Republic of Ireland news

Sinn Féin surge raises prospect of party in government north and south

Members of Sinn Fein, including leader Mary Lou McDonald (centre) and deputy leader Michelle O'Neill (centre left)

A SURGE of support for Sinn Féin has raised the prospect of the party being in government in the north and south.

With just days until the Republic's general election, the latest opinion poll shows Sinn Féin tied in first place.

The highly-respected Sunday Business Post/Red C poll suggests the probability of a Dublin government without Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.

One bookie even slashed Mary Lou McDonald's odds to be the next taoiseach.

Deaglán de Bréadun: Something is going on here, but we don't know what

Ms McDonald said the poll was reflective of an energy and momentum for the party and change.

It showed Sinn Féin was at its best ever level - on 24 per cent. Micheal Martin's Fianna Fáil was down to 24 per cent, while Fine Gael fell to 21.

Read More: Sinn Féin border poll pre-condition 'a necessity' for coalition government, says Mary Lou McDonald

Sinn Féin director of elections Pearse Doherty met RTÉ yesterday about Ms McDonald's exclusion from its Prime Time debate on Tuesday.

Mr Doherty claimed the polls proved that the criteria used to exclude her were "redundant". The broadcaster said it would respond soon.

Ms McDonald said her party's strong preference was a government without Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.

"Ultimately the people who have to make that call are the voters," she said.

"We need to be steady on these matters and not get ahead of ourselves. At the end of this election, wherever the numbers fall, we will be talking to everybody. We will be talking to Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil if they end their vow of silence with us."

Read More: Sinn Féin puts unity and homelessness at top of election pledges

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted that Fine Gael was lagging behind in the polls, but said the general election was "all to play for".

"One thing that won't happen, you won't see a coalition involving my party and Sinn Féin. That's just not going to happen," Mr Varadkar said.

Mr Martin said different polls showed different results.

"We are concentrating on our poll and we are quite satisfied with where we are leading into the campaign and when we take into consideration that we've much stronger teams on the ground than when we did in 2016," he said.

Writing in The Irish News today Deaglán de Bréadun said when the election was called, there was a widespread assumption Fianna Fáil would be the star performers.

"Now Sinn Féin have edged them out of the limelight," he said.

"But let's not get carried away, at least not yet. The smart money at the moment would still be on Fianna Fáil leading a minority government."

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