Ireland election: Well hello Mary Lou, goodbye two-party politics | World News


All changed, changed utterly. The words of the poet WB Yeats in the wake of Ireland’s uprising against British rule in 1916.

They could equally apply to the general election that has just taken place, producing something of a political revolution.

For generations, Ireland has been a two-party state – governed by either Fianna Fail or Fine Gael – but there’s a third contender now: Sinn Fein.

Sinn Fein’s Donnchadh O Laoghaire celebrates being the first TD elected to the 33rd Dail

The party long seen by many as “the political wing of the IRA” has come of age, now fighting its battles at the ballot box.

Fine Gael Leader Leo Varadkar arrives at the count centre in on February 9, 2020 in Dublin, Ireland
Leo Varadkar failed to top the poll in Dublin West

:: Ireland election: What are the main issues?

In the parish-pump politics of this island, it’s a big deal to have the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) in your constituency.

But Leo Varadkar, the man who has held that office for the last two years, didn’t top the poll in Dublin West.

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His own consolation was that the opposition leader, Micheal Martin, had to wait until the sixth count in Cork South Central.

It was a different story in Dublin Central, where Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald swept to instant victory.

It’s just over two years since Ms McDonald succeeded Gerry Adams, the man who had led Sinn Fein for three decades.

Leader of Ireland's Fianna Fail party, Micheal Martin (C) is filmed as he speaks to members of the media outside the count centre in Cork
Micheal Martin said his party looked like being on course to win the most seats

A graduate in English Literature with a Masters in European Integration Studies, she began her political career as a researcher.

Having served as Sinn Fein’s first ever MEP, she became the party’s deputy leader in 2009 and was elected to the Irish Parliament two years later.

She and her husband Martin Lanigan have two children but she’s very private about her personal life away from the cut and thrust of politics.

Ireland has witnessed radical social change – votes for same-same sex marriage and abortion – and this result is viewed by many as the next chapter of that.

An electorate, exercised about the crisis in public services – homelessness, hospital overcrowding, the high cost of living – has lost faith in the establishment parties.

It’s a grassroots movement and Sinn Fein has won support from voters of all ages, not just those too young to remember the IRA’s campaign of violence.

To put it simply, in the Republic of Ireland, they have decided to focus on the future more than the past.

A song from the end of the last century may be more applicable than the poetry from the start of it.

Well Hello Mary Lou, goodbye two-party politics.


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