Monday, January 31, 2011

Its time to unite against a FG-FF political arrangement

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has welcomed the decision by the Labour Party decision to seek a longer period for dealing with the deficit. Sinn Fein has argued from the outset for a six year period for reducing the deficit.

Mr. Adams speaking at the opening of the party's new campaign office in West Street, Drogheda this morning said:

"There is a widespread desire for a realignment of Irish politics. The prospect of a minority Fine Gael government supported by Fianna Fáil, as proposed by Micheál Martin, makes sense for the conservative parties. It also makes sense for progressive politics. It is time for all those who believe that a government without Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael can deliver a better Ireland – to work together.

"Voters want a real alternative. They are looking for change, for a break with the failed politics of the past and for hope that this is possible. A hundred years ago James Connolly appealed for unity among the left in Ireland. It made sense then. It makes sense today."

The Full Text of Gerry's remarks:

There is a growing demand for genuine change. Citizens know this is will not come from a Fine Gael led government.

They also know that the incoming government will frame the economic, social and political life of the state for the next 10, 20 or 30 years.

Voters are also calling on politicians to stop bickering and petty point scoring and present positive, concrete proposals for change.

Sinn Féin is seeking a mandate for:

· Root and branch political reform aimed at producing a genuinely open and accountable form of Government which ends the notion of political elites and empowers Irish citizens;

· The protection and creation of jobs;

· An end to the two-tier health and education systems;

· The proper use of Ireland's natural resources for the common good;

· Continued support for the Peace Process, and the Good Friday Agreement.

Sinn Féin has a plan to protect and invest in jobs and for a fair and sustainable tax system. Sinn Féin will renew our public services. And we believe that taxpayers' money must not be used to pay for private banking debt. Irish citizens cannot afford €80 billion of debt for the banks.

We want the reversal of the social welfare cuts and tax increases imposed on low and middle-income families.
We want a realistic deficit reduction plan that does not punish these same low and middle-income households. We want and end to EU/IMF austerity and interference.
Over the coming weeks we will be outlining in greater detail how Sinn Féin in government would set about undoing the damage done to our society and economy by 13 years of bad government.

A Fine Gael government will not deliver real change. They want to continue bailing out the banks, cutting social welfare and public services. They want to slash 30,000 public sector jobs and sell of profitable semi-state companies. They want to allow the EU & IMF to dictate government policy.
Real change can only be delivered by a new kind of government. Sinn Féin has long argued for realignment in politics. This process of realignment is something that has already begun in the North.

Imagine the type of change a government without Fianna Fail and Fine Gael could achieve.
That is now, for the first time, a real possibility. For too long we have changes of governments and a change in the faces in cabinet but no change in the policies they have implemented.There is a widespread desire for a realignment of Irish politics. The prospect of a minority Fine Gael government supported by Fianna Fáil, as proposed by Micheál Martin, makes sense for the conservative parties.

It also makes sense for progressive politics. It is time for all those who believe that a government without Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael can deliver a better Ireland – to work together.

Voters want a real alternative. They are looking for change, for a break with the failed politics of the past and for hope that this is possible.

A hundred years ago James Connolly appealed for unity among the left in Ireland. It made sense then. It makes sense today.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Election - So Far

Just a few days into this campaign, but a few observations arising out of it so far

Fine Gael are still getting away with presenting themselves as the ‘difference’.  They have been able to sit there without feeling the need to present policy positions.  Instead they are just hiding behind the notion that they are listening. 

 I don’t think that there has been enough reference to ideology so far.  The progressive left may well be missing an opportunity to point out the inherent failings of the dominant political paradigm.  The banks failed because there was insufficient democratic control over them.  Fine Gael, like Fianna Fail, champion deregulation to free up business activity – or more accurately, to give undue advantage to the private sector.  The public sector should be about democratic ownership and accountability, the removal of effective regulation leads to zero accountability.  Fine Gael has been a subscriber to Irish Thatcherism every bit as much as Fianna Fail.  The inherent failings of this approach are the root cause of our current financial difficulties and also the visible divisions that exists in society – the huge inequality.

Labour are struggling to distance themselves from the consensus for cuts.  They are vulnerable on the question of supporting the finance bill and saying that their rationale is to move the election forward a few weeks is questionable.  No more than FG, Labour are open to be nailed on the charge that they are happy to let this government take the hit for budgetary measures that they will shake their heads at but do nothing to change in post election period.   Labour would also be very sensitive to the charge that they will be responsible for keeping Irish Thatcherism alive by supporting Fine Gael instead of using this opportunity to nail it now and build a new political and economic dispensation.

As I have said before, there is an opportunity to have an election campaign that serves to educate as much as wrest power.  What seems clear from public responses on media shows like Liveline or The Frontline is that the anger and frustration is turned towards FF and individual bankers and bondholders.  The link to a future government implementing the same ideological approach is missing.  FG are getting away with it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Enda Kenny reappears but still makes a fool of himself

At a time of unprecedented politcal turmoil there is one political constant - Fine Gael. Steady as she goes, careful now, take it easy and dont change anything Fine Gael. In the current environment people believe that Fianna Fail are the architects of our misery. They are not however the sole designers of this deeply flawed state. Fine Gael has more than enthusiastically played its role in creating a state incapable of functioning or providing needed services to the Irish people, and more seriously it has failed to defend the interests of all of the people of Ireland against oppresion. To then find Mr. Enda Kenny, the man hiding god knows where, popping up at an Alliance party conference to give lectures to Sinn Fein is deeply frustrating.

And for wiser, more modern, FGers they must be deeply confused. Why is Fine Gael playing to its backwoods men - incidentally from the same genus as your typical Fianna Fail backwoods men a la FF TD Thomas Byrne commenting about Gerry Adams coming down to our country - why is FG making a fool of itself by talking about Sinn Fein when only half a cabinet is "running" the counry.

And for anyone who might doubt FG makes a fool of itself on this issue then watch the following. When the audience of the Late Late are laughing at you not with you then you should be twigging something is up:

Responding to those comments by Enda Kenny at the Alliance Party conference Mary Lou said:

“The fact is that Sinn Féin has no desire whatsoever to go into Government with Fine Gael. That party signed up to the ‘consensus for cuts’. They would further cut social welfare and would fire thousands of public sector workers.

“The simple facts are that Enda Kenny and Fine Gael have nothing to offer that is different to Fianna Fáil.

“Unlike Fine Gael Sinn Féin offers a clear alternative to the failed policies of the current government.

“Sinn Féin’s economic proposals would grow the economy – Fine Gael’s proposals would depress the economy and drive it further into recession.

“While Fine Gael supported the Lisbon treaty and previous treaties which have undermined Irish sovereignty Sinn Féin pointed out the implications of these treaties.We now see that Sinn Féin was right and Fine Gael was wrong.

“We won’t be taking any lectures from Enda Kenny on these issues.”

Amen to that.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Coalition Killing

Definitively ruling a given party out of coalition is a tactic.  It is a tactic designed to undermine credibility and to dissuade support.

In spite of the designed ambiguity of Sinn Féin' approach during the 2007 election on the matter of potential coalition with Fianna Fail, the latter used every opportunity to rule out such an arrangement.  Fianna Fail's approach was designed to undermine SF and arguably it was a successful tactic in limiting the growth of a party that had been making inroads.

I believe that it was also true that regardless of the outcome, that FF - still heavily influenced, if not populated, with the PD's and fellow travellers, would not have accommodated SF in any event.  The antipathy to SF among the political establishment of all hues should never be underestimated..

Of course, what isn't always given a fair hearing by the progressive left is that there wasn't an appetite among the SF grass roots for any coalition with FF.  SF's postion was placed before the membership as tactical - that ruling out the option to participate in government in the south, while in 'government' in the 6 counties, would have been foolish.  It would have flown in the face of realpolitik.  I would have disagreed with that approach, but having had a fair argument, I would have been on the losing side in the debate.  Fair enough.

Labour ruled out coalition with FF at that time.  It probably served them well to do that, as they grew in the polls and could present themselves as principled.  Where Labour completely fall down is in their willingness to coalesce with FG - a mirror image of FF and who advocate policies that would have led to exactly the same inequality and cronyism as we have seen.

Many people are watching Labour and Sinn Féin in terms of what both parties will say about Coalition with conservative and reactionary parties.  Both parties can and should use the tactics employed by FF and FG in terms of ruling out coalition with right wingers.  The credibility of a FG government would take a real hit if Labour looked to its progressive soul and sought alternative options.  The prospect of wiping FF from the map would be given a huge boost by SF making it crystal clear that coalition with them is off the agenda.

There is enough fluidity out there for anything to happen.

The First Dail

90 odd years ago an chead dail set out a vision for the southern state. It never got to see the light of day. What followed was 90 years of governance no more imaginative than parochial home rule. Fine Gale and Fianna Fail never heeded these words. These are the principles upon which the new Ireland must be built.

We declare in the words of the Irish Republican Proclamation the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies to be indefeasible, and in the language of our first President. Pádraíg Mac Phiarais, we declare that the Nation's sovereignty extends not only to all men and women of the Nation, but to all its material possessions, the Nation's soil and all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth-producing processes within the Nation, and with him we reaffirm that all right to private property must be subordinated to the public right and welfare.
We declare that we desire our country to be ruled in accordance with the principles of Liberty, Equality, and Justice for all, which alone can secure permanence of Government in the willing adhesion of the people.
We affirm the duty of every man and woman to give allegiance and service to the Commonwealth, and declare it is the duty of the Nation to assure that every citizen shall have opportunity to spend [23] his or her strength and faculties in the service of the people. In return for willing service, we, in the name of the Republic, declare the right of every citizen to an adequate share of the produce of the Nation's labour.
It shall be the first duty of the Government of the Republic to make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the children, to secure that no child shall suffer hunger or cold from lack of food, clothing, or shelter, but that all shall be provided with the means and facilities requisite for their proper education and training as Citizens of a Free and Gaelic Ireland.
The Irish Republic fully realises the necessity of abolishing the present odious, degrading and foreign Poor Law System, substituting therefor a sympathetic native scheme for the care of the Nation's aged and infirm, who shall not be regarded as a burden, but rather entitled to the Nation's gratitude and consideration. Likewise it shall be the duty of the Republic to take such measures as will safeguard the health of the people and ensure the physical as well as the moral well-being of the Nation.
It shall be our duty to promote the development of the Nation's resources, to increase the productivity of its soil, to exploit its mineral deposits, peat bogs, and fisheries, its waterways and harbours, in the interests and for the benefit of the Irish people.
It shall be the duty of the Republic to adopt all measures necessary for the recreation and invigoration of our Industries, and to ensure their being developed on the most beneficial and progressive co-operative and industrial lines. With the adoption of an extensive Irish Consular Service, trade with foreign Nations shall be revived on terms of mutual advantage and goodwill, and while undertaking the organisation of the Nation's trade, import and export, it shall be the duty of the Republic to prevent the shipment from Ireland of food and other necessaries until the wants of the Irish people are fully satisfied and the future provided for.
It shall also devolve upon the National Government to seck co-operation of the Governments of other countries in determining a standard of Social and Industrial Legislation with a view to a general and lasting improvement in the conditions under which the working classes live and labour.

Read more about the first dail

Thursday, January 20, 2011

End of one chapter; beginning of another

The election is finally called. After two of the most shameful years of prevarication and confusion in the face of one the deepest crisis ever faced by this country we now have the opportunity to end this sorry state of affairs. There is a common phrase in political circles about the voters waiting in the long grass. Well this time the voters wont be waiting in the long grass they will be standing in full sight and they fully intend to give the Fianna Fail cronies and gombeens a kicking.

But just as we are hopefully about to bring to an end a sorry chapter in Irish history we must think now about the next chapter. Sinn Fein will hopefully have a stronger presence in the next Leinster house so that it can acclerate even faster the process of breaking down this failed state and building a modern state in its place.

Looking ahead we must face the prospect of a power Fine Gael with Minister Varadkar and Hayes all backed with a strong Labour party settling in for a few years of power and ministerial baubles.

What will have changed? Nothing! FG and Labour agreed with Fianna Fail so much they went in and had budget consensus talks. They failed to even question the policy of 3% deficit target until given permission by the IMF. The fully backed the FF policy of deflation and dis-investment through austerity.

The only way to change is to now make a political step-change. To build a real opposition in south Ireland. With Fine Gael and Labour in govt. and FF broken on the margins the only way to build a real oppositoin is to vote Sinn Fein. We've proven that with 5 TDs we can make a difference and put the govt. under severe pressure.

After 10 years of closed-minded autocratic rule we dont need a FG-Labour super majority.

Put 10, 15 or 20 Sinn Fein TDs in their and that will be a break from the past and a new chapter in Irish politics. Sinn Fein will provide real opposition to a too powerful FG-Labour govt.

Its time to write a new chapter in Irish history. Tá an lá ag teacht.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Shankill Road

An interesting piece in An Phoblacht about how Sinn Fein is building a vote amongst loyalist communities.

VOTERS in staunch loyalist areas such as the Shankill Road are switching to Sinn Féin because republicans are seen to be active for working-class communities, unionist and nationalist, senior UDA members have told the unionist daily, the News Letter.

UDA leader Jackie McDonald explained that the switch to Sinn Féin is happening because unionist politicians have abandoned their working-class support.

Former UDA prisoner Colin Halliday said:

It wasn’t big numbers but there were votes from loyalist areas went into the box for Sinn Féin.

What we’re taking from that is that voters believe, ‘These people are doing the work for us. We’re being neglected by our own politicians.’

He said the DUP and UUP are ignoring the people of unionist working-class areas:

The days of putting a rosette on a donkey and parading it through unionist areas are over.
The UDA-linked Ulster Political Research Group will be contesting the council elections in May.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Shine a Light on Fine Gael

Received this piece from Vincent Woodwood who has an excellent site at that is well worth a read.

Shine a Light on Fine Gael

One of the clear objectives for people who want to see far reaching progressive change is to work towards the best possible government from the next election.

It is a given that Fianna Fail won’t form part of that government. Nobody would touch them. Even if the figures added up and it was technically possible to form a government between Fianna Fail and Labour, it was long ago ruled out by Labour. That, as it turned out, was a smart move for them to make at time. Support rose for the party, as people drew the conclusion that principle lay behind the decision. It was also very astute. Labour saw that there was a sizable and expanding progressive electorate out there. The decision to create clear distance between them and Fianna Fail was calculated to increase their political strength.

The bookies favourite is for a coalition between Fine Gael and Labour. Labour are going along with this perception. In the immediate aftermath of the fallout from the collapse in the banking system and the run up to the last budget, the public mood has been swayed towards looking for the quickest and most effective way of consigning the current government to history. Therefore, there has been a boost to both parties poll ratings. The boost to Labours ratings can be explained in two ways. In the first instance, they have been presented as the most obvious partner to Fine Gael. They have been in government together before and in does not stretch the imagination to put them in a partnership again.

The other factor is that one connected to Labour’s decision to rule out Fianna Fail and to take off the gloves in attacking the main governing party inside at outside Leinster House.

The rise in the Fine Gael vote I think also falls into two main areas. As the largest opposition party, they are seen as the most likely to replace Fianna Fail and in simple terms, they are the quickest and easiest way to punish the incumbents. There are also a safe home for conservative minded voters and those who want to maintain the political and economic system pretty much as it is. If Fianna Fail are removed together with all of the negative baggage they carry, then a new administration with a different cast of characters can take over without having to change the overall way in which the economy is run.

The ideology and policy platform of Fine Gael is indistinguishable in any meaningful way from Fianna Fail. They both believe in deregulated and privatised provision of public services. They both want to roll back the state. They are both conservative parties. That needs saying and repeating at every opportunity.

There are a group of people who I believe are thinking about their politics. People have been exposed to a one-size fits all ‘choice’ between two conservative parties and a largely compliant media who have dismissed any variation in policy positions or any fresh thinking that may challenge what had become economic orthodoxy. The collapse in the banking system and the light that this has shone on the weaknesses of this capitalist open economy has stirred enough debate to at least open minds towards alternatives.

That these people may feel that their best option would be to vote for Fine Gael in order to sufficiently change the order, has to be a major concern to all who want to see real progressive change. It also poses a challenge.

There are two elements to that challenge. The first is to convince this group that a vote for Fine Gael would not change anything. Fine Gael need to be challenged on their policy platform and on their ‘vision’. What do they want to see in 5 or 10 years time. They are open to attack on there plans for the public sector and the increased role for the private sector.

The other way that people could be discouraged from voting for Fine Gael is to ensure that the party that would have to support them in any new government, Labour, moved away from that position.

That is an enormous challenge. All current indications are that the leadership of the Labour party are gearing up for government with Fine Gael. It’s the easiest option for them. There are also conservative elements within the Labour party who would feel comfortable with this type of coalition. However, there are many within the Labour party and the wider Labour and Trade Union Movement who can see the opportunity for much wider and more radical change in the current climate. They can see that this is one of those moments in history when real change can be effected. They too can see that the political and social landscape can be radically changed and that we are on the verge of being able to consign the neo-liberal domination of the past few decades to history.

The Labour party have an opportunity to contribute to the atmosphere of change. They can join with others to put a different type of vision before the people. One that shifts the political paradigm. In doing so, they would be playing a significant part in influencing that group of electors who mistakenly believe that Fine Gael can be a lead actor in creating a better society.

Conservative people will stay with Fine Gael and whatever remains of Fianna Fail. Progressive forces can then work together to forge ahead with putting a people-centred vision before the electorate.