In Brief

Sinn Fein surge in polls five days ahead of election

Irish nationalist party set for a ‘major breakthrough’ in Saturday’s poll

Sinn Fein has surged to the top of an opinion poll five days ahead of the election in Ireland.

According to an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll, support for the leftwing nationalist party is at 25%, ahead of the centrist Fianna Fail on 23%.

Despite a booming economy and falling unemployment, support for Leo Varadkar’s governing Fine Gael has also fallen to 20%.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald’s personal rating is also up seven points to 41%, as she became the most popular leader among all the main parties. Approval ratings for Taoiseach Varadkar and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin both fell to 30%.

The Guardian reports that the election looks “set to be a major breakthrough for the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army”. However, Sinn Fein is unlikely to emerge as the largest party because it is running only 42 candidates - around half the number being fielded by Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

The party would need to get almost all 42 candidates elected to the 160-seat chamber to give it a chance of emerging as the largest party, and analysts say such a result would be difficult because of Ireland’s electoral system.

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Instead, says The Times, the election “will likely see Sinn Fein made political kingmakers, even though they eschew anything that smacks of the crown”. Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail had previously played down talking to Sinn Fein in order to form a government. 

The Washington Post says being the largest opposition party would be a “comfortable outcome for Sinn Fein” allowing it “to criticize government policy and grow its base of support”. 

However, a senior Sinn Fein figure, David Cullinane, insisted on Twitter: “We are standing enough candidates to be serious contenders for government. The demand for change is heart lifting.”

A sign of that demand can be seen in a separate poll for The Times, which found that four in five Irish people now back a united Ireland.

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