My eye has been caught in recent days by a number of seat projections which have raised an intriguing possibility that isn’t getting as much attention as it should. That is, the possibility of Sinn Fein narrowly beating Fianna Fail in seats and becoming the leading opposition party even if FF don’t participate in government.
It’s unlikely, admittedly, even if SF narrowly beat FF on first preferences because FF will pick up more transfers, but it isn’t impossible, and it would be very very bad news for FF if it happened.
We can easily forget that the SDLP were once the overwhelmingly dominant party in nationalist politics in the north of Ireland, and their party leader was a household name both north and south of the border. But Sinn Fein diligently whittled away, catching up to them, overtaking them, and leaving them in the dust. No one, no one at all, believes that the SDLP are going to retake pole position ever again.
A scenario where Sinn Fein become the lead opposition party, even with Fianna Fail avoiding coalition with Fine Gael, would have a major psychological impact on Irish politics, especially given the demographics of SF and Fine Gael voters.
Yes, it’s unlikely, but not impossible, and such an outcome would be a much more significant event than the election of 2011 where we just replaced Fianna Fail with a Fianna Fail who went to posher schools.
This would be a game changer, because it would be the first time a left-led government would become a genuine and credible proposition on a future ballot.
Transfers are overhyped in every election, but in this case it really matters. Your final preferences could decide not just who runs the country, but who runs it in future too.