Some of our co-Brexiteers will be feeling very smug about Ireland’s election result. For the best part of five years, our own pro-Remain fringe here in Britain has delighted in lecturing us to the effect that our neighbour is a modern, progressive, European country in which reactionary nationalism is a thing of the past. Now a party with a paramilitary wing has topped the ballot.
This site doesn’t see it that way. Though we are struck by the gap between popular images of Ireland here and what is evidently the electoral reality there. These are very early days in which to assess why its people voted as they have. But the country’s housing provision and health service must be in a very bad place for Sinn Fein to be a contender for government this morning.
There will be calls here for the party to be kept out of power. Why? After all, it is deemed suitable to share government in Northern Ireland. Indeed, the British state has only recently made gargantuan efforts to get it back into co-office. Its efforts to do so receieved a standing ovation from almost everyone apart from this site’s very own Henry Hill.
Don’t get us wrong. Obviously, ConservativeHome believes that Ireland’s voters have made the wrong choice. But their decisions are a matter for them – and it may well be a mistake to believe that Sinn Fein can somehow be coalitioned out of government. Perhaps a tottery coalition of the two establishment parties can be spatchcocked together to keep their challenger out. But all that would be likely to do is to further inflate Sinn Fein’s vote.
If the people of Ireland are determined to tilt in the party’s direction, then so be it. A Sinn Fein-Fianna Fail coalition would be bad news for the Brexit negotiation. But would it really be worse than a Fianna Fail-Fine Gael one that felt compelled to play to the nationalist gallery, looking nervously over its shoulder at its rising rival?
We are sorry for Leo Varadkar, who arguably did more for Brexit, in the last resort, than any other politician. The site even decked him out in red, white, blue to help make the point. If anyone says this was unhelpful, our reply can only be that his own nationalist feints, such as calling Britain “a small country”, don’t seem to have helped him either.