‘Sir, if there is not a Sinn Fein government after the next election, there will be trouble.’
The constituency has a strongly republican electorate, two seats out of the three were gained by republican candidates in the 2020 general election, and the younger voters seem in a militant mood.
The opinion polls suggest a slippage in support for Sinn Fein, while still the strongest party, their rating had declined to 31% in an opinion poll at the weekend. There has been a tendency by pollsters to underestimate potential votes for Sinn Fein, but even if the real level of support is half a dozen points higher, they are still significantly short of a percentage which would allow them to aspire to forming a majority government.
The present opinion polls point suggest a potential for various coalitions after the next election. To predict the composition of the government would require an act of clairvoyance. Certain combinations might be excluded, the Trotskyites will never go into coalition with anyone, and an agreement Fine Gael and Sinn Fein seems very unlikely.
A calculating leader of Fine Gael might even look favourably upon the current opinion polls. An uncertain coalition, or a minority government, in which Sinn Fein is the largest party might suit Fine Gael in the longer term.
The problem is housing. It is unaffordable, it is beyond the pocket of working people and there is a deep discontent, frustration and even anger.
Housing needs to be affordable. It is not just the politicians who say so, even business leaders are saying that their capacity to recruit staff is being detrimentally affected by the price of housing. Affordable housing requires that the prices fall, significantly.
A significant fall in house prices may bring home ownership within reach of a larger number of working people. The problem is that it would also leave a significant number of people trapped in a situation of negative equity, and that at a time when rising interest rates are making mortgages more difficult to pay.
What politician would want to preside over a sharp fall in property prices? Certainly not anyone who watched the results of the 2011 general election.
Sinn Fein are committed to the provision of affordable housing, but an attempt to make that provision may cause economic uncertainty and a slump in house prices as buy to let landlords seek to avoid potential capital losses, and as many home owners find themselves trapped in difficult circumstances.
It may suit Fine Gael to allow Sinn Fein into government so that they may take the opprobium that would follow the necessary downturn and so that Fine Gael might then return to power as those presenting themselves as the party of economic competence.