The left-wing Irish party Sinn Féin on Sunday tied for the top spot in national polls ahead of elections on February 8 that will determine which political party will lead the country going forward.
“People want change,” the party tweeted Sunday. “Sinn Féin can bring that change.”
The Business Post/Red C poll results placed Sinn Féin alongside Fianna Fáil with each party holding 24% support from the electorate. Ruling party Fine Gael came in third with 21%. All three are within the margin of error.
It’s the first time Sinn Féin has been at the top of Red C election polling and the first time it has edged out Fine Gael. Though Sinn Féin has been a major factor in Irish politics for its incompromising stance on reunification with Northern Ireland and its ties to paramilitary Irish liberation group the Irish Republican Army, the party has traditionally struggled to convince voters to allow it to lead the country.
That may be at an end with Sunday’s poll. Voters appear ready to end the historical power swapping between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael that has made Ireland effectively have a two-party system of governance for nearly a century since achieving independence from Britain.
“Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have been in power in this state for almost a century,” said Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald on Sunday. “They’ve had it all their own way and they’ve had their chance.”
McDonald was in talks with Irish state broadcaster RTE to join Fine Gael leader Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin on Tuesday at a debate. McDonald’s exclusion from the event had been criticized even before Sunday’s polling.
Sinn Féin’s rise in the polls was helped along by its policies and the youth vote.
Donegal Sinn Féin Teachta Dála Pearse Doherty told RTE Sunday that the party’s messge is winning through to voters.
“The polls are reflecting what we’re hearing in our communities, that people want real change,” said Doherty.