How did Sinn Féin rise to become Ireland’s most popular political party?

In the News podcast: If Sinn Féin leads next government, can they keep supporters happy?

The latest political polling results, published in The Irish Times earlier this month, show Sinn Féin has indisputably become the most popular political party in the Republic with an all-time high of 35 per cent support.

How did Sinn Féin grow from being a party with just one TD in the Dáil in the late 1990s to becoming the most popular party to lead this country?

And with the next general elections still at least three years away, can Sinn Féin hold on to this level of support?

The real test for Sinn Féin is what happens between now and the next election, and the period immediately after that election, Irish Times political editor Pat Leahy told the podcast.


“Notwithstanding the fact that Sinn Féin’s rise has been spectacular, I can’t imagine it winning an overall majority so she [Mary Lou McDonald] needs a coalition,” said Leahy. “And the final challenge is being able to run that coalition government and achieve Sinn Féin’s political objectives.”

And if Sinn Féin does lead the next government, will it be able to keep its policy commitments around housing and taxes and keep supporters happy?

"If Sinn Féin end up focusing all their energy, effort, politics and social capital on that issue [united Ireland] they may end up losing a lot of that other vote," associate professor at University College Dublin's school of politics Aidan Regan told the podcast. "People may end up saying that in the end all they were interested in was focusing on a united Ireland and in practice they didn't focus on the real issues that matter to me like the economic cost of living."

Today on the podcast we look at Sinn Féin’s rise to become Ireland’s most popular political party and ask, will that support continue if they lead the next government?

In the News is presented by reporters Sorcha Pollak and Conor Pope

You can listen to the podcast here:

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast