FF calls for job creation moves from EU as SF takes stock

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has called on the Government to put pressure on Europe to bring in job creation measures now that Ireland has passed the Fiscal Treaty.

The treaty was passed with a 60% Yes vote and Mr Martin has said that it shows that the Irish people want the European Union to take a lead in sorting out the biggest economic crisis since the last World War.

On the No side, Sinn Féin exits the European referendum on the losing side, but knows it has secured some gain as well as pain from the battle.

The republican party has climbed the opinion polls since its 2011 General Election breakthrough, with its rise fuelled by public anger in a time of economic turmoil.

The Fianna Fáil leader said: "I very much welcome the Stability Treaty Referendum result. Fianna Fáil refused to use this referendum for short-term political gain and I’m very happy that our members, supporters and the general public responded in such numbers to this constructive approach.

"This is a good step but now is the time to actually increase the urgency of discussions about saving the Euro and returning Ireland and Europe to growth. This Treaty is not enough to tackle the crisis and there is very little time left for the other reforms, which are needed.

"The Taoiseach should immediately undertake a serious diplomatic initiative in support of essential measures to restore growth and job creation."

The big question now is whether Sinn Féin can turn exciting poll figures into real political power.

The referendum campaign allowed it to trumpet its left-wing message, heaping pressure on the coalition government’s junior partners in Labour.

But the result has shown that, when put to the test, voters opted for the conservative rather than the radical route.

And with the next general election potentially four years away, the larger parties will hope they can rescue the economy at a faster pace than Sinn Féin can eat into their voter base.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said: “Sinn Féin played this referendum campaign for a political stunt from the word go. In the long run, I think Sinn Féin cynicism and opportunism will be caught out.”

But Sinn Féin vice president Mary Lou McDonald argued: “It’s not politically always an easy thing to take the other view – the easy thing in Irish politics is to go with the flow.

“What we need to do now, as the party of opposition, is to hold the Government to account.”

In a time of economic hardship, uncertainty, fear and anger, Sinn Féin spent the campaign sending messages that chimed with those disaffected voices, while also hammering the Government’s performance.

Labour was cast in the uncomfortable role of the doctor prescribing tough medicine to an already ailing patient.

And while it endured considerable public anger during the referendum campaign, the experience could yet serve as a warning to Labour, alerting it to the danger in its midst.

The Labour party is acutely aware that being the junior partner in government can be costly. But while it might previously have hoped to make peace with any angry supporters over time, it now faces a new threat on the left from Sinn Féin whose arms are opened wide for any disenchanted Labour voters.

Sinn Féin has a growing influence in some of the constituencies that returned a larger No vote.

It is also taking comfort in the fact that nearly 40% of voters supported the No campaign.

But it cannot lay claim to have “delivered” too many areas, including party president Gerry Adams’ Louth base which returned a narrow Yes vote, showing 52.75% support for the treaty and 47.25% against it.

The party is presently enjoying a position at the heart of mainstream political debate in the Republic that it has never held before.

Its crop of new politicians – already enjoying an enhanced status on the Opposition benches next to a deflated Fianna Fail party still recovering from its fall from power – were the main voices in the No campaign on TV and radio debates.

Prior to the 2011 election breakthrough, when it jumped from five seats in the Dail parliament to 14, Sinn Fein was the “peace process party”.

It enjoyed an increased profile due to its role in the negotiations that helped end the Troubles, but it was incapable of translating that into political growth in the Republic.

In the North, it is a party of government and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

But in the Republic of Ireland, small parties have come and gone amid fluid political trends that are a world away from the fixed voting patterns of the divided Northern Ireland society.

Sinn Féin also faces the hurdle of overcoming the history of IRA violence, plus the hugely challenging task of persuading voters who have backed the same small clutch of parties for generations to switch allegiance.

Sinn Féin is now in the business of setting down roots – which currently do not exist in some areas and, without which, potential successes could melt away.

If the economic crisis improves in the years ahead, the larger parties could successfully woo the electorate, or at least minimise any damage.

Sinn Féin is under pressure to capitalise on the political opportunity it has been presented with.

In the past it has faced problems in getting its potential supporters to cast their ballot, and in securing transfer votes from others. But time may be on its side.

Separate elections are due in local government and the European parliament, before the next general election arrives by 2016.

The Yes vote in the referendum – by temporarily easing pressure on the Government – makes an early election less likely.

That could provide space for parties like Labour to steady the ship, or it could allow Sinn Féin the time it needs to build.

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