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Why doesn’t SF just step back and wait for whatever government is formed, hammer them from the opposition benches and wait for the next General election (which might well be in the Autumn)?
There are 160 seats in the Dáil, the Lower House of the Irish Parliament. Mícheál Martin, leader of the Fianna Fáil party (38 seats), tells Mary Lou McDonald that he won’t go into coalition with her party Sinn Féin (37 seats) and she rages at him. Fine Gael (35 seats) wants to go into coalition with Fianna Fáil – but at a price. Eoin Ó Broin of SF admits the numbers don’t add up for a coalition of the Left (couple of surviving TDs from Left parties and independents led by SF) which was clear before Sinn Féin (and some on the Left) even started talking about it.
The main reason for the weakness of the Left in the Dáil is that the Irish Labour Party, founded by Connolly, Larkin and others, has degenerated to a remarkable degree. Another reason is that as a result of centuries fighting colonialism and concentration on the national question, there has never been a substantial nationwide party or grouping of the Left in Ireland. Also some left-wing TDs (members of the Dáil) actually lost seats in the general election this month.
On Monday I think it was, the Guardian published and I shared what I thought was a brief and fair analysis of the results and of the possible coalition governments and even suggested that SF would be wise to let the established parties flounder in government and beat them in the next election. After all, most commentators seem to agree that if SF had fielded more candidates, they would have got even more seats, an error they can remedy next time.
A LEFT COALITION NEXT TIME?
Of course, that might not be anywhere near 81 seats, the number for an overall clear majority – but a Left coalition majority would be more possible then. Besides, they could form a Left platform to go into the next election, which would give a lot more transfers of votes and possibly get more people elected from the Left too.
But instead, Sinn Féin are chomping at the bit and their eagerness to get into Government right now, even in coalition with neo-liberal capitalist and neo-colonialist parties, is disturbing.
Why do I care? After all, I am not a SF supporter, nor even of any of the Left parties – a revolutionary, in fact, not a reformist. But that doesn’t mean I would not welcome some reforms nor, more to the point, that I don’t see how the people are crying out for them. Like an immediate building program of public housing and an effective overhaul of the health system (both linked to youth training and employment). A defence and development of our natural resources and services. Saving Moore Street from “development” by vultures. Abolition of the no-Jury Special Criminal Courts (which SF seems to be retreating from already before they even got a Government coalition offer).
I could list many more but what’s the point?
If what we get is a coalition government led by Fianna Fáil or even containing Fine Gael – forget it! And if SF is not prepared to play a longer game and the Left is not prepared to put together a platform package, then the longer-term hope of revolution becomes the only viable one for the shorter term.