According to the latest poll from the Sunday Times’ Oirish, Sinn Féin is currently at the top of the electoral pyramid with 32% support, followed by Fine Gael with 27% and Fianna Fáil with 22%. Even taking the margin of error into account, it appears that SF is maintaining or improving its standing after the general election, while FG is suffering a minor retreat from its now usual electoral lead. I suspect, however, that Mary Lou McDonald’s party’s good performance has less to do with its performance in the Oireachtas or the news media and more to do with Micheál Martin’s dumpster fire from a coalition government.
With the partnership of greenshirts, blueshirts and hempshirts stumbling from one self-made scandal or crisis into another, Sinn Féin with its rather minor problems will look like a safer bet for voters. Governments seldom get credit for doing something right, as this is simply what is expected of them, while their deliberate or otherwise missteps and mistakes are disproportionate. Although in the case of the current administration, with its faint touch of brown paper envelope politics, the proportions seem just right.
Without a dysfunctional government in power, Sinn Féin could find themselves in deeper trouble than his most ardent admirers would like to admit. The award-winning Sam McBride has set out in the newsletter some of the reasons for this, from SF’s failure to introduce an Irish language law for the six counties to the latest revelations about draconian internal party control. While the center-left and anti-establishment party has every reason to be sensitive to adverse coverage of the country’s naturally right-wing and establishment-defensive media, one still has the impression that Sinn Féin is often his own worse enemy is.
The solution to this could be better party management and a real root and branch reform of how it worked in the post-war political landscape created by the peace process in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This work is clearly underway and has been for some time; but of course there is still a long way to go. I could suggest, however, that another part of the change needed is to reform the media landscape itself and create a truly pluralistic press that represents the broad range of Irish public opinion. And not just half of the voters who support Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. If commentators claim that they want to see an interruption of supposed control of Sinn Féin by unknown backroom characters before they can trust it, then they might as well demand an interruption of control of our closed media monopolies by more well-known and significantly stronger boardroom characters.