Opinion polls indicate a shock surge in support for the Irish republican party, who were formerly headed by Gerry Adams, before this weekend’s general election. As it slowly disentangles itself from the shadow of the Troubles under new leader Mary Lou McDonald, whose lack of association with armed republicanism has drawn a wave of younger voters, the party is aiming for a shock win against centrist rivals Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. The established parties have taken it in turns to lead Ireland’s government for the best part of a century, but their determination to reunite the island of Ireland has paled in comparison to Sinn Féin’s.
Eoin Ó Broin, Sinn Féin TD (member of the Irish parliament) for Dublin Mid-West, told Express.co.uk his party plans to reunite the Republic of Ireland with Northern Ireland “within the lifetime of the next government” if they come to power after Saturday’s general election.
Republic of Ireland’s parliamentary terms last five years, making Sinn Féin’s timetable an ambitious and hasty one.
Mr Ó Broin said if Sinn Féin came to power - or even entered government as a junior coalition member - one of their first policies would be to actively pursue a border poll on the question of unity on the island of Ireland.
The reunification question has been one of causes of conflict in Northern Ireland, known as the Troubles, which left more than 3,500 dead.
It has been 22 years since the end of the conflict, with a new generation of voters born in peacetime.
In a move that will alarm, but not surprise, unionists Mr Ó Broin said: “Sinn Féin would be as pro-active as possible to ensure in the lifetime of the next Irish government that there is a referendum on Irish unity, along with a white paper by the Oireachtas (parliament) and preparations made via the Citizens’ Assembly.”
Mr Ó Broin ruled out the need for a super majority of 75 percent plus majority in a reunification referendum, claiming a united Ireland would be recognised with a normal 50 percent plus one majority.
However, he said Ireland “must learn from the mistakes of Brexit” and fully explain the consequences of reunification in terms of economy, health, energy and culture.
He suggested Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael party had a lack of resolve on even contemplating a border poll and said opposition leader Micheál Martin of the Fianna Fáil party remained “unclear” on the issue.
Sinn Féin has urged the Irish electorate to turn away from the policies of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.
He said: “Leo and Micheál have been in government for nearly 25 years.
“They have had their chance.
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“The reason they want to exclude Sinn Féin is because they are afraid of the change Sinn Féin will bring for ordinary people.
“I’m asking you to give me a chance, to give Sinn Féin a chance.
“Vote for us this time and judge us on what we do.
“So let’s give change a chance. Vótáil Sinn Féin on 8th February.”
Sinn Féin has stepped up its criticism of the political establishment in the wake of a series of opinion polls.
Mrs McDonald said before a television debate on Tuesday night with leaders of the three parties: “People aren’t fools.
“There isn’t a whit of difference really between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael and people see that.”
One opinion poll gave Sinn Féin 25 percent support, vaulting it into top position for the first time and potentially heralding a realignment of Irish politics.
However, the party has not actually put forward enough parliamentary candidates to secure an outright majority, for fear of splitting their vote.
The party’s alleged IRA links alienated voters during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
But, it is now appealing to people in the republic who chafe at homelessness, high rents, hospital waiting lists and other problems.
Some Northern Ireland loyalists have suggested the Republic of Ireland could offer them an olive branch to show respect for their British identity in a united Ireland.
This could see Ireland join the British Commonwealth, create a new flag or write a new national anthem.