The old sick counties didn’t feature in the southern election. It was all about the economy in the even sicker counties. With so much anger around it was always going to be a bloodbath for Fianna Fáil – they were never going to escape the blame for losing the nation’s economic sovereignty.
We can’t expect to be centre stage now that we’re not as sick as we used to be. The long war is long over and we’re trying to make politics work. The new Stormont mightn’t be all we had hoped but it’s the only show in town. We still desperately need to build up trust across the divide. There’s no alternative to that, other than to hand power back to our colonial lords and masters.
For us, Sinn Féin’s success was the most significant aspect of the election. Partitionism has become so engrained in southern attitudes it’s a relief to have at least one big all-island party on the stage. Of course re-unification won’t be on the Dáil agenda but tripling the number of Sinn Féin Deputies keeps the national question alive. Particular credit is due to Pádraig MacLochlainn in Donegal North East for making it clear he’s proud to have had support from Protestants.
Only dissident republicans and hardline unionists benefit from deadlock. We need democracy to hold out hope. The only alternative to democracy is to condemn future generations to violence. Then, instead of politics, they can have misery and even more bitterness than we have and still have no hope of forward movement.
The result puts wind into the Shinners’ sail for their next outing, in May’s Assembly election. They could finish on top and be entitled to nominate the First Minister. Unionist reaction to that would be interesting, to say the least.
As far as the Republic is concerned, some commentators believe the election marked the end of civil war politics. This is true in the sense that many voters switched sides across the great divide that has persisted since the early years of the state. On the other hand, the bitter legacy from the pro and anti-treaty struggle won’t be completely healed until the two big parties can coalesce together (Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael).
Meanwhile, we hope there will be continuing support from the new administration for the A5 dual-carriageway from Derry to Aughnacloy. For now the focus is largely on the needs of Tyrone farmers who will lose some of their land but the needs of the people of Derry and Donegal matter too. Why should this be the only major city on this island without adequate road links with the rest of the island?
Incidentally, election counts in Ireland usually feature more boisterous celebrations than they do in England. Victors are carried aloft on their supporters’ shoulders. They’re usually bounced vigorously up and down in defiance of the usual health and safety concerns.
But did you see what happened at the Galway West count? Éamon De Valera’s grandson, Éamon Ó Cuív didn’t make it up far enough to get onto his people’s shoulders. Instead one man held him up in his arms like a baby being presented for baptism. I wondered if he was trying to get Éamon to fall asleep like he did at the press conference to launch the manifesto for the party founded by his grandfather.
Read more form Norman Hamill in the Journal every Tuesday