The recent Sunday Times poll giving Sinn Fein second place to Fine Gael, on 25% to 32%, is a very exciting result if it is anyway near to how people would actually vote. The truth is, if there was a serious chance of Sinn Fein-led government emerging, our first ever left wing government, that would be the most important election I would ever have voted in. There are a number of reasons why:
1. It would force Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to seriously consider coalition. As I have written in the past, I genuinely believe that once FF and FG enter government together, they will be locked together, CDU/CSU or Australian Liberal/National party style, forever, and quite happily too.
2. Labour will eventually give serious consideration to coalition with Sinn Fein, if only because, as The Worker’s Party proved in the 1980s/1990s, Labour does not do well when there is a strong non-government left wing option on the ballot when Labour is in government.
3. Sinn Fein is moving towards the French Socialist left. Just read their 2012 budget submission. It’s left wing, but it ain’t Richard Boyd Barrett. This is a party getting ready to disappoint its “true believers” wing, as the PDs, Greens and Labour all discovered was unavoidable when the It-Will-Be-Glorious! rhetoric of Opposition meets the Where’s-All-The-Money? reality of Government.
This is, of course, all assuming that FF and SF don’t come to an arrangement. If a Sinn Fein/Fianna Fail coalition came to power, it will be almost impossible to tell the difference from the current crowd, save for a few hundred million being squandered on Irish language boondoggles and Forums on a United Ireland, etc.