17 June 1999 Edition
Y E S !
Record gains for Sinn Féin
Scenes of jubilation in count centres across the nation greeted Sinn Féin's breakthrough local election performance in the 26 Counties. This tremendous result was followed by improved European election showings, particularly impressive being the 117,693 votes garnered by Mitchel McLaughlin in the Six Counties.
In all, Sinn Féin trebled its representation on city and county councils and took 62 local authority seats. Across Ireland, the party polled 205,808 votes, 9.94% of the Irish electorate. These results are the results of a party that is dynamic, youthful, focused, and in touch. This is only chapter one.
1999 - Sinn Féin's treble year
205,808 votes across Ireland
BY ROBBIE MacGABHANN
Now it's time to catch your breath. The first question after a weekend of election counts is figuring just how many records, precedents and benchmarks did Sinn Féin set in the polls for local government and the EU Parliament?
Well, for the record, Sinn Fèin increased its vote on the 1994 EU elections in both the Six and 26 Counties. In 1994, Sinn Féin won 9.86% of the vote in the Six Counties. This time around Mitchel MacLaughlin recorded a massive 17.33% for the party, almost matching the 17.6% poll in the 1998 Assembly elections.
In the 26-County EU poll, Sinn Féin took 6.33% of first preferences, up from a 3% share in 1994. Sinn Féin was the only party in the 26 Counties to increase its vote on the 1991 local election poll. The party trebled its number of county councillors to 21, elected 8 new town commissioners and 12 new UDC members.
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael lost votes nationally, while the Labour Party and the Greens' vote share stood still. The failure of Labour to perform in these elections is shown by the fact that the combined vote of Labour and the then Workers' Party in 1991 was 14.3%. The merging of Democratic Left into Labour did absolutely nothing for its 26-County vote share.
The biggest losers in the election were the Progressive Democrats. In 1991, they took 4.9% of the 26-County local election vote. This time around their vote share almost halved to 2.6%.
Across the Six Counties in the EU Parliament election, Sinn Féin was the only party which actually increased its vote. The SDLP, DUP, UUP and Alliance all put in reduced performances on 1994.
Sinn Fèin added new county council, UDC and town commission seats to its electoral representation across the 26 Counties. In South Dublin, Sean Crowe and Mark Daly became the party's first elected representatives on the council. In Dublin Corporation the party's representation quadrupled to 4 seats.
Ard Chomhairle member Martin Ferris was elected on the first count to Kerry County Council. Other first count Sinn Fèin councillors included Caoimhghín O Caoláin in Monaghan, Seán MacManus in Sligo, Nicky Kehoe, Dessie Ellis and Sean Crowe in Dublin.
Seán and Chris MacManus set a record of sorts by being the first father and son Sinn Féin councillors. Both are representing wards on Sligo Corporation.
Cionnaith O Suilleabháin was returned for Sinn Féin for the second time to Clonakilty UDC. His 290 first preferences left him with a surplus of 114 votes and the largest ever vote for a candidate on Clonakilty UDC since it was first incorporated.
Martin Hallinan also set an electoral precedent by not only being elected on the first count for Youghal UDC. He also was the highest Sinn Féin poller, rolling in with two quotas in first preferences.
The party also broke new ground by returning county councillors in Meath, Cavan and Cork while increasing its representation in Sligo, Leitrim and Monaghan.
In terms of the UDCs and town commissions, Sinn Féin held council seats won in 1994 in Clare, Cork, Kerry, Donegal, Sligo, Kildare, Meath, and added to the party's electoral representatives in Donegal, Wexford, Louth, Cavan, Monaghan, Portlaoise, Kerry and Sligo.
Sinn Féin elected councillors across Ireland. Yet some media commentators tried to pigeon hole the party's performance as being constricted only to Dublin and the border areas. Comparing local government and EU returns for the party shows that this just is not so.
Sinn Féin won 51,389 votes in the local government authorities it contested. In the European elections, contested in every constituency, the party's vote increased to 88,165.
Across Ireland, taking Mitchel McLaughlin's vote into account, Sinn Féin polled 205,808 votes, 9.94% of the Irish electorate. This is only chapter one.
Sean Mac Manus -- 20,457 -- 6.4%
Sean Crowe -- 18,633 -- 6.6%
Arthur Morgan -- 20,015 -- 5.8%
Martin Ferris -- 29,060 -- 6.5%
Mitchel McLaughlin -- 117,643 -- 17.3%
Ballyjamesduff ward, Cavan County Council -- 546 -- Elected
Bailieborough ward, Cavan County Council -- 632
Cavan town ward, Cavan County Council -- 768 -- Elected
Belturbet ward, Cavan County Council -- 384
Cootehill Town Commission -- 100 -- Elected
Cootehill Town Commission -- 98 -- Elected
Cavan UDC -- 199 -- Elected
Belturbet Town Commission -- 71 -- Elected
Shannon Town Commission -- 290 -- Elected
Shannon ward, Shannon County Council -- 446
Cork Corporation -- 478 -- Elected
Cork Corporation -- 549
Cork Corporation -- 268
Cork Corporation -- 166
Cork Corporation -- 344
Passage West Town Commission -- 243 -- Elected
Passage West ward, Cork County Council -- 725
Cionnaith O Suilleabhain
Clonakilty Urban District Council -- 290 -- Elected
Clonakilty ward, Cork County Council -- 743
Cobh Urban District Council -- 179 -- Elected
Cobh ward, Cork County Council -- 845
Cobh Urban District Council -- 14
Schull ward, Cork County Council -- 253
Bantry Town Commission -- 251 -- Elected
Donnchadh O Se
Skibbereen Urban District Council -- 63
Youghal UDC -- 715 -- Elected
Buncrana UDC -- 241 -- Elected
Inishowen ward, Donegal County Council -- 889
Milford ward, Donegal County Council -- 375
Stranorlar ward, Donegal County Council -- 674
Letterkenny ward, Donegal County Council -- 621
Donegal town ward, Donegal County Council -- 284
Letterkenny UDC -- 184
Bundoran UDC -- 73 -- Elected
Ballyshannon Town Commission -- 78
Finglas ward, Dublin Corporation -- 2,278 -- Elected
Artane ward, Dublin Corporation -- 1,486 -- Elected
Cabra/Glasnevin ward, Dublin Corporation -- 2,380 -- Elected
North Inner City ward, Dublin Corporation -- 1,112 -- Elected
South East Inner City ward, Dublin Corporation -- 778
South West Inner City ward, Dublin Corporation -- 730
Crumlin/Kimmage ward, Dublin Corporation -- 953
Mulhuddart ward, Fingal County Council -- 675
Terenure/Rathfarnham ward, South Dublin County Council -- 761
Tallaght Central ward, South Dublin County Council 1,295 -- Elected
Tallaght South ward, South Dublin County Council -- 1548 -- Elected
Clondalkin ward, South Dublin County Council -- 622
Ballybrack ward, Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown -- 697
West ward, Galway Corporation -- 185
Ballinasloe Urban District Council -- 119
Ballinasloe ward, Galway County Council -- 384
Tralee Urban District Council -- 943 -- Elected
Tralee ward, Kerry County Council -- 2,458 -- Elected
Tralee Urban District Council -- 294
Listowel UDC -- 166 -- Elected
Listowel ward, Kerry County Council -- 637
Risteard O Forain
Listowel ward, Kerry County Council -- 715
Athy Urban District Council -- 163 -- Elected
Athy ward, Kildare County Council -- 506
Portlaoise Urban District Council -- 430 -- Elected
Portlaoise ward, Laois County Council -- 416
Limerick Corporation -- 143
Newcastlewest ward, Limerick County Council -- 361
Ballinamore ward, Leitrim County Council -- 511 -- Elected
Hugh James Gallagher
Drumshanbo ward, Leitrim County Council -- 242
Manorhamilton ward, Leitrim County Council -- 354 -- Elected
Mohill ward, Leitrim County Council -- 179
Carlingford ward, Louth County Council -- 1,462 -- Elected
Ardee ward, Louth County Council -- 373
Dundalk Urban District Council -- 487 -- Elected
Dundalk South Rural ward, Louth County Council -- 730
Dundalk Urban District Council -- 688 -- Elected
Dundalk Urban District Council -- 298
Drogheda Corporation (Laurence Gate) -- 212
Drogheda Corporation (West Gate) -- 194
Drogheda East ward, Louth County Council -- 428
Drogheda Corporation -- 342
Drogheda West ward, Louth County Council -- 380
Ardee Town Commission -- 134 -- Elected
Ballina UDC -- 273
Ballina rural ward, Mayo County Council -- 610
Castlebar UDC -- 118
Castlebar ward, Mayo County Council -- 250
Navan UDC -- 510 -- Elected
Navan ward, Meath County Council -- 926 -- Elected
Navan UDC -- 225
Caoimhghin O Caolain
North Monaghan ward, Monaghan County Council -- 1,831 -- Elected
North Monaghan ward, Monaghan County Council -- 923 -- Elected
North Monaghan ward, Monaghan County Council -- 675 -- Elected
Monaghan Urban District Council -- 351 -- Elected
Padraigin Ui Mhurchadha
Monaghan Urban District Council -- 350 -- Elected
Monaghan Urban District Council -- 200 -- Elected
Monaghan Urban District Council -- 180 -- Elected
Monaghan Urban District Council -- 147
Clones ward, Monaghan County Council -- 536
Clones ward, Monaghan County Council -- 648 -- Elected
Clones Urban District Council -- 156 -- Elected
Clones Urban District Council -- 153 -- Elected
Clones Urban District Council -- 111 -- Elected
Carrickmacross ward, Monaghan County Council -- 1,043 -- Elected
Carrickmacross Urban District Council --
Carrickmacross UDC -- 199 -- Elected
Castleblaney Urban District Council -- 276 -- Elected
Castleblaney ward, Monaghan County Council -- 1,053 -- Elected
Castleblaney Urban District Council -- 113 -- Elected
Ballybay Town Commission -- 81 -- Elected
Ballybay Town Commission -- 46
Tullamore ward, Offaly County Council -- 439
Tullamore Urban District Council -- 273 -- Elected
West ward, Sligo Corporation -- 647 -- Elected
Sligo town ward, Sligo County Council -- 1,206 -- Elected
East ward, Sligo Corporation -- 525 -- Elected
North ward, Sligo Corporation -- 348 -- Elected
Nenagh UDC -- 188
Nenagh ward, Tipperary County Council -- 450
Carrick-on-Suir UDC -- 301 -- Elected
Cashel Urban District Council -- 100
Portlaw ward, Waterford County Council -- 59
Mullingar Town Commission -- 71
Ronan O Faolain
Athlone UCD -- 74
Gorey ward, Wexford County Council -- 352
New Ross Urban District Council -- 125 -- Elected
New Ross ward, Wexford County Council -- 330
Wexford ward, Wexford County Council -- 842
Enniscorthy ward, Wexford County Council -- 446
Enniscorthy Urban District Council -- 195 -- Elected
Wexford Corporation -- 397 -- Elected
Gorey Town Commission -- 149 -- Elected
Blessington ward, Wicklow County Council -- 434
Bray Urban District Council -- 234
Bray ward, Wicklow County Council -- 369
Bray Urban District Council -- 233
Sinn Féin confounds the pundits
BY MARTIN SPAIN
It's a two-party celebration, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin revel in polls coup'' proclaimed the Irish Independent. Political correspondent Gene McKenna wrote that ``in a trailblazing performance which marked its arrival as a major force in local politics, Sinn Féin trebled its outgoing tally of seven (county council) seats
Predictions of Sinn Féin success were as rare as snow in the Sahara in the national media before last weekend's local elections in the 26 Counties, but the story of republican gains was most definitely the major focus of attention by Sunday and Monday.
Mairéad Carey, Ireland on Sunday's political editor, recognised that ``the smaller parties are often underestimated in the run-up to elections and that certainly was the case with Sinn Féin who have remained on 3% in the opinion polls but who made serious in-roads into local government yesterday
``The party is no longer seen just in the context of the Northern troubles, and is no longer relying totally on its anti-drugs campaign for support.''
``All the main political parties were putting the best possible spin on the local election results last night,'' reported John Donlon, the Star's political correspondent, on Monday. ``Sinn Féin rightly claimed the most spectacular gains, particularly in Dublin and border counties.''
``It's a two-party celebration, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin revel in polls coup'' proclaimed the Irish Independent. Political correspondent Gene McKenna wrote that ``in a trailblazing performance which marked its arrival as a major force in local politics, Sinn Féin trebled its outgoing tally of seven (county council) seats''. He went on to write that ``Sinn Féin set itself up for a serious challenge for seats at the next general election by its remarkable improvement in the local elections which brought notable successes''. He particularly noted Sinn Féin's gains in Dublin and the border area.
Also in the Irish Independent, Máirtín Mac Cormaic wrote: ``Sinn Féin councillors who could be joining Caoimhghín O Caoláin in the Dáil include Martin Ferris in Kerry North, Desmond Ellis in Dublin North West, Larry O'Toole in Dublin North Central, Mark Daly and Sean Crowe in Dublin South West and Nicky Kehoe and Christy Burke in Dublin Central.''
There was a sniffy middle-class tone of disapproval in Miriam Lord's colour piece from the RDS count centre in Dublin, but her words still evoked something of the joy and emotional release of the atmosphere as council seat after council seat was notched up:
``When it came to celebrating, nothing could touch the Sinn Féin family. A distinctive looking class of political supporter, they celebrated the party's breakthrough at local level with gusto and cheered to the rafters in the RDS when Martin McGuinness arrived in to wish them well.
``In a flurry of Celtic jerseys, crew cuts, tatoos [sic], tricolours and mobile phones, they celebrated with gusto, then in the middle of the commotion, somebody remembered it and shouted it as loud as he could. `Tiocfaidh ár lá!' and then they all remembered and cheered.''
One of the most amusing errors of the election was the Irish Times' sex change operation on Sinn Féin national treasurer Joe Reilly, who topped the poll in Navan UDC and was also elected to Meath County Council, Mark Brennock noting the success of Ms Jo Reilly.
In the Irish Times, Emmet Oliver wrote of the RDS victories:
``As incredulous politicians from other parties looked on, a large group of Sinn Féin supporters threatened to lift the roof of the hall, such was the volume of their celebrations. While a 32-county socialist republic was not being promised, the party was ecstatic as several candidates involved in community politics in recent years romped home ahead of household names from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour.''
Carol Coulter at the Tallaght count centre, however, was back to the middle class disdain, noting that ``the neat suits worn by the candidates did not yet look like everyday wear'' and sniffing that Sinn Féin celebrators were drinking Spanish sparkling wine rather than champagne, when a more refined knowledge of the grape would have revealed that Sinn Féin was celebrating with Cava, an Iberian version of Champagne which a Basque colleague informs me is far superior.
Bruce Arnold, in his news analysis, wrote that Sinn Féin ``has established itself as an all-Ireland political force, both at local level, through good and energetic constituency work combined with effective party organisation on the ground, and at national level by its close association with the key issue of peace in Northern Ireland.'' He opined that the party's success seemed to be as much at the expense of Labour on this occasion as of Fianna Fáil.
Writing in the Irish News on Monday, Tony Bailie reported that ``Gerry Adams's party defied the odds, opinion surveys and experts' forecasts to establish itself in local government politics for the first time and record creditable figures in all four Irish European Parliament constituencies''.
In the Examiner, Mark Hennessy felt that ``the Sinn Féin performance is a reward for the kind of street-level activity which the major parties are no longer capable of producing, but it is, as yet, confined to a limited number of districts in inner-city areas and in traditional republican heartlands.
``But the showing does foretell the battle which will take place between Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin over coming years.''
The Sun, predictably, focused on Dessie Ellis with the bitter pill headline ``IRA bomb maker in poll win''.
``The former provo polled a massive vote in the Dublin Corporation ward of Finglas. And he was one of THREE [bold type] ex-convicts to be elected around the country.' Oh, the horror of it all, indeed.
Sinn Féin's success also sounded a note of warning for the future wellbeing of the Celtic Tiger, according to the Sun's editorial, which noted that the party outpolled the PDs and the Greens: ``It is set to be a party with clout in the Republic. Those who voted for it may well have been convinced that it really is now on the path of peace. But a convicted bomber and arms smuggler were among those elected. That's a development which might be at least viewed warily by foreign investors looking towards Ireland.''
One of the most amusing errors of the election was the Irish Times' sex change operation on Sinn Féin national treasurer Joe Reilly, who topped the poll in Navan UDC and was also elected to Meath County Council, Mark Brennock noting the success of Ms Jo Reilly.
But the most inept and inaccurate reporting award for the elections goes to RTÉ. The measure of its `comprehensive' election coverage was encompassed in radio reports that Sinn Féin had failed to make the breakthrough it had expected in Longford - a lack of success which could be explained by the fact that the party stood no candidates in the county. Later, Michael Colreavy's election to Leitrim County Council was greeted with the commentary that it was the first time the party had held a seat on that body since 1927. At which point, a frustrated Miles Dungan, off air, roared: ``Has nobody heard of John Joe McGirl?'' For the national station's information, John Joe's son, Liam, also held onto his Leitrim County Council seat.
Victories in four corners
Big steps forward in counties Cork, Wexford, Louth and Sligo
John Dwyer was out canvassing in New Ross. A lady came to the door, and slammed it fast behind her. She'd left her wee dog in behind the door, who was barking to wake the angels. `Why's he barking so?' `He's after rats. He killed two last night'. The lady herself has a baseball bat beside her to defend herself and the kids, in case the dog couldn't handle the situation.
She had been waiting on the housing list for four years. Other families, friends of friends, moved straight into housing when they moved to the town and joined the list.
``There is no justice in it. It is outrageous. The town suffers from total neglect which the power block of councillors from establishment parties has maintained down the years,'' says John.
And this is the story told by every Sinn Féiner who campaigned for election to the councils, whether they got elected or not - it is the story of what their campaign means in their communities, a fight for justice.
It's a story of neglect of villages and towns all over the country, of poor housing, no facilities or community centres for young people or old, of unemployment, of dilapidated, unsafe housing, of big money being unjustly distributed, of towns and villages dying, of queues for hospital beds, of withdrawal of medical services. Its a story of neglect and injustice.
And its been a political story of apathy, of hopelessness, of clientelism and corruption, of political parties scrabbling for votes, against each other, and between party running mates, of political want-to-bes, keeping seats in the family, blowing into areas for votes and blowing out again, passing the parcel between them on councils, taking election as an accolade not an obligation.
No better proof than the amazing votes of some Sinn Féin candidates who were re-elected after years of single-handedly fighting against neglect on UDCs and Town Commissions. The outstanding endorsements of councillors like Cionnaith O'Suilleabhain in Clonakilty, of Anne O'Leary in Bantry, and Martin Hallinan in Youghal, of Joe Reilly in the Navan UDC election, all of whom topped the poll with votes two or even three times the quota, is evidence enough of what this Sinn Féin election breakthrough means.
Arthur Gibbons in Sligo, elected to the Corporation, whose family have lived in the town for generations, tells of how the electorate threw out the entire panel and elected brand new representatives. `` Through Cartron and Rathbroghan, over 1,000 houses, there is not one community or sports centre. Not one, nothing for young people. And then they talk of drugs.'' Arthur is angry at the neglect.
``Politics is something you do all your life. It's a political act to get up in the morning'', and it has been like that for Don O'Leary, who made the big breakthrough, elected to Cork City Corporation after years of work and political exclusion, even to the point where the government sent Don to Jail for having republican posters under his bed.
``We live here, and we'll be here in three weeks time. The other candidates, they won't be back `til next election,''says Don, chairperson of the combined residents association. ``We've campaigned just for the basic things which affect life on these estates, like lighting, road signs, bins, all reflections of the neglect of our areas, of Knocknaheany, Farranree, Fairhill. Long-term projects are a community centre. We've nothing here- the result of the local authority's outright neglect.''
``I don't want to let people down,'' he says. It is a fear shared by all those who got elected, of those who made such significant and such hardly fought breakthroughs like Brian Stanley in the home town of so many republicans who never got to vote for him, or Jody Coughlan in Tullamore, who got elected to the UDC, Jimmy Gavin elected to the UDC in Ardee, Co Louth, Micky Shiels in Gorey and Martin Shehan in Enniscorthy, of Kevin MacCarthaigh in Cobh, who fought singlehandedly over five years to get the council meetings opened to the public.
Lone voices they may be on their respective councils. Tony Curtin, elected to Listowel UDC, tells with delight of how the Fianna Fáil and the Fine Gael were already at him, even before the count showed him elected to hold the balance of power between them. Anxious to capture him, to pocket his acquiescence, to get him to join the cosy cartel, which keeps everybody happy, except the people.
Arthur Morgan was elected to Louth County Council, another lone voice,when, sadly, Seán Kenna could not quite get the votes he needed for a county council seat. ``It marks a breakthrough in the county, which has always been so strong a republican county, but which at last is beginning to manifest itself also in electoral terms,'' says Arthur.
Arthur talks with delight at young Kevin Meehan's victory. Kevin, a first time candidate a youth worker, and PRO of the combined tenants' association, topped the poll in his ward for the Dundalk UDC. ``So many young people'' says Arthur, ``with ability coming through now. It's not just the young vote, it's young people themselves who want to change things.'' Restorative justice is Kevin's word for it.
Many will be sad too that county councillors like Jim Ferry in Buncrana and Paddy Wright in Athy couldn't gather quite enough votes. Such councillors are as rare, in Paddy's inimitable words, as `elephants on the banks of the Shannon.''
And for the first time ever, a Sinn Féin seat on Meath County Council for Joe Reilly. ``It was the Bobby Sands Centre, our election team, a lot of very hard work.'' Joe just says it was because he is good looking, very rich, and a nice fellow to meet. But he is full of plans. There is transport, road safety, `I've ideas on that'. Rebuilding communities and villages which are dying as wealth pours to the urban centres. There is housing, public housing to meet the need. ``I've ideas on this, ideas on that.'' Joe does not stop.
Nor do those who didn't quite make it. Marie Gavaghan and John Doyle in Wicklow, Maurice Roche who didn't quite complete the great results in Wexford with a seat on the County Council, Gerry O'Neill in Blessington, who topped several boxes in the contituency, always a voice in Wicklow on radio against the wiles of the elected councillors, sadly missed election, and Paddy Hackett in Nenagh, who every republican would have loved to see elected.
So many areas where republicans face a deliberate and insidious campaign to keep a Sinn Féin voice for change in the wilderness of exclusion, for the preservation of the established parties' cosy and lucrative cartel over local power, maintained through apathy, clientelism, at the expense of the continuing neglect of communities. Last week's results rattled their cage.
It is against this background that Sinn Féin's victories must be seen. It's a beginning for restorative justice.
The sky's the limit in County Monaghan
The onward march of Sinn Féin in County Monaghan continues - and it seems the sky's the limit.
The party now has six members of Monaghan County Council an increase of four. It secured 17 of the 21 seats it contested and is represented on every local authority in the County.
In many respects this was a tremendous achievement for Sinn Féin. The securing of three County Council seats in the Electoral Area of North Monaghan, and of four seats on Monaghan UDC, shows the strength in depth of Sinn Féin support. Sinn Féin went into the election with no local representation at all in South Monaghan and emerged with a County Councillor and a UDC member. In Mid-Monaghan, Sinn Féin has gone from two local authority seats to four. Clones Electoral Area has added a County Councillor to the three UDC members.
Effective electoral organisation and vote management ensured maximum gains. On Monaghan UDC, Sinn Féin is the largest party with four councillors (Owen Smyth, Padraigín Uí Mhurchadha, Seán Conlon and Gerry Loughran), an increase of one, and they came close to taking a fifth, with Pauline Martin narrowly losing out. In the North Monaghan Electoral Area of the County Council, both sitting councillors Caoimhghín O Caoláin and Brian McKenna were elected on the first count and brought in Brenda McAnespie with them on the eighth count.
In Clones Electoral Area, Brian MacUaid made it onto the County Council. The vote was neatly divided between Brian and running mate Sheila McKenna, who when eliminated secured the election of her colleague on the fourth count. Peter McAleer, Debbie Moore and Pat Treanor retained their seats on Clones UDC. Castlebayney UDC member Jackie Crowe held his seat and took a colleague James Cunningham with him. Jackie also won a County Council seat. In Ballybay, Gene Duffy retained his seat on the Town Commissioners with his running mate Barry Cunningham narrowly missing taking a second. Ogra Shinn Féin National Organiser Matt Carthy won a seat on Carrickmacross UDC and another new candidate, Noel Keelan, made it onto the County Council.
Breakthrough in County Cavan
One of the most dramatic successes in the country was the Sinn Féin breakthrough in County Cavan. The party had no local elected representatives before 11 June - it now has six.
To come from such a position to win two County Council seats and four municipal authority seats was a major achievement. Pauline Tully and Charlie Boylan are the new Cavan Sinn Féin County Councillors. They join Brian McKeown (Cavan UDC) Benny Henry (Belturbet TC) and John Martin and Harry McCabe (Cootehill TC) on the Sinn Féin team.
It was always expected that the support won by Caoimhghín O Caoláin when he became a TD in 1997 could be translated into local authority seats, but much work was required to make it happen. This has now paid off. Though initially worried that the first preference totals in the County Council areas would not be sufficient, the two successful candidates benefited from strong transfers. ``The success has given great encouragement to the party in County Cavan'' says Director of Elections Tina Tully. She said that essential to their success was the fact that Sinn Féin operated on a Cavan/Monaghan constituency basis, with the stronger neighbouring county helping Cavan create its own dynamic.
Thanks from TD
Cavan/Monaghan Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín O Caoláin has thanked the people of the constituency who voted for Sinn Féin candidates in the local elections for bringing about a ``tremendous advance'' in the party's representation.
The TD paid tribute to his party's candidates, election workers and supporters across the constituency who achieved this success. He said:
``These results, following on from our general election success in 1997 and previous local government advances, show that there is no ceiling to what can be achieved. I want to thank most sincerely all those people in Counties Cavan and Monaghan who put their faith in the Sinn Féin candidates and cast their vote for them last Friday. They voted on the basis of the solid record of work by this party and on our sound policies and we fully intend to fulfil the mandate given to us.
``To all our candidates, election workers and supporters I extend warm appreciation. Your efforts have secured these successes and your sense of achievement is well-deserved.
``Sinn Féin in Cavan and Monaghan, with this greatly strengthened mandate, now takes up the task of providing the best representation for the citizens of these Counties. We have many serious problems to deal with such as roads, housing and our inadequate health service. Long-awaited reform of local government, which would allow democratically elected local councillors to deal with these issues effectively, has yet to materialise. We will be working together as a team, and in co-operation with all elected opinion, to achieve empowered, efficient and dynamic local government, truly responsive to the needs of our communities. ``Arís gabhaim buíochas leo siúd uile a thug tacaíocht dúinn. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.''
Dublin Sinn Féin rewarded for hard work
``You'll never talk alone'' - Christy sang
``It's been 16 lonely years, 16 years of `will the IRA representative now stand up and condemn this?' and then they'd shout you down. People said, just hang in there Christy, there will be someone to join you soon. But I never thought it would be so long, and now it's happened,'' says Christy Burke who has held the Sinn Féin fort on Dublin Corporation for the last 16 years.
Now they are the gang of four: Larry, Dessie, Nicky and Christie.
``I was in shock this morning - I'd three others with me. Sinn Féin has a group now and we can get things done. We can enter the debate and prioritise issues. Like today, where it was reported there were 36 patients on trolleys in Beaumont Hospital over the weekend. Now the media wants to know what Sinn Féin thinks about this.
``We got elected because of the committed people who have worked hard all down the years in community groups. As Daithí Doolin said on the Questions & Answers programme last evening, `We're there, on the ground working day in day out for the people in the area. That's what makes SF different to the other candidates'.'' The panel thought Daithi was already elected councillor, sadly, not quite.
``It's the community workers they are the backbone of our vote'', says Christy, ``and we'll be judged on our performance. Every one of us comes onto the council representing areas which have been so much neglected down the years. We have a hard fight on our hands.''
Put excitement back into politics
``Monday morning I woke up and it struck me,'' says Larry O'Toole, ``what I was after letting myself in for.'' Larry has lived in Coolock for 25 years, all the way from the Gateaux strike and occupation to election to the council. ``We're on the ground working on all the relevant issues - what affects people's lives day to day, all across the board, not just in the marginalised areas. We got wide support from all parts of the constituency. I'll be working for all the people here.''
``But we have to change the whole system, the way politics operates. Put the buzz back into politics. People have become pissed off with all the corruption, whereas I remember when I was a boy, there was a whole carnival atmosphere around politics and elections. Elections have become so dull. We want to see a bit of excitement with politics.
``And we have to get away from the one to one, the clientelist system, to broaden it out and deal with the community. It's not to work for the community but with the community - that's the difference.''
As Sinn Féin candidate in Bray, John Doyle, who along with Marie Gavaghan didn't win, says: ``Nothing about us without us''.
``What am I going to do? Work hard and enjoy it,'' says Larry. And he'll do both.
Wild Eyed Boy
Dessie was off to a cavalcade round the area, with rock anthems blaring in the house after a resounding victory at the polls. The house was abuzz. ``I only wish his father had been alive to see it,'' says his mother, Patricia, whose house down the years has always been the hub of politics in Finglas.
``Finglas has been badly treated down the years,'' says Dessie. ``For example, we've only small, Mickey Mouse community centres, but we've no sports and leisure complex, no focal point for young people to go. We got elected because we are involved in every issue on the ground, and because of a brilliant team of community people who came out, and all the hard work of people like Harry Fleming down the years, and Sean Marlowe over in Ballymun, and because people know that we are not afraid. We're from the community, we live here, not like other candidates who park their car a mile away. We've lived here all our lives. Sinn Féin lives in and is a part of the community. Now we have a chance to do something about it.''
From 400 to 2,380 first preferences
Nicky says the same. ``We had a brilliant team around us, 40 or 50 local people, who all worked hard, and have done down the years, and built a vote from a republican base of 400 to 2,380 first preferences, only 40 votes less than Maurice Ahern, Bertie's brother. ``People feel less afraid in their daily lives, since the drug campaign has driven out pushers from the Cabra area.''
``We want to see the whole area upgraded, with a long term plan - which has never been done. We're looking across the board to all the people here, to get decent services and facilities.''
This was a Sinn Féin Vote
Workmates of Mark Daly say, ``7 am this morning and Mark was back on the job,'' Monday, as site engineer, after his outstanding vote in Tallaght for the South County Dublin Council. ``For too long we've been saying `We'll beat them','' says Mark. ``It was time to stop worrying about them. We have our own policies and we do our own work. We drew support all across the board, from all the different estates. It's time we stopped thinking that we only draw votes from the most marginalised areas. Our policies concern everyone.
``Now, with two elected, we can force the council to vote on issues they don't want to vote on - like planning for the area, the local transport system, the retention of services at the hospital. We want to see a task force set up here to deal with all the issues, which involves not just the statutory agencies but the community groups in the area.
Mark sums it up: ``This was a Sinn Féin vote. I only stepped in as a candidate early this year. The vote represents a brilliant team who worked in the election, but also all the work which has been done by Sinn Feein down the years here, every week, going out talking with people, putting newsletters out to over 10,000 houses, letting people know what we were doing, and being actively involved in the community campaigns around the issues that concern people.''
Sinn Féin doubles its vote in 26-County EU elections
BY ROBBIE MacGABHANN
The 88,165 votes won by Sinn Féin in the 26 Counties amounts to a doubling of the party's vote share compared to the 1994 EU election. The party vote share increased in each of the four EU constituencies to 6.33% overall.
In Connacht Ulster, Seán MacManus polled 20,457 votes, 6.39% of the poll, up from 6% in 1994. In Dublin, Seán Crowe's 18,633 votes gave the party 6.64% of the total poll, up from 2.9% in 1994. Arthur Morgan's 20,015 first preferences for Sinn Féin in Leinster was a significant increase from the 2.5% share the party had in 1994. It was in Munster though, that Sinn Féin recorded the highest growth in vote share. Martin Ferris polled 29,060 votes, 6.48% of the poll compared to 1.4% in 1994.
The end result of the election saw little change in the make up of party representation. Fianna Fáil lost a seat in Connacht Ulster to Dana and it seems that we must steel ourselves for Abortion referendum part three. In Leinster, sitting Fine Gael MEP Alan Gillis lost out to poll topper Avril Doyle, while the Green Party's Nuala Ahern hung on for the last seat.
In Dublin, Bernie Malone the loser in the Democratic Left/Labour merger, was cuckooed by Prionsias DeRossa as Labour held its seat.
In Munster, Brian Crowley racked up almost two quotas with his surplus spread around every other candidate. When Martin Ferris was eliminated on the fifth count, 54% of his votes proved nontransferable.
The Sinn Féin transfers were interesting to watch in Dublin. The largest share went to Patricia McKenna. She got 31% of Seán Crowe's transfers with another 28% nontransferable. The performance of Sinn Féin across the four constituencies and the growth in the party's vote share shows that in five years time, there will be four Sinn Féin candidates knocking at the door for EU seats.
A formidable force
By Mícheál MacDonncha
The local election marks the arrival of Sinn Féin as a formidable force in the 26 Counties. It was a long time coming and many years of hard work had to be done to achieve it. If successive governments had not repeatedly postponed local elections we would have seen these advances earlier, but now they have come they are all the sweeter for the long wait.
Sinn Féin is now the fourth largest party in the 26 Counties. Despite Mary Harney's desperate efforts on Sunday to claim that the Progressive Democrats are ahead of Sinn Féin, her protestations were in vain. In overall local authority seats, vote share and Euro vote totals - where the PDs could not stand a single candidate - the republican party is streets ahead. Sinn Féin was undoubtedly the biggest beneficiary in these elections. Democratic Left is gone from the scene and Labour failed to benefit electorally from the merger. The Greens lost seats also.
The extent of the Sinn Féin success had to be recognised by the media, much of which had almost completely ignored the party during the election campaign. Many expressed ``surprise'' at the results. Of course, if fair and balanced coverage had been given to the party during the campaign, there would have been no such surprise as a careful examination of the party's work would have shown that major gains were on the cards.
The other establishment reaction to the Sinn Féin success was the patronising one that it was generally a ``good thing'' and that they were ``welcome into the democratic process''. This from parties who had repeatedly denied the electorate the chance to vote in local elections by postponing them. That this was a gross abuse was in fact recognised by the `forgotten referendum', the passing of which now means that local elections must be held every five years. What is very significant about this result is that it cannot be classed as an inner city Dublin and border vote alone. Gains were made in suburban Dublin, Wexford, Cork, Kerry and in large and small towns dotted around the country. This is a process of building and for the first time really solid foundations have been laid on a widespread basis and have been built upon.
Time needs to be taken to assess very carefully Sinn Féin's political strategy in the 26 Counties, given this new political strength. There has been some talk of Sinn Féin possibly being ``in government'' North and South, but republicans need to be very cautious about such notions. First of all, the Executive in the Six Counties - if it is ever established - will not be a government in any ordinary sense. It is a unique experiment involving parties who have come together in a peace process and agreed structures without concurring even on basic constitutional questions. Sinn
Féin is there because of its considerable political strength in the Six Counties.
The situation in the 26 Counties is utterly different. Sinn Féin is still a small albeit rapidly growing party. Its challenge is to build not only an alternative radical party but alternative radical politics. It needs to provide the real Opposition.
Last weekend's gains are the fruits of organisational work over the past five years. It came tantalisingly close to paying off in multiple Leinster House seats in 1997. In the event, the breakthrough was made by Caoimhghín O Caoláin on his own but even a cursory glance at these local election results shows the potential for gains in a number of constituencies come the next general election.
That election may be upon us sooner than expected. While the Opposition is sniping unsuccessfully at the government at present with the likes of the Paddy Duffy affair, continuing tribunals may contain the ticking bomb which will end the life of the Fianna Fáil/PD government. Sinn Féin needs to be ready for the general election which would follow - and that could be as early as this autumn.
Surge to Sinn Féin in Six Counties
BY ROBBIE MacGABHANN
The Sinn Féin vote has grown in every election since June 1994... the 117,643 votes won by Mitchel Mac Laughlin gave the party a vote total of 17.3%
Isn't it funny how dates change but things stay the same. In June 1994, Sinn Féin was taking huge risks in pushing the party's peace strategy. Nearly a year on from the Hume Adams Declaration, the party was still attempting to create the conditions for a lasting peace.
In June 1999, Sinn Féin finds itself in a similar position to 1994. Having taken a political risk by comprising on some substantial issues in the Good Friday Agreement, the party and its supporters find themselves as in mid 1994 in limbo, waiting for others to match the Sinn Féin commitment.
The Sinn Féin vote has grown in every election since June 1994, as can be evidenced in the change in vote share between then and now. In 1994, Sinn Féin polled 55,215 votes winning 9.86% of the poll. This time around, the 117,643 votes won by Mitchel McLaughlin gave the party a vote total of 17.3%, less than 2,000 votes behind the Ulster Unionists.
Sinn Féin's performance this time around is all the more remarkable given the `beauty contest' nature of the EU election, which encourages presidential-style campaigns. Both John Hume and Ian Paisley have historically produced personal performances in EU elections that are rarely matched by their parties.
Indeed, the difference in performance by Paisley compared to the DUP is striking. In the 1998 Assembly elections, the DUP polled only 18.1% of first preferences. The increased vote share of 28% in the EU elections this time around is not really significant of any swing to Paisley. In fact his EU vote share has been slipping constantly.
The UUP vote drop from 21.3% last year to 17.6% this time around is more difficult to gauge. There has definitely been a slippage in the UUP vote. Nicholson took 23.8% of the first preferences in 1994.
The Alliance vote has effectively collapsed. They took 6.5% of first preferences in 1998. This time around they only polled 2.1% with Seán Neeson as the candidate. Robert MacCartney's UK Unionists fared little better. His 20,2823 votes amounted to just under 3% of first preferences. McCartney's support has not moved outside his North Down stronghold.
In this context, Sinn Féin's performance is all the more remarkable. The party has almost matched its record assembly vote share of 1998 without indulging in the personality politics.
Sinn Féin's vote share in 1994 was used to deride the party's peace strategy. Now with that peace strategy in place, surely the increased showing at the polls should be interpreted as an endorsement of the Sinn Féin position at the talks. The people have spoken for peace with a majority of more than two to one in favour of the Good Friday Agreement.
Our man done good
BY NED KELLY
``Any political party would be more than happy with doubling its vote,'' was the response of T.C., manager of the Sinn Féin election `machine' in West Belfast, to the question of what republicans can take away from the 117,643 first preference votes cast for Mitchel McLaughlin in last week's European election. Last time out, Sinn Fein had polled just over 55,000 first preferences.
Despite what others may say about the party missing out on the third European seat, the feeling among election workers was that in putting down a clear marker, there is evidence that there is now a large enough nationalist electorate to secure two European seats.
Speaking to election workers after the count on Monday night, the effort that went into the massive gains was obviously hard won. In West Belfast alone, over 500 people gave time, energy and enthusiasm to the campaign.
People put up posters in the pouring rain, put leaflets through doors, and importantly, canvased up and down the Six Counties, including areas that has rarely seen Sinn Féin political activists on the ground.
There was catering, transport, printing, then there was the commitment given by people literally coming out of the woodwork on the day. One of the best sights was the huge number of young people involved in the campaign, which was especially noticeable outside the polling stations all day Thursday.
That the UUP took a massive dent in its vote, that David Ervine outpolled McCartney, that the SDLP strategy of calling for nationalists to vote for Hume in the popularity contest with Paisley didn't pay off and that Paisley sang his ``doxology'', proclaiming glory to his maker and to celebrate his victory, tells us that while so many things have changed, on the other hand they have remained so much the same in political life in the Six Counties.
From the campaign trail, there were the stories of the mad dash through dangerous, previously uncharted territory.
And word is that McCartney did turn to wave at Gerry Adams after Adams congratulated him before dropping the smile and walking away to be heard cursing to himself down the corridors.
But back to Paisley, the man whose hero is `B' Special Inspector Nixon, the man responsible for the brutal McMahon murders and very much in the Carson mould. Although he did top the poll, securing192,000 votes, a full 70% of the North's electorate voted for parties that support the Good Friday Agreement.
``That majority needs listening to'', stated Mitchel McLaughlin.
Sinn Féin success must spur peace process
In the course of the past week, Sinn Féin has more than doubled its European vote in the Six Counties, showing there are quotas for two nationalist seats in Europe, and the party has also made major gains in local elections throughout the 26 Counties.
The party's countrywide performance marks one of the most successful campaigns ever for Sinn Féin. The peace process and the new political climate has without doubt changed the nature of the political chessboard. The most striking feature of elections North and South is the fact that Sinn Féin is a major political force on the move across the island. A growing section of the Irish electorate has placed its trust in Sinn Féin as a party that is set to further influence matters of national and international importance.
That growing support, plus the backing of 70 percent of the Six-County electorate for pro-Agreement parties, must have implications for the still mired peace process. High-level meetings between the parties and with the two governments are continuing in the run-up to Tony Blair's 30 June deadline for the devolution of power, the latest of these a meeting on Tuesday between Gerry Adams and Bertie Ahern. Adams reported afterwards that Ahern was very focused and clear on the need to establish the political institutions if there is to be progress.
Adams has also welcomed comments made by British Prime Minister Tony Blair earlier this week. He particularly welcomed Blair's assertion that the Good Friday Agreement must be returned to. ``That is the binding agreement that we all made in April 1998,'' said Adams. ``I welcome his statement that there are no preconditions to the establishment of the Executive and that 30 June is a real deadline.''
He expressed the hope that Blair's comments would create a new focus to ``drive us through the next phase of negotiations towards agreement by 30 June''.
David Trimble, meanwhile, is still this week sticking to the position of no progress on the Agreement without prior decommissioning. It is time that he and other unionists showed real leadership. They cannot play the role of victims forever. Trimble must very soon decide if he is the leader of the UUP or the First Minister. To date, he has given no indication that he is up to the challenge of the latter post and every indication that he is more than up to the task of playing the tired old Orange card.