The recent General Election was a very good one for Sinn Féin. We increased our number of TDs from 14 to 23. That’s a 65% increase – a success by any standards.
Importantly, Sinn Féin also further increased the geographical spread of the party. There are now very few regions in the State in which there isn’t Sinn Féin Dáil representation. There is also in place, another whole raft of Sinn Féin representatives who, although not returned at this election are very likely to be elected next time around if they continue with the valuable work they are doing. So, Sinn Féin returns to the Dáil, not just with a significantly larger team but also with a team of very high-calibre TDs, including more women and more younger representatives.
Sinn Féin had two clear objectives going into the election. The first was to get rid of a Fine Gael/Labour government that has brought chaos to housing and health, imposed unfair taxes and promoted mass emigration. We succeeded in that.
In the early days of the election campaign we holed the coalition’s strategy below the waterline by proving that their figures were wrong and that they presented €2 billion which they did not have. I think we were also successful in demonstrating that you cannot have US-style taxes and at the same time invest in decent public services.Our other objective was to prove to people that there is a realistic, credible political alternative of which we are a significant part. That is very much a work in progress.
We may not have succeeded, at this point, in getting enough seats to form a progressive Government but that will improve as we go on. But the realignment of politics in this State took an important step forward in this election and the next election will see that trend intensify.
The political domination of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil is finished. What we now need to do is increase the cohesion among those who advocate an alternative view of how the economy and society should be organised.
Over the past five years, Sinn Féin has been the genuine voice of opposition in Leinster House, offering an alternative to the dreadful austerity policies of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil.
All of Sinn Féin’s pre-Budget submissions demonstrated a way of ensuring economic growth while also being socially equitable and protecting the vulnerable. We repeatedly warned the Government of the escalating homelessness crisis. The Government refused to listen and it became an emergency. We also consistently raised the issue of all-Ireland integration and the political, economic and social case for a united Ireland.
Sinn Féin has now received an enhanced mandate to continue with that work. The post-election sham fight between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil is nothing to do with the real issues affecting citizens. The people who were homeless last Friday will remain homeless under Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Patients will still languish on trolleys in our hospitals under Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil because those parties are not serious about resolving these issues.
Going into this election Fianna Fáil picked up on a sense that voters were moving to the left, so they began to steal the phrases Sinn Féin was using about fairness and a recovery for all. That strategy resulted in a partial recovery of the Fianna Fáil vote itself but still left it far, far short, in his-torical terms, of where it once stood.
Throughout the election campaign, Sinn Féin made it clear that we would not prop up those parties that created and sustained the economic and social crisis facing our people. That is the mandate we received and we will not break our commitments.
Sinn Féin will continue to consult with others, including those aligned to the Right2Change platform, on the way forward. If not in the immediate period ahead, the objective of a genuinely progressive alternative Government in which Sinn Féin plays a lead role is a live possibility.
Over 400,000 people voted for candidates aligned to the Right2Change platform to end water charges. The Fine Gael/Labour Government has been defeated and water charges should leave the stage with them. What is now clear from the election is that people voted for real change and a more equal society.
Sinn Féin is committed to achieving that and to pursuing and preparing for the peaceful reunification of Ireland and the reconciliation of all our people. Whether in Government or in opposition, Sinn Féin will stick by the mandate we have been given.
Gerry Adams TD is President of Sinn Féin