Sitting in a community center in Tallaght, a sprawling, working-class suburb at the foot of Dublin’s mountains, Debbie Byrne sees little sign she’s living in the euro region’s fastest-growing economy.
The government is “trying to say things are on the climb,” said Byrne, 38, a homemaker who helps people who drop in grapple with drug addiction and a jobless rate soaring above the national average. “Show me where things are on the climb in these areas. There are people going hungry.”
Almost a year since Ireland exited its international bailout program, there’s growing discontent among people who say they feel no connection with the economic numbers and bond prices telling them the worst is over. The result is that the Irish are adding to the phalanx of Europeans who are decamping to political parties previously on the electoral fringes.
Disillusioned with the leaders she helped usher into power at Ireland’s 2011 election, Byrne counts herself among the new supporters of Sinn Fein, the party that for much of the 1980s and 1990s was the Irish Republican Army’s political wing fighting against British rule in Northern Ireland.
Led by Gerry Adams, a politician more synonymous with the conflict in Belfast than the parliament in Dublin, opposition to tax increases, spending cuts and paying holders of bonds in state-owned banks turned Sinn Fein into Ireland’s most popular party, a poll published last month showed.
An election isn’t due until 2016, yet Prime Minister Enda Kenny last week started laying out the battle lines, warning a Sinn Fein-led government would undo all the progress in fixing Ireland’s economy and finances.
Ireland reflects the backlash in Europe after years of belt-tightening by governments, said David Schnautz, a fixed- income strategist at Commerzbank AG in New York.
Spain’s Podemos, “We Can” in Spanish, has overtaken the country’s two main parties in the polls before elections next year. In Greece, the anti-bailout opposition party Syriza is ahead. The U.K. Independence Party, which opposes immigration and the European Union, last month gained a second elected lawmaker in the British Parliament after defections from the governing Conservative Party.
“There’s definitely fatigue setting in across Europe with budget-deficit reductions,” said Schnautz. “This is the European-wide picture that obviously makes it easier for anti- austerity parties to attract protest votes.”