After General Election 2020- How do we win real change in Ireland?

Statement from Solidarity and the Socialist Party on the vote for Taoiseach today

While it is practically ruled out that a Taoiseach will be elected and a government formed today, today’s events in the Dáil, at its first meeting since the General Election on 8 February, are very important.

Since the historic vote, when Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael plunged to their lowest combined vote – just 43.4%, both have either tried to ignore or dismiss the clear message from the election – people want real change and an end to their rule.

Therefore today’s votes for Taoiseach will be symbolic and indicative of what kind of Ireland and world people want to live in, rather than the individuals nominated.

Are TDs who have been elected by the people going to represent the desire of the majority for change (56.6%) or are they going to vote to sustain the status quo?

Are they going to vote to continue with the housing and homelessness crisis, the untold suffering from the health crisis, a state pension from 67 and inaction on climate, while the planet burns. Or are they going to vote for an alternative that offers hope?

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have ruled for one hundred years – they bear a huge responsibility for the state the country is in. They, along with the Greens and Labour it must be said, offloaded the cost and heavy burden of the great capitalist recession onto the back of ordinary people, so that the banks and the rich and wealthy in Ireland and internationally could be spared – proof, if proof were needed, that they are bound hand and foot to business interests and never put people’s needs first.

Public statements from Micheal Martin, Leo Varadkar and the media indicate clearly that even though these parties are a minority in percentage terms and in seats in the Dáil, they are already planning to make some arrangement so they can ignore the vote on 8 February and continue to rule at our expense.

56.6% of people voted for parties other than Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, a large amount of them for Sinn Féin. Solidarity and our TD Mick Barry (a long standing Socialist Party member) have fundamental differences with Sinn Féin and the role it generally plays, not least its role in the North.

However, today’s vote for Taoiseach is not primarily about individuals or for specific parties. It is a vote about either:

Respecting the outcome of the election and the desire for real change;

Dismissing the outcome of the election and voting for no change at all.

In this vote, at this stage for a very large number of working class people, Mary Lou McDonald represents the former and Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin represents the latter. For these reasons in today’s vote Mick Barry will be voting against Leo Varadkar and Micheal Martin and for Mary Lou McDonald.

Our vote today does not represent a shift in our political views. We have always fought for real, radical and socialist change, most recently elevating such ideas in the mass movements we helped lead on water charges and repeal and abortion rights. We are supporting the mass desire for real change but would say that in order to achieve it, that working people and the young must get active in the struggle for change and take control of the future.

Neither does our vote today indicate any lessening of our concern, which is shared by many, that Sinn Féin has not ruled out going into coalition with either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael, even though that is the only way forward and path to real change. There have been numerous reports that they see an arrangement with Fianna Fáil as the only practical way forward. We say here categorically that if Sinn Féin were to go into coalition with either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael, that would be turning your back on the historic vote of 8 February. Now is not the time for such pragmatism, as James Connolly said:

“Don’t be “practical” in politics. To be practical in that sense means that you have schooled yourself to think along the lines and in the grooves which those who rob you would desire you to think. ”

One of the main disagreements we have with Sinn Féin, which is necessary to highlight in the context that we will vote for their nominee on this occasion, relates to their role in the North.

Alongside the DUP, Sinn Féin has implemented Tory austerity and neo-liberal policies that have decimated public services, resulted in 1 in 6 of the population on NHS waiting lists and voted to raise the pension age for workers, while at the same time favouring cutting corporation tax.

Everyone should know at this stage that unity cannot be achieved by pressurising, coercing or enforcing a settlement on a minority. The only basis for unity is if Protestant and Catholic working class people unite and organise so their collective future and that of the planet comes before profit. We will never support any proposals that heightens sectarian division between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, or between North and South.

We call on Sinn Féin, and the Greens, to rule out going into coalition with either of the traditional capitalist parties.

If you try to pull together an alternative administration, not involving any of the capitalist establishment parties, we would use our vote to facilitate such an alternative government coming into being out of respect for how people voted on 8 February.

We are prepared to meet and discuss with anyone as to what is necessary to realise real change for working people, the majority in society.

However, unless such a government is prepared to take the decisive action necessary to deliver on the key issues, including the democratic nationalisation of the key economic resources and a break with the capitalist market (like the Syriza government in Greece failed to do), it will leave itself open to be attacked by domestic and international business interests. We would not participate in such a government but would support every positive measure it implemented. We would help build a mass movement to resist right-wing opposition to any reforms that may be initiated, or against u-turns or the breaking of any promises regarding the rights of people and the planet.

If, as the weeks pass, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael make some arrangement so one or both of them control and dominate the next government, we call on Sinn Féin in particular not to limit their opposition to the Dáil chamber. Instead they should use their enhanced position and resources to help initiate a new mass movement of ordinary working people and the young to fight on the issues and to push the establishment and their parties back.

Let us take the lead from the events in France and the movement mushrooming around Bernie Sanders, and from the water charges and repeal movements.

Ordinary people need a mass social and political movement in order to fight for their interests. All the parties who stood for real change and against Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in the last election should co-operate in trying to bring it into existence.

Within such a movement, there should be a debate about what ideas and policies are necessary in Ireland and internationally if capitalist exploitation and capitalist climate change are to be overcome. Solidarity will fully participate in such a struggle and believes that a majority for a left socialist government can be won in Ireland.