Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald has been criticised by some of her own TDs for being a weak leader and for being too tolerant of underperforming colleagues. She needs to “stop being everyone’s friend”, they say.
As recrimination continues over the party’s disastrous European and local elections last month — it lost two of its three MEPs and 78 local council seats — many in the party have hit out at the leader’s role.
And the news for the party did not get any better over the weekend, with an opinion poll showing that Sinn Féin has fallen seven points, to just 12%, two points below its 2016 general election result. This is its lowest level in more than eight years.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Sinn Fein TDs, senators, and party activists have expressed their grave concern at the scale of the reversal at the polls last month, and the potential losses the party faces at the next general election, unless major changes occur.
Senior party members, speaking more openly than ever before, have revealed that “panic” ran through the party on the weekend of polling, when they realised they would lose so many colleagues, but said that feeling has given way to frustration and fear.
Many, at various levels of the party, have said Ms McDonald’s style of leadership needs to change if the party is to avoid losing half its Dáil seats.
“She has been far too tolerant of underperforming TDs and other party members,” said one TD.
Another TD said: “We are not talking about a heave at this stage, but she has to ship a lot of the blame for this, like the rest of us.
“Have we run too far and fast into the middle? Probably we have. Clearly, people don’t see us as being ready for government yet.”
Many party members, at all levels, hit out at some of the party’s Dáil team for not performing. A reshuffle during the summer may be likely.
A leading criticism of many is that a small number of leading Sinn Féin figures, most notably Brexit spokesman David Cullinane, and health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly, are “over-exposed” and too aggressive on the airwaves.
Others pointed out that the party’s messaging on housing, education, health, and transport is simply not connecting with the electorate.
Others have dismissed earlier suggestions that the loss of 78 seats at council level was down to low turnout in working class areas.
For her part, Ms McDonald has said the party is “determined” to move forward.
According to the Sunday Times B&A poll, Fine Gael has fallen five points behind Fianna Fail.