Sinn Fein has said it is going to have to ask “big questions” of itself after it suffered “devastating” slump in support in two elections in the Republic of Ireland.
During counting on Monday, Sinn Fein’s local government vote stood at 9.5% – down from 15.2% in 2014. The party’s share of the European Election vote was 12.2%, down 7.8% since 2014.
Matt Carthy, the MEP candidate for Midlands North West, said: “It’s been devastating for so many hardworking councillors.
“There’s going to be big questions asked because at this point, there’s not one single thing I can point to, it’s not as if we lost our vote to a single entity.
“It’s not like we just lost votes to the Greens, we lost votes to independents, we lost votes to Fianna Fail - God help us, we lost votes to the Labour party - I’m told they still exist in some parts.
“We’re going to have to ask big questions of ourselves and it’s going to be an intensive discussion internally.”
This weekend’s election is the second of Mary Lou McDonald’s tenure as party leader which has seen support fall.
The party lost dozens of seats across the country, with the decline at local level widespread and consistent.
But Mr Carthy was at a loss to explain why the party had polled so poorly. “I really, really don’t know,” he said.
Irish Times Political Editor Pat Leahy noted that in Dublin, the party’s voted halved.
He suggested voters seem unimpressed with the record of Sinn Fein councillors, allegations of internal bullying and the handling of questions raised by victims of sexual abuse.
“Nor have voters responded to the party’s trenchant opposition to the Government on every issue that emerges in national politics,” he said.
The party’s campaigning on Brexit has done it few favours, he said, and its mission to enter government in Dublin by appealing to the political middle ground and the middle class may also be a factor.
BBC Dublin correspondent Shane Harrison noted the party won 100 extra seats in the local government election five years ago. At that time it was “riding the crest of a wave of popular discontent” about austerity and water charges.
However now there is statistical full employment, people are more content, the economy is doing well. “It may be regarded that perhaps the Sinn Fein message didn’t reflect the new reality,” he said.
Ex Sinn Fein TD, now leader of Aontú, Peadar Tóibín believed his party had taken many of the votes that Sinn Fein had lost.
“When I joined Sinn Fein 20 years it was only concerned about Irish Unity and economic justice,” he said. “But now it is campaigning on a long list of issues.”
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald recently went to London and asked it to legislate in Northern Ireland for an Irish Language Act, Same Sex Marriage and abortion, he told the News Letter.
“In 200 years of Irish republicanism this is unheard of. Plus some of these issues are highly divisive in the nationalist community.”