The process which saw Sinn Fein’s election success started with the hunger strikes, asserts Gerry Adams on his Leargas blog:
“The success of Bobby [Sands]’s election in Fermanagh South Tyrone in the Westminster election of April 81, and of Ciaran Doherty in Cavan Monaghan and Paddy Agnew in Louth in the June 81 general election in the south, were watershed moments.
None of us knew that at the time. Some of us felt it instinctively but it has needed the intervening decades to understand the extent to which the courage and sacrifice of the ten men who died on hunger strike changed modern Irish history.
For Sinn Féin it was the acceleration of a process of internal debate which saw the party embrace electoralism. And it was the commencement of a conversation which ultimately led to the party’s peace strategy and the peace process.
In the south it was the end of majority government by a single party. From 1981 coalition government was the order of the day with a succession of parties, including Labour, the PDs and the Greens stepping forward to put Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael into government. And all paid an electoral price.
It was also the beginning of the slow decline of Fianna Fáil as the dominant political force in that part of the island.”