Irish election result will have significance outside the Republic

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Voters in the Republic of Ireland go to the polls today in the general election.

What happens south of the border will be of little interest to many people in Northern Ireland. But the outcome is significant up here for a number of reasons.

Sinn Fein are hoping for the electoral breakthrough that they have not yet had in the Republic, so their performance will have implications across the island.

And the Taoiseach Enda Kenny has presided over a government that has accepted a significant degree of ‘austerity’, so his result will have implications in the UK and Europe.

Sinn Fein’s advance will be watched with concern among unionists. The republican party would love to be in office on both sides of the border for the centenary of the Easter Rising. That is a grim prospect for anyone who loathed the terrorist campaign of the Provisional IRA during the Troubles.

The fate of Mr Kenny will have significance around the EU. Ireland, with minimal complaint, accepted the fiscally imposed medicine in the aftermath of the banking crisis of 2008. Its economy is now growing strongly.

A number of political movements across Europe threaten such financial discipline, led by Syriza in Greece but including Podemos in Spain. Sinn Fein is the Irish branch of this juvenile politics, which believes that spending taxpayers’ money lavishly is a sign of political generosity, when in truth it is selfishness that adds to the debt pain for future generations.

Mr Kenny has hardly led an administration that has fully stood up to such populism – reform of the public sector in the Republic has a considerable distance to go (as it does in Britain). But his policies, and those of the other main parties including his outgoing coalition partners Labour and Micheal Martin’s Fianna Fail, are vastly preferable to those of Sinn Fein.