Sinn Féin TD Rose Conway-Walsh can expect to be joined by a second party candidate on the Mayo ticket at the next general election. PHOTO: ALISON LAREDO

Has Sinn Fein the ambition to seriously bid for two Mayo seats?

Party has to be prepared to gamble to get into government

by The Tallyman

Every political opinion poll these days is showing Sinn Féin in a position of strength.

An survey conducted by the Ireland Thinks agency and published by the Mail on Sunday on April 18 showed the party ahead of their rivals on 27% despite dropping four points.

In second place was Fine Gael on 26%, after dropping one point, while Fianna Fáil had a two point rise to 16%.

The standings of the other entities were Independents 10%, Social Democrats 6%, Labour Party 5%, Aontú 4, People Before Profit and the Green Party 3%.

The most telling point from the figures is that Sinn Féin are not moving far enough above Fine Gael in its efforts to oust the old guard after the next general election.

They have, of course, plenty of time in which to open up the gap.

But the expectation is that the party would have made greater strides during a pandemic when all kinds of flack has been flying in the direction of an administration headed by Fianna Fáil's Michaél Martin, whose own popularity ratings have not been encouraging.

So Sinn Féin have big decisions to make if they wish to capitalise on the significant gains made in last year's election.

And that means being brave enough in running more than one candidate in constituencies like Mayo.

The party tried it in the 2011 general election but it did not go well, but the political landscape is different now.

There is a theory that the first preference return in 2020 of 14,633 by Deputy Rose Conway Walsh in a constituency with an electorate of just over 98,000 is below the threshold in which a second party candidate is considered by Sinn Féin to be strategically beneficial.

In other words, the voting evidence suggests the party has not got sufficient support in the four-seat constituency to elect a second TD.

But surely if the party can increase its share of the Mayo vote by 12.7% to 22.7% from 2006 to 2020 – a rise in real terms of 8,219 votes – then Sinn Féin should be considering the prospect of upping its game even further by at least exceeding 30%, a level which is within two-seat territory.

It's certainly achievable in a situation in which regular Fine Gael poll-topper Michael Ring is unlikely to be in the race, although he could well be replaced by one of his daughters, Paula or Susan.

In the event of Sinn Féin playing it safe in Mayo, then one would have to question the party's ambition in terms of whether or not it really wants to be in government or is it just happy to play the main opposition party's role into the forseeable future.

There are the questions being asked.

One suspects columnists like this one will be left waiting for the answers.

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