The question is not will Sinn Fein will enter government. It’s who will be in government with them.

What are the coalition options following the next election, assuming that Sinn Fein is clearly the largest party?

  1. Fine Gael/Fianna Fail/Green plus others. This seems unlikely as it would mean the current government had been defeated and it’s hard to see Labour or the Social Democrats rushing to prop up a defeated government. This could also lead to some civil disorder, as many SF supporters don’t seem to understand proportional representation and think they are living in the UK with its Hulk Smash! voting system.
  2. Sinn Fein/Fianna Fail: this seems to be the most likely, and assumes FF as very much the junior partner to SF. FF seem to be giving little thought to how they would handle this, and how SF would not end up SDLPing FF and turning it into a feeble adjunct. It should also be remembered that FF is very susceptible to being infected by the ideology of its coalition partner. It went to the economic right with the PDs, and the liberal left with Labour. Don’t discount it going all shinner with SF.
  3. Sinn Fein/Labour/Soc Dems/Independents: this would be an interesting one, being the first actual left of centre government in the history of the country. The question would be for the “third wheel” in the coalition, and maintaining an identity. Having said that, it could allow Labour to reinvent itself as the Watchdog party in government, with Labour justice and defence ministers.
  4. A Sinn Fein minority government. This is not impossible, and would put as much pressure on the opposition as Sinn Fein. It allows SF to appoint judges, dismiss and reappoint state boards like the RTE authority (or even just attempt to), senior Gardai etc but not pass legislation or budgets without opposition support. I have to say I think this is the most unlikely option, as it would allow SF to propose a goodie-filled budget, and force the opposition to either endorse it by voting for it, or block it and give SF an excuse for not delivering. It would be, effectively, the Stormontisation of Southern politics.
  5. Sinn Fein/Fine Gael: Don’t rule it out. Neither party would really want it as it would cause internal bedlam and also destroy the concept of Them Over There. But if FF, Greens, Labour and Soc Dems decided that SF and FG had won the election and it was up to them to figure it out, it would suit those parties to sit on the opposition and wait for voter disgruntlement to kick off. FF waiting for pissed off FG voters, Lab and the rest waiting for pissed off shinner voters.

*Note: I’m assuming the Alphabet Left will just vote against everything and everybody.

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