​I’m writing this in Dublin, where I’ve been ecstatically celebrating the local and EU election results. Sinn Fein, which good people feared would gain power in the Republic and threaten the fragile peace in Northern Ireland, has been losing support for some months and now has been comprehensively thrashed in the local and EU elections.

Published: 13 June 2024

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, the two big parties Mary Lou McDonald contemptuously dismissed as yesterday’s men, have triumphed.

The German word ‘Schadenfreude’ – literally “damage-joy” – describes the pleasure you feel at another person’s misfortune. Fionnán Sheahan, the Irish Independent editor, gave us the modification: “Shinnerfreude: the pleasure derived by every other party from Sinn Féin’s misfortune.” And, boy, haven’t many of us been sharing that as Mary Lou McDonald and her merry men face the wreckage that is their horrible party.

In fact today pretty well everyone in Ireland who is politically engaged – apart from Sinn Fein, of course – is happy. Instead of the mixture we’re used to of complacency and arrogance, McDonald – for years spoken of as a taoiseach-in-waiting – was reduced to babbling meaninglessly: “It has not been our day but we will have our day… we clearly have lessons to learn,” she said. In her own back yard of Cabra-Glasnevin, out of four Sinn Fein candidates only one got a seat.

The Fine Gael leader, Simon Harris, has happily described Sinn Fein’s election performance as “an unmitigated disaster”.

Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin’s serious face has been featured on front pages split almost in two by an enormous grin.

“We’ve literally been on thousands, probably tens of thousands, of doorsteps”, wailed Ms McDonald plaintively. They clearly hadn’t been listening.

As commentators who have remained quiet for years about the reality of Sinn Fein are now admitting, the party is directed by a Belfast-based shadowy unelected group of strategists I call the lads from the Felons Club.

They glorify their murderers, love terrorists at home and abroad, hate what they call Free Staters and don’t understand that the southern electorate mostly just doesn’t care about Northern Ireland, doesn’t want a border poll and, being primarily concerned about the cost of living and mass immigration, has no desire to take on the troubled province.

Sinn Fein have jettisoned almost all of their economic and social policies, talk about themselves as “progressive” but they hang on to the united Ireland mantra and IRA ancestor worship.

Social activists got such a grip on political institutions that legal advice about the practical impact of the referendums was suppressed. It was only the leadership of one-time Minister of Justice Michael McDowell who clear-mindedly spelled out to ordinary voters the implications of the proposed confusingly-worded changes to the constitution that saved the country from an unholy mess in family law.

McDowell – once the leader of the conservative liberal Progressive Democrats and an outspoken enemy of Sinn Fein who did much to wreck its electoral rise in the 2007 general election but at the same time committed political suicide – had an almost decade-long retirement from public life, consolidating his reputation as a brilliant barrister, but in 2016 returned as an independent senator.

He had left politics hated. After his stunning public appearances during the referendums – which he described as “a recipe for chaos and uncertainty” – he became the most popular political figure in the country and is talked of as a future president. He is now surveying the defeated republican army and considering his options.

A new party? This generation of Sinn Fein will not apologise for the misery the IRA caused hundreds of thousands of people on the island of Ireland.

In an Irish Times article, David Adams showed the way, saying he was “thoroughly ashamed” of his paramilitary past. “As a people,” he said, “we are as divided as ever. Without a sustained effort to advance reconciliation, people who nowadays think ‘it could never happen again’ will also be proved wrong. Character – not skin-colour, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, country of origin or any other difference – must be our sole criteria for measuring a person.”

The Shinners fail the character test. And now, the electoral one. Their days really may be numbered.

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