Sinn Féin is facing a major “identity crisis” and is at risk of losing up to half of its 23 Dáil seats, some of the party’s leading TDs have said.
Following the party’s disastrous showing at the local and European elections last month, senior TDs have said the party has been punished for being “too negative”.
They said radical changes are needed in how the party does its business.
“We need to have a very quick but very honest review of what happened,” said Dublin Mid West TD Eoin Ó Broin.
We are going to have to make changes in how the party does its business, how we communicate, how we campaign, how we work in the Oireachtas.
Waterford TD David Cullinane said yesterday: “Low turnout, the boundary issues, and Sinn Féin not articulating our positive vision, are all issues we have heard from Sinn Féin people over the last number of days.
“We are hurting, because we lost a lot of good councillors and one MEP at least in Lynn Boylan. We have to listen, we have to learn.”
The Irish Examiner has spoken to Sinn Féin TDs, councillors, and activists who have expressed concern that an early general election this year could heap further losses on the party, with many warning that unless serious changes are made, up to 12 of its Dáil seats could be lost.
“We have an identity crisis and people will not vote for a party which is unclear in its policies,” said one TD.
“We could fall to 12 or 13 TDs the way things are. It is that bad and we do not have a lot of time to put it right.”
That prediction of seat losses was shared by a number of TDs contacted by the Irish Examiner.
A number of TDs said the party grew too big too fast in 2014 and 2016 and struggled to stay true to its core ideals.
The TDs also hit out at the party’s overly aggressive tone in the Dáil and on national media, with criticism being levelled at Mr Cullinane and Dublin Fingal TD Louise O’Reilly for being “over exposed”.
“People are fed up listening to them lecturing,” said one TD.
“We have to moderate our tone, but also spread out more who the party is putting on radio and TV.”
Speaking yesterday, Mr Ó Broin agreed with such sentiments about the party’s tone being overly negative, which he said was an issue on the doorsteps.
“One of the things we were hearing on some of the doors was criticism that we are a bit too negative as a party. The people we are trying to represent want to hear constructive solutions,” said Mr Ó Broin.
“Between now and the general election, our target voters will want to hear how we are going to do things differently.”
Despite it being her second poor election in a row, there was little or no appetite being expressed by Sinn Féin members for president Mary Lou McDonald to stand down, with some describing her as a “valuable political asset”.
Ms McDonald has led the party since February 2018.