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The Debate

Sinn Féin's surge: Irish nationalists rock political landscape

THE DEBATE
THE DEBATE © FRANCE 24

What just happened in Ireland? Sinn Féin has upset the centre-right duopoly, the one that has ruled politics there since way back. Up to now, the left-wing nationalists were known mostly for their past as the political wing of the IRA. But the Troubles in Northern Ireland are long over and new standard bearer Mary Lou McDonald campaigned first and foremost on domestic issues like inequality and an acute housing crisis. Why the historic surge?

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After all, the country has rebounded from the deep recession triggered by the financial crisis of 2008. Its outgoing leader Leo Varadkar conveys an image of modernity as Ireland's first openly gay prime minister, who oversaw the referendum that legalised abortion and won praise for his tactful handling of Brexit negotiations, what with Ireland sharing the UK's only land border. So why did the Irish vote him out?

And is it really out with the old at Sinn Féin where McDonald's predecessor Gerry Adams has retired from politics? Could positions now radicalise as the kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland negotiates its future relationship with the European Union? Remember Sinn Fein still advocates for a united Ireland. Is that still a pipe dream in view of the result at the polls?

Produced by Charles Wente, Juliette Laurain and Jimena Morales-Velasco.

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