Sinn Fein eyes major role in Ireland’s next government

Sinn Fein on Monday said it wanted a major role in Ireland’s next government after a record election showing, a move that would raise its central goal of reunification with Northern Ireland near the top of the agenda in Dublin for the first time.

The left-wing Irish nationalist party stunned the establishment by beating the two center-right parties that have led every government in the country’s history, almost doubling its vote share from the last election to 24%.

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Sinn Fein’s low number of candidates meant, however, that it could fall just short of the largest number of seats when two days of counting nears conclusion later on Monday – likely behind the center-right Fianna Fail but potentially above Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael.

Successive surveys suggested the Sinn Fein surge was based almost exclusively on the major campaign issues of healthcare and the high cost and low availability of housing, with the idea of Irish unity barely registering with voters.

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