Sinn Féin reeling from 'shockingly bad' performance in Republic's council elections
SINN Féin will have to review its policies after a "shockingly bad" local election result, one high-profile commentator has said.
As voting continued last night in the Republic's local government elections, support for the party fell sharply in Dublin, with dozens of losses projected across other local councils.
There is also doubt over whether the party will be able to hold on to its three outgoing MEPs in the Republic, with Dublin candidate Lynn Boylan having a nervous wait.
The party is expected to suffer council losses in Dublin city, as well as Cork city, Galway, Limerick, Offaly and Cavan.
The party's losses are in stark contrast to the Green party which was in line to quadruple its seats in the local elections. It also appeared they were losing some support in rural areas to anti-abortion republican party Aontú.
Sinn Féin had seen a huge surge in its vote in 2014 where they won an extra 100 council seats with 15 per cent of the vote.
However, the party failed to hold on to those gains with a RTÉ exit poll forecasting that Sinn Fein's vote share could have dipped to 12 per cent.
Historian and political commentator Brian Feeney said the party would have to take stock following a "very disappointing" result.
"If a general election was to be called in the autumn Sinn Féin would lose half their seats," he said.
"In some areas it seems the Greens are taking some seats from Sinn Féin. But they are also losing some support to (anti-abortion republican party) Aontú in rural areas.
"Sinn Féin voters are just not turning out. It's a shockingly bad result for Mary Lou McDonald."
Commentator Chris Donnelly said Sinn Féin had gained a short-term benefit from a loss in confidence in Fianna Fáil during the 2014 election following the banking crisis.
"I think the party over-achieved five years ago when they tripled their number of seats," he said.
"There was a consensus that Sinn Féin's switch from Gerry Adams to a new leadership was going to open doors but in hindsight that was a mis-reading of the situation.
"The story of the third party in the Republic has always been one of a rise and fall."
Mr Donnelly said the Green party was seeing a resurgence after it was "wiped out" in the 2011 general election following its coalition government with Fianna Fáil.
He said despite disappointing results for Sinn Féin in both the local and European elections, it "in no way threatens the leadership of Mary Lou McDonald".
"Southern politics is different," he said. "We are used to more stable voting patterns.
"I do think though that if Sinn Féin were to have a bad general election - so three bad elections - then there might be some grumbling in the undergrowth about the leadership."
Mr Donnelly said the predicted loss of so many councillors in Dublin will be "a bitter pill for Sinn Féin to swallow".
"Dublin has always been more fickle," he said. "It is a place apart where voters are more willing to discard parties.
"Housing dominates most of the political discourse in the south but they were not able to connect with voters on that for whatever reason," he said.
"All of the parties will also have to up their environmental policies and take note of what the electorate is saying."
He said Sinn Féin will have to review its position in the wake of the elections.
"There is going to be a degree of concern," he said.
"Any political party would need to review their policies in light of such a message from the electorate."
Belfast Lord Mayor John Finucane, a newly-elected councillor, said he did not think Sinn Féin's performance would raise questions about Ms McDonald's leadership.
"The momentum around Green politics will have a number of parties analysing how they performed in this election," he told the BBC.
"Sinn Féin won't be any different to that."
Ms McDonald admitted that the party had not performed as expected.
"Sinn Féin aren't cry babies," she said.
"We will dust ourselves down and get back at it because that is what political activism is all about."