Fine Gael or Fianna Fail – their leaders Leo Varadkar, the current Taioseach and Micheal Martin, presently the opposition leader have both stated they will not enter into a coalition with Sinn Fein.


Varadkar and Martin could do a deal to thwart Sinn Fein and maintain the dominance of the centre-right in Irish politics.

 That would be like Labour and the Tories joining forces to thwart the political wishes of the people, which is exactly what we had here in 2014. It was called Better Together, and now Fine Gael and Fianna Fail might decide to unite to keep out an opponent. If Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin want a lesson on how doing such a thing can affect you, they could do well to give us a call.