Sinn Fein sees route to power in Irish austerity

Fri May 4, 2012 4:33pm GMT

By Conor Humphries

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Sinn Fein hopes to ride a wave of anger against austerity measures to achieve its ambition of ruling Ireland, its leader Gerry Adams said on Friday, as misgivings about its role in the Northern Ireland conflict fade.

The political wing of the now-defunct Irish Republican Army has seen its support surge since Ireland's Celtic Tiger economy began to collapse in 2008 and is now the second most popular party in the country, according to opinion polls.

With the three largest parties in parliament all backing a programme of austerity under an IMF-EU bailout, Sinn Fein, until recently viewed as political pariahs in the Republic of Ireland, are sweeping up as the chief outlet for dissent.

"Our ambition is to be the main party on the island," Adams told Reuters in an interview outside Ireland's parliament where he took a seat for the first time last year after calling time on his political career north of the border.

"The party is growing, we are getting very, very good attendances at public meetings," he said. "There is a process of politicization across the state and increasing numbers are looking to us to provide leadership."

Europe's economic and debt crisis has boosted populist parties in many countries, with groups from the far right and hard left tapping anger at the failure of politicians to resolve the situation.

In Ireland, Sinn Fein's mixture of left-leaning populism and nationalism is gaining support beyond its traditional working class base. Its score of 21 percent in a recent Irish Times poll last month was its largest yet.

The government's backing for an austerity drive dictated by Ireland's international lenders and set to continue for at least another four years is becoming an increasingly easy target.   Continued...

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