Irish election result has implications for NI and for Europe

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

In recent months there has been much uncertainty as to when the Irish general election would be held, and also when our Stormont elections would take place.

Both have to happen by next year but the difficulties at the assembly have been so acute that an early election has seemed a possible outcome of the uncertainty.

Late last week, the likelihood of that receded with reports that the DUP would return fully to government.

Meanwhile, it seemed that Enda Kenny would be the one calling a snap election. Mr Kenny has chosen not to do that.

Perhaps he has just had his Gordon Brown moment. Shortly after he became the British prime minister in 2007, Mr Brown came close to calling an autumn election.

The polling figures looked good and then at the last minute he lost his nerve. We will never know what would have happened if a snap election had been called, but if Mr Brown had won he would have secured re-election just before the financial crisis erupted, with which he was fairly or unfairly associated.

The big area of interest in next year’s Dublin election for Northern Ireland observers is how well Sinn Fein will do. The party would be thrilled to take power on both sides of the border on the eve of the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

But the fate of Sinn Fein will not merely be significant due to what it indicates about how the Republic’s electorate views the republican party and its past association to the IRA (an association that many people will have been reminded of by last night’s shooting dead of a garda in Co Louth by a dissident).

The result will also be significant across Europe with regard to austerity. It is unclear if European voters believe that Syriza has successfully thwarted or minimised austerity.

It will be alarming for Europe, and the continent’s future ability to balance the books, if the fiscal restraint shown by Dublin since 2008 is thrown away by Sinn Fein, partly because voters have been impressed by Syriza’s recklessness.