Sinn Feinís Massive Cash Stash
Sinn Fein has a massive $3 million war chest to fight the next Irish
election, according to a weekend report in The Sunday Business Post. Other
parties are furious that, while Sinn Fein now well may be the richest party
in Ireland, the party still says it spends almost nothing on its campaigns.
Fresh from their best-ever fundraising dinner in New York, the party
is now gearing up for the 2007 general election in the Irish Republic. They
will undoubtedly have full coffers when the election is eventually called,
expected to be either April or May of 2007.
A study by Trinity College lecturer Liam Weeks discovered that while
Sinn Fein had the largest number of campaign workers, did more canvassing,
distributed more leaflets and hung more campaign posters than any other
party, they reported the smallest income.
In addition, Sinn Fein sent more personal letters, made use of the electoral
register more and brought more voters to polling stations than any other
Yet, in their filings, the Sinn Fein head office stated that they had
only spent $4,000 on the local elections, while Fianna Fail reported that
they spent over $800,000.
How can Sinn Fein have the greatest turnout and canvassing effort, yet
seem to spend a pittance?
Easy, says the party hierarchy. They simply pay no one, and there is
no question that they have by far the largest numbers of volunteers of any
party perhaps in Irish history.
However, their opponents claim otherwise, despite the fact that no evidence
has been brought forward. The Labor Party, Sinn Feinís keenest rivals as
they chase the same middle and working class votes, claim that Sinn Fein
just converts all their assets to cash and pay their workers off the books.
They point to the Christmas 2004 Belfast Northern Bank robbery, laid
at the feet of the IRA, where approximately $35 million was stolen, as an
example of how Sinn Fein can easily fund their activities. Sinn Fein, of
course, denies that strongly.
Doubtless we will be hearing a lot more about this as the election draws
Next Election A Cliffhanger
The latest opinion poll in Ireland for the next election shows that if
the contest were held right now Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern
would likely lose power. The Star newspaper polled 1,000 people last week
on their voting intentions.
A Fine Gael/Labor/ Greens coalition led by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny
is preferred over the current government by about three percentage points,
a tiny margin, but a worrying one for the government given the economic
boom at present.
Fianna Fail retains 34% support, while their coalition partner the Progressive
Democrats are 4 % for a total of just 38%. However, there are many independents
who would support such a government without actually being part of it.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael, the leading opposition party, is at 24%, with their
partners the Labor Party at 10% and the Greens, another likely coalition
party, at 8%.
Of course, the crucial vote could be the Sinn Fein one. The poll tags
them at 10%, a very high number, and they could well hold the balance of
power. However, if they were to do so, the Progressive Democrats have vowed
not to stay in any such government.
Meanwhile, not surprisingly, Ahern continues to be Fianna Failís greatest
asset with over 56% approval of his handling of the job, well ahead of all
So there is much to play for in the coming year with a very close run
election promised. Right now you would have to put the odds at even money
of Fianna Fail being re-elected, but the reality is that there is likely
to be many shifting alliances between the smaller parties after the election.
All of which makes it impossible to predict who will be the next taoiseach.
No to SF / Fianna Fail
The other figure that stands out in the Star newspaper poll is that voters
do not want a Fianna Fail/Sinn Fein coalition after the next Irish election.
Seven out of 10 respondents stated that they could not accept such a partnership.
That is not a surprising figure as Ahern has made it clear that he will
not go into government with Sinn Fein because of the partyís economic policies.
But never say never. Given the choice of either staying in power or leaving
it after the next election, Ahern would not be the first politician to display
an extremely pragmatic approach to that issue. The question is would the
electorate accept it?
Will Gerry Stand?
Finally on the Irish election, some speculation around the notion that
Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness might decide to stand in constituencies
in the south in order to maximize the Sinn Fein vote.
There is little doubt that both could get elected and be a powerful presence
in the next Dail (Parliament).
However, Sinn Fein has long stated that they want to create a totally
southern-based leadership to handle the elections and political developments
in the south. However, it is no secret that the caliber of Sinn Fein politicians
in the south is not nearly as impressive as those in Northern Ireland.
So would Adams and/or McGuinness stand? The chances are still against
it, but closer to the election it may become a real issue as the fight for
every vote in a very tight election becomes a reality.