And so, our last non-TD candidate, and the one trying to do her part for Sinn Fein’s rise in the polls.
Réada Cronin is a Kildare councillor, first elected in the Maynooth area in 2014, since when she has operated in the role full time.
One of the main things that has struck me about Cronin is her social media presence, which is leaps and bounds ahead of other candidates in the constituency. She seems to constantly be on Twitter, and updates her Facebook campaign page frequently. Indeed, she can seemingly be counted among those Sinn Fein members – that some dub “shinnerbots” – who are liberal with insults and defensiveness when encountering opponents. This is nothing to do with policy or anything else, but it is something that I have found noteworthy about her, insofar as she actually appears to be using social media too much, something I never thought I’d find to be a problem in a political candidate (the usual problem being that they don’t use it at all cough Emmet Stagg cough Bernard Durkan).
Actual policy, through her nice website, is little outside of the Sinn Fein party lines. Wholesale reversal of cuts, universal healthcare, fair recovery, etc, etc. We’ve been over all of this already. I suppose her political career is as yet a bit brief to have a lot of personal achievements to celebrate, but you can rest assured that she is one of the main voices on the KCC opposing cutbacks and anything the national government does. As mentioned in my impressions on the Kildare North debates, that’s all Cronin seems to do. On The Journal, she wants to fight cuts, and her WhichCandidate page contains scores of non-explanations for her offered views. If we’re going by the Sinn Fein lines, I see good and bad things, but ultimately a general platform based too much on just opposing what the last government did, and not enough – not nearly enough – on promising things for Kildare North.
It is fair to say that Sinn Fein have never considered Kildare North fertile ground, nor its all-county predecessor. The last Sinn Fein TD’s elected in a Kildare constituency were fighting a civil war a short time afterwards (one of them was Robert Barton, a signatory of the Anglo-Irish Treaty who later rejected it. The more you know!). Since Sinn Fein have started contesting elections properly in the south again they have struggled: also-rans (under 5%) in 1987, 1992 and 2007, non-runners in 1989, 1997, 2002 and the 2005 bye-election.
2011 was when things began to change on that general level, when Martin Kelly took over 5% of the first preferences and lasted to three of five counts. On the local levels, Sinn Fein had one councillor elected in each Kildare district in 2014, having only run one, failing, candidate in 2009. So, it’s clear that Sinn Fein’s growing national prominence and success has been evident in Kildare. But is it enough to get a Sinn Fein TD elected, for the first time in 90+ years? Cronin herself cruised to local success in 2014, with a first count election.
I do think that Cronin is definitely in the running, more so than others may believe. That’s because I think that Emmet Stagg is more vulnerable than he appears to be, and if his voters desert him, they are likely to move to the next really prominent left-wing candidate, and that’s Cronin. I think she also stands to be transfer friendly with the other left-wing candidates that will be eliminated/elected earlier, while Stagg will not. If all of that comes to pass, then I think she would have a decent chance of overtaking him, and might also benefit from a collapse in the fortunes of Anthony Lawlor (though the primary beneficiary of that will probably be Fianna Fail’s James Lawless). You can see Cronin herself trying to make that clear, very recently referring to herself repeatedly as a “serious candidate”, as if to dispel the feeling that she’s just running for appearances. It will still be tough, but I would consider Cronin to be a member of the leading pack. If I’m wrong, so be it, but the difference between Labour and Sinn Fein nationally has to have somewhat of an effect here.
That comes with my own feeling of antipathy. I started off this campaign liking Cronin a bit, and thinking of giving her a third preference maybe, but every snarky tweet, nasty insult and lame debate performance, where all she appears capable of doing is attacking the government instead of talking up her own policies, changed my mind. Criticism of the media for daring to ask awkward questions of her and Sinn Fein, a truly awful trait that too many in that party share, was one of the last straws (though, as I wrote here, she had genuine grounds for complaints on one occasion). I’m sure she is a very hard-working councillor, but there’s too much of the bad aspects of Sinn Fein in her, in my eyes. Sinn Fein will greatly increase their vote and TD share in this election, but I hope that Cronin will not be among them.
Victory for Cronin would be a seat, in my view. Failing that, she would want to be in contention all the well to the end, maximising her exposure for a future run as Sinn Fein’s designated candidate in the constituency: there might be another election very soon after all. Failure would be if she was unable to improve upon Sinn Fein’s last general election showing, slipping into the mid-pack, which would presumably end her higher political ambitions (there are four other Sinn Fein councillors in Kildare after all).
Next up, and last, the Social Democrats.