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Intelligencer

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 party.

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 near.

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.

Enda Kenny

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 the others.

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.

Bertie Ahern

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.

Martin McGuinness

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.

 
 


 
 
 
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