Thursday, December 24, 2009

The difficult position of Killian Forde

On 22 December the Sinn Féin website issued a statement regarding Sinn Féin's opposition to the Dublin City Council budget for 2010.

This statement outlined the parties opposition to the budget and the fact that 40,000 low income Dublin households would now be facing increased charges. However the statement also stated that Sinn féin councillor, Killian Forde, voted for the budget and Cllr. Forde had therefore acted in breach of his mandate from the party.

On the face of it, it would appear obvious that as a left winger I should attack Killian for his actions and demand that he be rebuked/disciplined by the party in the strongest terms.

However, I am torn on this issue because I feel Killian believes he is showing leadership on this matter and indeed acting in line with overall Sinn Féin policy in the South. That is to say that Sinn Féin has spoken a lot about the need to build a left alternative and the need for us to work closely with the Labour Party on doing this. It appears to me that this is exactly what Killian has done.

Dublin city Council is not run by Fiann fáil or the Greens. Labour is the biggest party and is then followed by Fine Gael with Sinn Féin only having five councillors.

Given this it should be noted that Killian Forde has spent the past nine weeks as chair of the Budget Working Group trying to transform the council budget from a really awful budget, with something slightly more palatable. Killian argues that the original proposals had much bigger cuts in the business rates, higher rent, removal of both the lift and the standing charge in bins, proposed cuts in front line 'people' services etc etc. In Killian's view this original budget was grim.

As head of the Budget Working Committee he then worked with the Labour people and in his mind got as much changed as he could.

On the Monday before the budget the City Manager made whats called order, under his powers as written in legislation to remove the waiver on the lifting of the bins, of which 40% of all Dublin households qualified. Sinn Fein disagreed with this and submitted a amendment to the budget, which Killian supported. However, this amendment was ruled out of order.

This left Killian in a position where he could vote against the budget and forget about all the work he had done with the labour Party in amending it. Or he could vote for the budget as the least worst option available. He chose to vote for the budget.

Where does this all leave Sinn Féin in the capital? Well I don't know, but if we are going to follow the ideas of Eoin o Broin and others and try to develop a strong left alternative with labour then big questions need to be answered and Killian may well have shown the party the way forward. Or perhaps not.


  1. I suppose it captures the dilemma faced by reformists. He sailed close to the wind and might have gone native. At the same time he sought to preserve what was good and build upon it. Criticising him from a revolutionary perspective is a waste of time. Revolutionaries get absolutely nothing done and end up censoring all and sundry to hide the fact.

  2. i like killian, hes full of life and usually well worth listening too but think he undermined the party on this one. if the party is to work everyone has to play there part. theres lots of areas where public reps are left in the wild by the party but this was an agreed issue it went through checks balances descussions etc whats the point of members going to meetings doing leatlets and all that when it comes to it, its ignored. whats the value of the party. he's not the first to do it and won't be the last but its annoying and time wasteing to be over ruled in this manner.

    i accept he would have worked hard on the committee and i accept the nature of DCC is more about cross party opposition to the city manager than a battle of conflicting ideas for the city argued back and forth by the peoples elected reps. but theres a sadness in that, where getting pulled on to other peoples ground to defend their positions. its going to happen again, the system seems to be designed for it. is it worth it, we've our own game to play.

  3. The worrying element here is that he went against the party. I understand Larry O'Toole is leader of the party on Dublin council and Killian has gone directly against him.

    You can't have this stuff going on and at the same time keep your credibility. Sin é.

    Didn't Christy do something similar before quitting the party?

  4. If the party is behaving wrongly - although in this case it wasn't - then there is no solid reason against breaking the line

  5. For me it is impossible to view Killian's action without looking at the wider debate on building an alliance with labour.

    Eoin O'Broin is head of Dublin Sinn féin and he has been pushing for building a relationship with labour for many years.

    In his last piece in an phoblacht (published on this site just over a week ago)

    He stated the following...

    For this writer there will be no realignment of Irish politics without Labour. No alliance for change can be built without their active participation.

    Thus Sinn Féin should not abandon the Labour Party but develop a strategy of engagement. The purpose of this strategy would be threefold.

    Firstly it would be to demonstrate to the Labour Party that republicans are serious about the long term objective of transforming the social, political and economic landscape of the country.

    Secondly it would be to build effective working relationships at a local and national level with Labour and its supporters on issues of common concern.

    Thirdly it would be to strengthen the hand of those within the Labour Party, and its broader support base in the trade union movement and civic society who believe that such an alliance is not only possible, but realisable.


    To me we have a choice to make regarding our position and direction in the South and Killian and Eoin are putting forward one possible choice. Is anybody out there offering a credible alternative

  6. i don't know about that starry plough. yes i accept o brions idea's they should be worked on but tailing labour. there in the same place we were at the last election in the south just nobody notices it because they've been there since the founding of the state. tailing them would mean critiseing the unions for there one day strike or proposeing budjets that won't un nearve FG. been there done that, one seat in dublin to show for it. SF need to lead from behind so like minded people in labour can use it as a stick in there internal arguments.

    anthonys right in that the same issues trow them up for parties in similer positions. you could write it from our experiences. there would be people in labour in dublin cringeing at voting for that budget. the way to empower them is to give them alternatives.


  7. In his dismissal of revolutionaries AM is simply telling us that he isn't a revolutionary. In any case, voting against the budget would hardly amount to a revolutionary act. It would, however, be consistent with a left-wing approach to the provision of resources. And if the blogger is symapthetic with the people who would vote in this kind of way because it might lead to some kind of SF/LP alliance, then we know that by "keeping left" he means building " a strong left alternative with labour". But what kind of "strong left" is it that votes against the working class in this way?


  8. The issue of working with Labour seems to have become confused with adapting to them. Since they in turn adapt to FG, it is clear to see where this ultimately leads.

    It is absolutley right to orient to working with Labour. But it is absolutely imperative to keep in mind what goal are we working with them for? In a nutshell, the most important task in the South today is to build a united front of all those (including Labour members and supporters) against austerity measures and for investment (as we detailed in our Budget submission).

    That means unity in action against cuts. And, where we are in position to influence outcomes, such as Dublin City, to shift the burden of any budget adjustment to large businesses (in the form of rates), but on NO account to vote in favour of measures that hurt ordinary working people.

    If, as seems the case, Killian did a good job in persuading Labour to amend the Budget, that was sufficient; in effect proposing a series of good amendments, some of which were accepted. It did't need his vote to pass, and he shouldn't have voted for it. The electorate of Dublin would have clearly seen which Party was their champion in opposing cuts in their living standards. As it is, the waters have been muddied.

    This is not an issue of Party discipline, still less the actions of one person. It is about how we as a Party relate to other forces in society who might only partially share our goals. That is we always work with them where we can, and part company with them when they do anything to the detriment of the working people of his island.

  9. The argument for Forde requires a bit of mental gymnastics for it to hold up at all. You say he supported Labour as part of a continued effort to build a "left" alliance, but the proposals supported by Labour (and thus by Forde) were right-wing, and there's no getting away from that.

    Labour are continuing to cosy up to Fine Gael, undoubtedly in preparation for the next coalition government, and with the Greens having committed political suicide by going into power with Fianna Fáil it seems terribly obvious that the Rainbow Alliance advocated by Eoin Ó Broin for the past two years is dead and buried.

    And if Sinn Féin is serious about being perceived as a left-wing party interested in developing alternatives to the neoliberal status quo, it really has to do something about its Thatcherite record in the Six Counties.

  10. Justin,

    I disagre with AM on many things but when i agree with him i admit it no problem. When he dismisses revolutionaries then I dont think he proves himself anti-revolution. I think instead that he may be dismissing the plethora of very minor and micro parties that are busy telling everyone about the coming revolution, who convince themselves that its coming and criticise everyone who does not believe its coming. They are the people who wield no influence and make no meaningful contribution to ordinary people but talk a good talk that ticks all the theoretical boxes and are applauded by themselves as deep contributions, but then they dont really click with working class people state wide do they. It puts us in a difficult position. We want to be a party that is in it for the long haul. We want to create genuine change that lasts. However in Dublin we are faced to the left by 2 groups who aim for national revolution while settling for a couple of councillors and Joe. Its an unenviable position because while they may talk about delivering change in reality their sights are set lower - maybe a TD a piece for one sitting of the Dail. Maybe they could work together at the next election. Maybe they would but seeing as how they cant stand each other then so much for their high falutin talk about uniting and delivering for workers.
    Yet somehow we as a serious party with real ambitions for change have to fight off opponents who can be nakedly populist, promise everything, criticise all and not put forward one real solid policy or make any important contributions to improve the lives of ordinary people.

    They'll stop water charges for a few years only and think it great gaisce and in the meanwhile Irish households run up huge debt and get screwed by the banks.

    They should hang their heads in shame. But then they think themselves theoretically sound so they dont care about all that do they. They sit confortably with abject failure.

    I have to say that I personally incline somewhat more to Killian's position. Not for any ideological reason but because he actually secured some amendments to it. He actually contributed something that will make it easier on ordinary people. Thats a lot more than the micro parties have or will ever do.

    Just my take on it.


  11. What Justin said.

    As an outsider looking in it is sad to see that this is the extent of SF's ambitions; to follow Labour (whose members generally despise SF) around in the hope they'll do something decent, sometime.

    It's beyond depressing but perhaps inevitable. Most post-revolutionary parties have similarly acccepted the neo-liberal status quo, the ANC and Al-Fatah for example.

    The bottom line is that Labour accept the government's thesis that working people should pay for the crisis through cuts in their salaries and public services. Gilmore said on The Week in Politics that NAMA is here to stay and that he will not change direction if he is the next Taoiseach.

    Is this really an outfit that SF want to be allied with?

  12. QED

    I have no problem with much of your critiqe of our so-called revolutionaries in the SP and SWP.Indeed so confident are these groups of their revolutionary potential that one group hid inside the LP until it was kicked out and the other hides behind nice-sounding font groups such as PBP. Revolutions are a hard slog and Rome wasn't burnt in day.

    However, my main point is that voting against the budget would not have been a revolutionary act but would have been consistent with left-wing politics. And indeed, writng from Belfast, I agree with what Ciaran said about SF's Thatcherite record in Stormont. Sinn Fein can't really keep left if it hasn't really been left in the first place.


  13. A Chara, our Irish boys from Derry on the Viva Palesina convoy are facing a possible crisis, thought you might want to know:

  14. labour temper what they say to get into power. if there was an alternative way for them to get into power they would temper what they say in a different way. thats the logic in what o broin is on about.

    don't see that labour are praticularly wedded to some right wing ideology. there a broad church with in themselves and then navigateing through political currents that place them 3rd in the pecking order to FF and FG. they go for real politic.

    the left in south america did well by concontrating on commonality as opposed to differences. in theory it sould be able here. o broins idea is way off happening. from what i read other groups have the same idea but devide on who to include it. SF and labour aren't left enough. fair enough but the next few years are pradictable then of the back of that thinking. we all spend the next few years fighting amonst our self for maybe one leinster house seat here 2 or 3 council seats there. all or energy or work thats all we'll win or loose in the next few years, but to each other, not the revolution, i think the state can live quite happy with it .

    sitting down. working out some plan on commonality, that engery can be put to better use. 'unity and disiple are more effective for battle than numbers'


  15. I dont want to be stuck with new Labour. Frankly there problem is they dont have the balls to actually make the changes they promise. In this they differ from other parties who have the committment but no credible plan to deliver it. And on and on we go. One part of the left having lost its backbone and the other branch of the left still thinking the failed tactics of leaflets and tiny campaigns will make a a

  16. The statement from his fellow party members on dcc said all we need to know he went against them and his party's policy, and having watched killians webcast cameo spat with the finna fail rep, i wondered who it was that got the last laugh at the supposed working class left

  17. Firstly, we need to drop this idea of throwing our lot in with Labour. Recently at local level in our area, it was discussed and agreed that although Eoin O'Broin has good ideological intentions, he isn't dealing with the political reality.

    I count myself a Leftist and like Eoin, I value ideology more than practice alot of the time, but we msut face the fact that Labour will not work with us in many areas, that they are competing directly against us.

    In the Local Elections, we gave transfers away to Labour because some voters were under the impression we had a voting pact with them at a national level. At a local level it was cut throat, and I'm proud to say we demolished them, but it shows the damage mixed messaged could have caused.

    Labour has no ideology anymore, and the few remaining ideologues in Labour look at us as a "nationalist party" with a right-wing agenda. That we were "terrorists" and that we should have acted like the Stoops for the last 40 years.

    Needless to say, I don't agree.

  18. JG and others

    I think you're missing the point. If we can build an alliance on the ground of all those (including Labour supporters and members) against austerity measures that will only be to the benefit of the working people of this country, north and south.

    Do we place any faith in the Gilmore's of this world? None. Do we orient to getting him and TU leaders (many of whom are as bad) on a joint campaign with us against cuts? Absolutely.
    In that way, we can demonstrate, in action, to those Labour supporters which is the Party that will best fight for their interests.

    But, to do that, we also have to be clear ourselves. And voting for cuts aimed at the poor is dead wrong.

  19. Labour are not "left" that spot is almost vacant on electoral terms, SF need to make up their minds,but beware the carerists.You cant blame the Brits on the bin tax

  20. Anon of 2:22

    Any party that actually represented and did what Labour only promised would do well - indeed there is room for a proper left wing party.

    Careerist my arse. Blaming the brits for bin tax my arse.

    Whats the problem with the left in Ireland that we focus on bin tax, water charges etc and totallly neglect big issues.

    Working class people who own houses are prbably in negative equity; either have no job, are going to lose it or have taken a big paycut.

    the average family owes 115,000 euro but too many on the left cant see beyond bin tax or water tax.

    The bin tax is going to be a hard burden on the poorest at about 100-200 a year but thats 575 to 1,150 year of the money they owe as households.

    Now nobody is saying that this tax is fair but then owing 115,000 isn't fair either.

    We can talk about careerists, about defending workers over the bin tax etc but unless the left gets its act together then all the left is promising is that we will help the poor pay off their debt in the next 5 to 10 centuries.

    We cant blame the Brits about bin tax you are right and we cant blame the right if the left has very little vision and spent the last 10-15 years going on about bin tax and water charges while households ran up debts of over 100k and bankers got us to pay their bills.

    So whats our solution to that failure of the last 10-15 years.

    Clearly the left's strategy failed. Is the left's new strategy just to repeat the old and hope it somehow works this time.

    Who thinks that will work?


  21. If I supported Labour policies, whatever they are these days with regard to protection for ordinary wage earners, I'd join the Labour Party. I'm not overly excercised by how any party is defined within the political spectrum at the momement. The term leftist means different things to different people, and even changes during a brief discussion these days.

    The simple fact is that SF appears to have adopted a very progressive economic polity program. Labour has not. Labour has rowed back on its positions since 2008 and adopted the main stream agenda which dictates that wage earners are the problem in society - not the fat cat bankers, govt ministers, MSM moguls and quango parasites that infest every layer of Irish society. SF, alone, of any of the major parties has proposed alternative economic/social programs but has not received one vote of support from Labour or any other Irish Party in the 32 counties.

    In the future we will witness a change in SF leadership, if for no other reason than age, and I want to know that the current and future course remains pointed to the left. I want to know that 30+ years of war and struggle is just the beginning of the larger to struggle to totally transform how we conduct our business and lives on this wee island. I want emerging SF politicos to fight for these aims. I'm only interested in compromise as a measure to alieviatve the worst excesses thrown up by our greedy and crony capitlalist state policies. I do not want a future of compromise but one of real change. The progressive stance adopted by SF before the December budget was a true alternative that would fundamentally change the social relationships in this state. Labour's were not. Either SF is a political party with a unique agenda and set of programs or it is merely another PR party like Labour, The Greens, FG or FF - parties who sell their votes, and hence policies, to the highest party contributors for favours and a seat at the public purse gravy train.

  22. tgmac.

    the idea is a broad coalition of 'the left' SF and labour on there own would still be inadequate in terms of numbers to take a government. its probably a pipe dream but if it doesn't work then SFs only way to get in to government to atempt to implement that programe you talk about is to be a PR party and sell there vote to FF or FG. the idea to create a new coalition option along left lines, at the moment a pipe dream but hypoteticly the only way to get into government with out falling into the trap your talking about.

    qed... bin taxes and wather charges are important and brillient because its actuaally an issue that working class people are interested in its a perfect example of highlighting neo - liberal ideology and how they impact on every day life. no one can servive with out sanitation and water and now some one is making a profit off it. its all part of the same battle or should be any way.


  23. Very well done on this blog - it thoughtfully puts forward the very awkward position that Killian was in and why he probably felt he should vote FOR the budget rather than against it. It is worrying however that he went against his party and against Larry O'Toole, more so because it's an indicator of how relations have deteriorated. I do understand why SF would want him to give up his seat, though I think it would be a pity if he were compelled to do so. I thought that Eoin O'Broin's public comments were very telling. There was no attempt to hide the animosity, no "we appreciate everything he's done in the past" or "good luck for the future". That makes the party look quite ungracious I think and is not good PR, though I can understand their anger. The party seems to be going through a bit of a difficult period regarding direction, leadership, internal communication etc and I just hope that they can find their way out of it. As for Killian, well I do wish him luck for the future. I hope he stays in politics as he's apparently charismatic (I've never met him) and he's certainly very easy on the eye, lol!