Can Sinn Féin deliver for the 99%?
By Laura Fitzgerald
Unfortunately, despite Sinn Féin signing up to the Right2Change initiative that gives a different appearance, Sinn Féin are in fact moderating their rhetoric as they come closer to power in a rightward shift. Not only is Sinn Féin’s record on water charges weak with its continued refusal to advocate non-payment of the water charges, Sinn Fein have repeatedly indicated their openness to go into coalition with Fianna Fáil and Labour.
Coalition with FF and Labour
At a Sinn Féin press conference reported on in the Irish Times on 16 September, Gerry Adams, when asked who Sinn Fein would be prepared to coalesce with, answered “whoever is successful in the election” – in other words, any party of the establishment. On 18 October, in an interview with the Sunday Times, Sinn Féin TD, Padraig McLochlainn said it would be “foolish” to rule out Sinn Féin forming a coalition with Fianna Fáil. At Sinn Féin’s Ard Fheis in March 2015, there was a vote in favour of a ‘left-led’ government.
Despite its radical gloss, this is a green light for Sinn Féin to coalesce with anyone, most likely Fianna Fáil, the idea being that Sinn Féin would be the bigger party in such a government. McLochlainn’s comments were significant. Most likely, he was engaged in a Sinn Féin leadership sanctioned ‘kite-flying’ exercise to indicate that Sinn Féin might stretch the ‘left-led’ notion even more outlandishly. In the instance of Fianna Fáil having more seats than Sinn Féin, a government of Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Labour could be considered ‘left led’ if Sinn Féin and Labour together had more seats than Fianna Fáil!
There is desperation for an alternative on behalf of swathes of working class people given how much they continue to suffer under the austerity juggernaut. It’s very regrettable that the Trade Union officials involved in R2W / R2C are using this desperation, as well as an understandable desire for ‘unity’ to try to silence any discussion on the reality, that not only are Sinn Féin preparing to potentially put Fianna Fail back into power, but that this a comment in and of itself on Sinn Fein’s own political positions and trajectory.
Moving to the right
In Dublin City Council, Sinn Féin voted in favour of an austerity Budget in November that despite a massive housing crisis, contains a provision for the council to build a paltry 310 houses in the next three years. Similarly, on the basis of Sinn Féin’s Alternative Budget housing proposals from October, it would take over 30 years to provide social housing for those on the housing waiting lists nationally.
On 22 September, Gerry Adams addressed the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. In his speech, Adams explained how Sinn Féin, a “pro-enterprise party”, expressed sympathy with what businesses that have cut pay and jobs: “We know that businesses across this state have faced unprecedented challenges over the last seven years. Those that have survived have had to make tough decisions to keep their doors open… Wage bills were cut… and operations downsized”.
Sinn Féin’s big-business donors in the US are also much publicised and include major US construction companies and the New York company, Marjam Supply that was reprimanded by a state equality agency because its staff were subject to racial abuse.
A living contradiction
Sinn Féin is a living contradiction. It claims to represent working people and the victims of austerity, yet is continually reaching out the hand of friendship to those that profit from austerity and workers’ exploitation – big business. This contradiction finds concrete expression in the North. Sinn Féin in power has signed up to austerity including 20,000 public sector job losses. Furthermore, their very maintenance of power in the North rests on a vile enemy of working class interests – sectarian division. In a despicable leaflet distributed by Gerry Kelly, Sinn Féin MLA in Belfast for elections in May 2015, a bar chart is given detailing how many Catholics and how many Protestants are in the constituency with the crass headline: “Sinn Féin can WIN in North Belfast”.
The interests of the 99%
We need a left force in this country that is prepared to represent the interests of the 99% and their interests alone. It would appear Sinn Féin are unwilling to do this. We must learn lessons from Syriza about the need to build a new working class political movement that fights for socialist policies and an anti-capitalist left Government that will break the rules of the EU and the market.