Feb 9, 2020 - World

Sinn Féin, formerly linked to IRA, virtually ties for first in Irish elections

Sinn Fein party supporters hold the Irish flag in Dublin on Feb. 9, 2020
Sinn Féin party supporters holding the Irish flag, Dublin, Feb. 9. Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images

Ireland's three most popular parties — Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin — each received around 22% of the vote in Saturday's parliamentary elections, according to exit polling reported by AP.

Why it matters: Since no party is projected to win enough seats to govern, someone will likely have to form a coalition.

  • Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have criticized Sinn Féin's ability to lead because of its links to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), a nationalist paramilitary organization that sought freedom from British rule in Northern Ireland through violence from 1968 to 1998, a period known as "The Troubles."
  • Sinn Féin is a powerful force in Northern Ireland, but it has historically been a minor player in the Irish Republic — until this year, when its left-wing policies helped attract young and urban voters.

What they're saying: Fianna Fáil’s leader, Micheál Martin, said Sinn Féin was not fit to govern because “they have not cleansed themselves of their bloody past," according to AP.

  • Mary Lou McDonald, leader of Sinn Féin, condemned the IRA's actions as “barbaric.”

The big picture, via Axios' Dave Lawler: Ireland's economy has boomed as the country has opened its arms to global giants like Google, but inequality has grown and housing has become more scarce.

  • Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, a centrist who won international praise for his adept handling of Brexit negotiations and debates on sensitive social issues, is in danger of losing his job.

Methodology: The exit poll was based on 5,376 interviews conducted immediately after people voted at 250 polling stations. It has a margin of error of ± 1 percentage point.

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