Taking time to listen the people

A Letter From Ireland

a Chara,

The votes have now been counted. In the South of Ireland, all elections are conducted by a system of rank-choice voting known as Proportional Representation (PR).

In large constituencies where there are multiple candidates such as the European election, the counting can take days. My European ballot paper was over two and a half foot long, with 27 candidates fighting for 5 seats. Finding the names of the candidates I wanted to vote for took some time.

There is no electronic voting, and PR election counts are cumbersome, but they do allow for a more representative result than a straightforward first-past-the-post, winner-takes-all system that will be used in the upcoming British General Election on July 4th.

Sinn Féin has gained two EU seats and lost one.

In the local council elections Sinn Féin’s vote share has increased from the 2019 local government election and the party has gained additional seats on councils. The others who made gains were the Social Democrats and a diverse range of Independents.

The Government parties of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Greens all lost vote share and seats. They failed to achieve a majority of votes across the state.

Victories and celebrations from all over Ireland as Sinn Féin gains more seats than any other party.

Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael recorded their lowest-ever vote share but retained their position as the two largest parties on local councils.

The Sinn Féin President, Mary Lou McDonald recognised the incredible work of candidates who fought hard to win additional votes and seats, but acknowledged that it was a disappointing result for many.

The people have spoken, and it is now time to work out what they said. A time to listen and reflect.

It would be wrong to compare different types of elections. In the 2019 Local Government elections Sinn Féin received an 8.5% vote share and rose to 24% in the  2020 General Elections. Sinn Féin in this recent election had a vote share of 12%, a rise of over 3% on a similar election in 2019.  

The turnout in Irish terms this election was very low, registering 49%. In a General Election, turnout would be in the region of 62%-65%.

Support for the government parties continued to slide and there was a rise in unaligned voters.

In this election, incumbent local councilors have a huge advantage in terms of resources and name recognition. For the first time, immigration was a talking point in this election, driven by a housing and public service crisis of years of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael rule. A rise of overtly racist candidates did not come to pass.

For Sinn Féin we will look to build on the gains as we head into an expected general election in the Fall. That election will be a choice between more of the same with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, the chaos of independents, or a government led by Sinn Féin that will deliver on housing, public services, and for communities. The road to building a new and united Ireland will be bumpy, but we continue to move ahead.

Have a great weekend.

Is mise,


Ciarán Quinn is the Sinn Féin Representative to North AmericaEach week he writes a letter from Ireland with news and analysis. It is featured in the weekly Friends of Sinn Féin USA Newsletter. Be sure you are subscribed to stay up to date.