Ged Nash has warned Sinn Féin that the surge of support the party have enjoyed at the general election this week will not last long if they cannot deliver in government and has likened their sudden rise in the polls to like “snow in a ditch.”
The Labour candidate, who is polling well on the second day of the vote count and is well placed to pick up one of the final three seats in Louth, spoke to LouthNow.ie on Sunday evening upon arriving to the polling station and while he was optimistic of his changes in a tight race to fill the remaining seats, he had plenty to say on Sinn Féin’s historic polling.
Nash said he will personally ensure Sinn Féin are held to account if they fail to deliver when in government, whether he is in public office or not. Nash pointed to the party’s poor showing in last year’s local elections. In Louth, Sinn Féin lost two of their total number of seats.
On Sunday, Imelda Munster topped the polls with a record breaking 17,203 votes in the constituency while her party mate Ruairi O Murchu has been elected in second place, receiving 12,491. Both were deemed elected after the first count.
“I think now there’s a huge onus on Sinn Féin to deliver to those who loaned them their votes, because that’s what has happened this week,” he told LouthNow.ie. “If you look at Sinn Féin’s performance in the local elections compared to their phenomenal performance in this election, that sort of sudden performance can melt away like snow in a ditch.
“They’re expected to deliver now. If they don’t, the people of Louth will hold them to account, I’ll hold them to account whether I’m in office or not.”
Nash, a one time TD and current Senator hoping for re-election, said that many people felt Sinn Féin’s manifesto was more of an ‘programme for opposition’ than anything else. He says Sinn Féin must now act on their words.
“With that kind of vote comes a huge amount of responsibility. There’s an onus on them to govern, to put in place their actions and manifesto commitments. They’re going to have to make an awful lot of wine out of a small amount of water,” Nash said.
“You knock on people’s doors and ask for a vote based on your intention of introducing your programme. Some people were speculating that the Sinn Féin manifesto, given all the holes in it and the fact it didn’t add up, was really a programme for opposition rather than government, trying to appeal to a certain base and exploit people’s anger with the fact that they feel the recovery hasn’t reached them yet.
“That’s fine, tactically and strategically if a political party wants to do that, but now they’re really going to have to deliver,” he added.
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Labour have endured another tough general election. Brendan Howlin was elected on Monday morning, only the second Labour candidate to be returned. Following on from 2016’s chastening election showing, this has been an worse show for the party but as of publication (Monday, 2pm) Nash remained in contention.
So, what next for Labour? Nash says they need to get back to basics.
“We as a family are going to have to sit down over the next few days and try and chart a course,” Nash told us. “There’s no single thing we can do, but my own view is that we certainly didn’t receive, across this country, a mandate to govern.
“Our job is to rebuild this party and make sure we have a strong social democratic presence in this country. The ironic thing is there was never a more necessary time for a strong social democratic party in this country. The Labour party has not unfortunately performed as well as we’d have liked,” he continued.
“Remember against the backdrop of the Sinn Féin performance that managed to garner 44% of the number one votes in Louth, I’m very proud of that performance. My team are proud of that. I represent true Labour values. I believe in real solutions. I represent what I like to call the real Labour party and I think we needed to get back to basics and figure out again what that is.”
Nash’s name has been mentioned in dispatches over recent times as a potential candidate for future Labour leadership. With Brendan Howlin’s leadership now likely to be untenable, Nash is a live candidate to succeed him, if not now in the future.
“Not for the first time I’ve said, at some point in the future I would like to be considered as a leader of the party. It’s going to be up to myself and colleagues over the next days over what the future holds.
“That’s a discussion in terms of the leadership and where that goes. That’s a discussion we’re all going to have internally as friends, as comrades and as family.
“I think Brendan deserves the time and respect to be allowed to make a decision himself. Nobody is going to put him under any pressure on this, he deserves more than that. We’ll see what happens over the next period of time,” Nash said.