The appointment of Mary Lou McDonald to become President of Sinn Fein cannot be overestimated in its potential impact for Sinn Fein, Northern Ireland and Ireland as a whole. The past few years have saw Sinn Fein go from strength to strength in terms of elections north and south of the border. However, there is also the realisation that the party has a number of significant problems it has to overcome to allow it to progress instead of electorally plateauing.
hounded the party over the recent years and this makes it difficult to emerge into a modern political
entity accepted by almost all as a legitimate political party. It also anchors the parties reputation as a
‘northern party’ which makes it difficult to fight on an all Ireland agenda. One of the difficulties was
having the controversial figure of Gerry Adams as President. Adams was regarded with obvious respect
by the party but was ‘tainted by the past’ by many of the Irish population and this was recognised.
Mary Lou McDonald as leader therefore has a number of key attributes which could transform Sinn Fein.
It also raises other prospects. One of these is the possibility that Sinn Fein could quite possibly become a legitimate coalition partner in the Republic of Ireland. At present the party should hold the balance of power between the ‘big two’ Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. However, with Adams in charge the party was roundly regarded by both parties as ‘politically toxic’ so much so that none of them would go into government with them at any cost. This could be a case of fear for their long held political superiority and the threat that Sinn Fein poses. However, the emergence of a stronger and more moderate and accepted Sinn Fein under the acceptable management of Mary Lou McDonald could quite possibly lead to Sinn Fein in government as a coalition partner. Could this lead to the prospect of the UK with a DUP influence in government together with a Republic of Ireland with a Sinn Fein element – this could make the prospect of any long term future a lot more complicated – if it wasn’t already bad enough!