SINN Féin was celebrating the results of the Irish elections yesterday which saw them as the second biggest party, winning 37 seats – an increase of 14 on the 2016 election.
They only fielded 42 candidates, had they fielded 160 they would now be the government with a large majority.
Fine Gael, whose party leader Leo Varadkar led the outgoing government as Taoiseach (Irish prime minister), finished with 35 seats, down 15 from four years ago. Varadkar retained his seat only on the second round of votes. Fianna Fáil lost six seats since 2016 but became the largest party by just one with 38 seats.
At the moment, Fine Gael, and Fianna Fáil said they would not form a coalition with Sinn Féin and have not got enough support on their own even to form a coalition.
Ireland now has no government with the prospect that if Sinn Féin stands fast and demands a second general election, they would win a majority.
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald, who topped the poll in her four-seat Dublin Central constituency, said the party wants to be in government, and is working to establish if the numbers are there to deliver it without Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.
On Monday evening she said: ‘People want different politics, new politics and better government, a new government, and I believe Sinn Féin will be the core of that. I may well be the next Taoiseach.’
Independent candidates won 19 seats, the Green Party won 12 seats, Labour six, the Social Democrats six, Solidarity – People Before Profit five, Aontú one, Independents 4 Change one. The ‘magic number’ to be able to form a majority government is 80.
McDonald added: ‘The point has been conceded in the Good Friday Agreement by the British state – the presence here is solely on the basis of consent. That consent can only be tested in a unity referendum and we are going to have a unity referendum – and I want us to do it in an orderly, thoughtful, democratic and absolutely peaceful manner.’
Sinn Féin’s vice-president, Michelle O’Neill, said the party would have ‘asks in terms of the republican project’.