The sister of an IRA murder victim has said she “despairs” that her fellow citizens in the Republic of Ireland have cast more votes for Sinn Fein than in previous elections.
Ann Travers - whose sister Mary was murdered in 1984 by IRA gunmen who also attempted to kill her magistrate father Tom Travers - said her family has discussed leaving the country if the republican party ever gains power. The mother-of-five now lives in Dublin but is a voluntary member of the Victims and Survivors Forum Northern Ireland.
I’m so sad that so many think it’s okay to vote for a party whose economics and morals stink to high heavenAnn Travers
She said the only consolation was that “they haven’t done as well as they had predicted,” and they have ruled out becoming a junior partner in a new coalition government.
Mrs Travers said: “I am just dismayed that people are voting for them. It’s not just that this is a party that still justifies the murder of so many innocent people, but also that their economics just don’t add up. Why do they support a political group that supported a terrorist organisation? They either don’t know or don’t want to know what happened.”
With his party expected to return more than 20 TDs to the Irish parliament, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said the poll “demonstrated a sea change in politics” in the Republic.
Mrs Travers added: “In the north they are one of the biggest parties, and I can understand that if you look at the sectarianism there, but in the south were people weren’t affected as much by the Troubles, and it scares me that so many can ignore what Sinn Fein supported.”
Mrs Travers went on to say: “It scares me greatly to think that they could win any more [seats]. Times have been tough and if [the electorate] thinks that someone is going to look after their own interests then that’s what people will do, but they (Sinn Fein) have implemented austerity in the north.
“It’s very different saying something when you’re not in government, but whenever you’re in government, and you have limited funds, then it’s just not as easy to deliver.
“I’m so sad that the electorate memory is so short and so many think it’s okay to vote for a party whose economics and morals stink to high heaven.”
Austin Stack, whose prison officer father was shot and fatally wounded by the IRA in Dublin in 1983, said the latest poll is in keeping the 13.7 per cent vote for Sinn Fein candidate Martin McGuinness in the 2011 presidential election - not the rise in fortunes the party has claimed.
“I don’t accept there has been a continual rise in the Sinn Fein vote,” he said.
Mr Stack said that although the Sinn Fein vote was up on the last general election, it has “stagnated” at below 15 per cent in other polls since then.
“They were up to 26 per cent in February of last year in a MRBI poll...but once the election campaign got underway, and people started questioning the likes of Gerry Adams about the past, the vote tailed back to around 14 per cent.
“There was also an element of his grasp of economic [in the decline], but then you also had the [IRA] victims asking questions,” he said.
Mr Stack said it was important that victims continue to confront senior Sinn Fein members in as part of the campaign to get the full facts about the IRA murders of their loved ones.
“I don’t know how effective it can continue to be, because people may get fed up with victims approaching them, but I think it’s important to educate the younger people - it is the younger people that are voting for them.
“The younger people need to be educated about what went on. They need to be reminded and in some cases they just don’t know. That’s why I got involved in the campaign, and I have challenged Gerry Adams.”
Mr Stack added: “There are an awful lot of people down here, in the 40-plus age group, who will just not trust Sinn Fein. About half the electorate will not give Sinn Fein any preference.”
Commenting when almost all of the votes had been counted last night, Gerry Adams said: “You can always do better, I would love that we were going into government with a majority - that takes time. These other parties have more depth, have more structures, have more organisation, have more resources.”
The party leader also took the opportunity to again rule out going into coalition with either Fianna Fail or Fine Gael.
“We are not going to go in and prop up a regressive and negative old conservative government, whatever the particular party political complexion,” he said.
North Down DUP MLA Peter Weir said that while the Republic of Ireland elections were “entirely a matter for the people of that country... many will remember Gerry Adams saying there would be a united Ireland by 2016”.
Mr Weir added: “The focus of the DUP is on the election in 66 days when the people of Northern Ireland will decide who will lead them. We will be going to the polls on 5th May with the Union more secure than ever before.”
A spokesman for the Ulster Unionists said: “We await the full and final outcome of the election. Whatever that may be, we remain committed to working tirelessly to be the best neighbours we can be with the Republic of Ireland. For everyone’s sake, it is time to create better for all.”
TUV leader Jim Allister said: “While the final results are still coming in it is clear that no party will command a majority in the Dublin parliament. It is also clear that the government which held power before polling day has been unceremoniously booted out of office. It is clear that one of two things will happen - either parties which can come together and agree a programme for government will form an administration while the other parties will perform the vital function of opposition in any democracy. On the other hand there could be a fresh election to see if a stable government can be returned.
“What a contrast with Northern Ireland where people are denied the right to vote a party out of government and denied the right to an opposition! These fundamentals which are taken as a basic norm in any democratic system - including in the Republic - are denied us.”