Sinn Fein Celebrates With IRA Songs, But Voters Focus on Pledges

(Bloomberg) -- Sinn Fein celebrated their surge in Ireland’s general election by singing folk songs commemorating the Irish Republican Army’s fight against British rule, yet the party’s left-wing economic policies, rather than nationalism, seems to have driven their success.

Sinn Fein posted 22.3% of first preference votes in an exit poll published Saturday, in a tie with Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, the traditional parties of Irish government. Long an outsider because of its IRA links, t is now very much at the heart of the political landscape.

Economic issues including housing, health care and the pension age drove Sinn Fein’s performance, according to an exit poll. No Sinn Fein voter cited Brexit, the closest proxy to the party’s long-held goal of a united Ireland in this election.

Among the policies Sinn Fein put forward are a

  • 1% tax on net wealth of more than 1 million euros
  • freezing residential rents
  • biggest state house building program in decades
  • reducing the retirement age back to 65

On banking, Sinn Fein propose keeping the government’s holding in AIB Group Plc and freez mortgage interest rates. It also wants to end Irish banks use of deferred tax assets to avoid paying corporation tax on their profits.

Center Left?

Though Sinn Fein is in the race to be the biggest party by vote share, it didn’t run nearly enough candidates to become the dominant force in Ireland’s 160-seat parliament. On Sunday, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail ruled out governing with Sinn Fein, though some in Fianna Fail say the option should be kept open.

Still, Sinn Fein is firmly a center-left party rather than of the hard-left. It wants to retain Ireland’s 12.5% corporation tax rate, while its Brexit stance was largely in line with the government’s.

While the party’s spending plans are greater than those of the other main parties, they “are still conservative” in the context of the European Union's fiscal rules, Ryan McGrath, an analyst with Cantor Fitzgerald in Dublin, said in a research note before the election.

“Sinn Fein is not anti-establishment,” he said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.