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Housing and health to shape Ireland election

Housing and health to shape Ireland election
More than 3.3 million voters to decide 160 new lawmakers on Saturday vote, with polls showing nationalists gaining traction

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

DUBLIN (AA) - The historic issue of Irish unity might have been discussed during the never-ending Brexit negotiations between the U.K. and the EU concerning the uncertainties surrounding Northern Ireland, but the idea of the unity of the Irish people under one state may revive in popularity if nationalist Sinn Fein finds itself in the driving seat of the Republic of Ireland after Saturday's election.

A poll by the Irish Times showed Sinn Fein in front of Prime Minister Leo Varadkar's Fine Gael and Micheal Martin's Fianna Fail.

The poll showed Fine Gael trailing in the general election run and Sinn Fein ahead with 25% of votes among the Irish electorate.

Varadkar's party is projected to receive only 17% and fall to the third position.

Voters will elect the 160 members of Ireland's lower chamber, Dail Eireann, with a single transferable ballot system on Saturday, with housing and health services expected to shape more than 3.3 million Irish votes.

Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail are likely to win the greatest shares, according to Paddy Power (PP) bookmakers.

Fianna Fail is expected to win 59 seats -- a 14-seat increase on the last election -- according to PP. Sinn Fein will win a total of 30 seats, while the Green Party is expected to hold nine.

Patrick Ward, a Dublin cab driver said there were around 10,000 homeless people across the country.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Ward said Varadkar might have healed the economy a bit, but this has not reflected on ordinary people.

Despite the prime minister's warning after the latest poll showed Sinn Fein was in front, young people are especially expected to support the nationalists as they pledge greater public spending and unification of Ireland.

Complaining about the state of the health services, Ward said patients could no longer find beds in hospitals and that the minimum waiting time at emergency wards had climbed to 16-17 hours.

Ward said: "Sinn Fein deserves a chance."

Another cab driver who preferred to remain anonymous said the young people supported Sinn Fein because they did not know much about the Troubles, saying a unified Ireland would come with its problems.

The period known as the Troubles was a three-decade span of sectarian violence between Catholic nationalists and Protestant pro-U.K. royalists, which saw more than 3,500 people dead. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) kept up a bombing and assassination campaign in the mainland U.K., as well as local aggression.

Sinn Fein, under its previous leader Gerry Adams, has been the political wing of the IRA.

The 1998 Belfast Agreement -- a peace deal dubbed the Good Friday agreement -- largely saw the end of Troubles-era violence, but IRA splinter groups remain active in Northern Ireland.

Such a group recently plotted to bomb a ferry crossing the English Channel on Brexit day last week.

However, no matter what percentage of the votes Sinn Fein gets on Saturday, the seats they win in parliament cannot exceed 42 as they only have candidates in 42 of the 160 constituencies in Ireland.

If Sinn Fein wins the most seats, they will need to launch coalition talks to reach the magic number of 80 to be able to form a government.

source: News Feed
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