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Irish Labour Party blowing it

The agreement of the Irish opposition parties (Fine Gael, Labour, and the Greens who have just left the government) to vote through the Finance Bill before calling a General Election is scandalous. The current government has lost all legitimacy, and passing this austerity bill is an attempt to bind the incoming government, and thus thwart the will of the people.

The Irish political class is more discredited now that at any time in the Republic’s history. The current governing Party, Fianna Fáil, won 41% of the national vote in 2007, yet in this year’s general election they are facing almost wipeout, standing at 13% in the opionion polls in December, in fourth place after Sinn Fein on 16%.

Fianna Fail’s leader, Brian Cowen, is even more unpopular than his party, his popularity stands at just 8%, compared to Labour’s Eamonn Gilmore at 41% and Enda Kenny of Fine Gael at 25%.

Their coalition party, the Greens, are even more damaged in terms of credibility, but seem to have a floor where their poll standing does not drop below 3%. Not only did the Greens stick with the coalition until so late that they could only emerge with ignominy, but they achieved none of their own major objectives from the coalition agreement: failing to secure local government reform, failing to secure restriction of corporate donations to political parties, and failing to secure a climate change bill.

Sinn Fein may be poised to upset the apple cart, as the only major party opposed to the austerity budget. Gerry Adams said following their by-election victory in Donegal South West at the end of last year:

I am confident that there is considerable and growing support for Sinn Fein and that we will continue to build on that. … Sinn Fein believes there is a better and fairer way of tackling the economic crisis and getting back to recovery. This is the message that is being picked up by Sinn Fein representatives in every constituency.”

In there turbulent times, Sinn Fein may pick up further support during the progress of the election campaign. It is also quite possible that a number of candidates for the United Left may be returned to the Dail.

Roisín Shortall earlier made a mess of this interview on behalf of the Irish Labour Party. They were standing at 35% in the polls in the summer, and are now at 25% and still falling, as the reality dawns with the electorate that Labour support austerity. Shortall makes it clear that Labour sees its future in coalition with Fine Gael, and dismisses any prospect of a Labour led coalition involving Sinn Fein and left independents.

Much of the leadership of the Irish Labour Party come from Democratic Left and Workers Party backgrounds that aspired to exactly that, and yet now they prefer to prostrate themselves before Fine Gael in the interests of “stable government”. Indeed Irish Labour Party leader, Eamonn Gilmore, is one of 6 Labour TDs who were former members of Democratic Left.

Muttering about “reservations” about Sinn Fein, and smearing opponents to the left as a ragbag and misfits, Roisín Shortall does a terrible job here. After all, the Irish Labour Party itself merged in 1999 with Democratic Left- a party with a Marxist past and that had emerged as a split from the Workers Party which was not only a self-proclaimed revolutionary party but also had links with the Official IRA. If Labour in 1999 had the vision to merge with the Democratic Left, then it should have the stomach now to envision potential coalition with Sinn Fein.


  1. Tom Miller says:

    Wow. Confused.

    “a ragbag and misfit”

    We are talking about a very small minority of TDs. I don’t see why this is inaccurate, or why, given the political differences between Labour and Sinn Fein, it’s not the sort of rhetoric you would expect them to use.

    Secondly, Labour often poll above Fine Gael.

    Why does this post say nothing about the possibility of a Government led by Labour with FG as the junior partner?

    Or about the possibility of FG leading with Labour controlling all of the finance? As far as I was aware, this was Labour’s ‘red line’ position.

    Last of all, you describe Labour as ‘pro-austerity’, but they opposed bailing out Anglo, and will vote against the budget you say they don’t oppose.

    So I don’t understand how you reach that conclusion.

    This post reads like an SF press release.

    Finally, on SF, supposedly they would take Ireland out of the IMF or something similar. How does that work?

  2. Tom Miller says:

    With reference to the above please note that I think they should go into coalition with SF anyway, if the opportunity presents itself, I just don’t think you’re being very balanced.

  3. Eoin Mac Carthaigh says:

    @Tom miller- to clarify the position of SF; Gerry Adams did not state that Ireland would either come out if the IMF or the EU under SF, what he said is that over the course of 2011-2012 it would be Sinn Fein policy to extract 17.5 billion from the National Pension Fund and a further 13.5 billion from reserves in the Central Bank, this money would be used to run the country and Ireland would return to the markets in mid to late 2012. What this would mean is that SF policy is to discontinue the bank guarantee scheme, which has cost the taxpayer dearly. Labour may have opposed the bank guarantee at the time but their support for FF over the last few days makes them complicit in its becoming law, Pat Rabbitte said it was a bill of FF paternity, if that is so then Labour is its midwife! Secondly, according to Pat Rabbitte Lab have done a u turn on the bank guarantee; when Pearse Doherty set out SF’s position and intention to pull out of the IMF/EU and to discontinue the bank guarantee, Rabbitte berated this as ‘ludicrous’, the implication of this is that Lab now support the bank guarantee scheme as well as the noxious IMF/EU deal, which will see Eire in its final death throes!

  4. Eoin Mac Carthaigh says:

    Excuse me, I never finished my first point about the EU/ IMF, Ireland would not pull out of the IMF/EU as organisations but would unilaterally put an end to the bail-out deal. Similarly the part concerning Pearse Doherty should read IMF/ EU bailout deal!

  5. Dean says:

    “The agreement of the Irish opposition parties (Fine Gael, Labour, and the Greens who have just left the government) to vote through the Finance Bill before calling a General Election is scandalous.”

    Didn’t read beyond that. Labour and FG are voting -against- the Finance Bill.

  6. andy newman says:


    It is possible that the left independents may have up to six TDs on a best guess, i.e the same ability to hold the balance of power that the Greens exercised in putting FF into power. For labour to be so dismissive of people who may hold the balance of power in the Dail is silly, and who might be inclined t support a Labour led left coalition is silly.

    With regard to the issue of whether Labour supports the austerity budget. Labour have cooperated with FF in ensuring that the Finance Act is passed thrugh this pariement before it is disolved, instead of insisting that the Finance Act should be delayed until after the election.

    Labour are also clear that they will comply with the terms of the IMF/EU bailout deal, and will therefre administer the austerity budget. What is morem they are aleady signaling their preferred option is a coalition with Fine Gael.

    On the question of whether Labour could lead a coalition where Fine Gael are the junior partner – this is highly unlikely. I don’t care what the historical votes have been, in this election Fine Gael have a far higher rating in the opinion polls than Labour, and labour’s supprt seems to be still falling.

    With regard to your claim that there are such huge differnces between the SF and Labour traditions, is that really true.

    The intellectually dominant part of the leadership of the Labour Party are former members of Democratic Left, who trade their recent history back through the Workers party to the Official IRA, and who cnsidered themselves revolutinary marxists up until the very recent past,, but have evolved towards more mainstream social democracy.

    SF have now renounced the use of the gun, and are involved in power sharing in the north with the DUP! SF have also evolved towards more mainstream social democracy.

    So really the only substantial difference is that SF organise on a 32 county basis, and Labour on a 26 county basis.

    It is hard t see whay such a coalitin could not work.

  7. andy newman says:


    “Didn’t read beyond that. Labour and FG are voting -against- the Finance Bill.”

    They may be voting against the Finance Act in the division, but that is merely a gesture as they are alowing the Finance Act to be passed before the general election, rather than insisting that the Finance bill must be postponed until after the genral election.

    i.e they are futiley voting against in a context where the Finance Act does not rely upon their votes. the scanda is that they don’t need to do that, they could refuse to participate in the finance bill debate and vote, and force a general election first.

  8. andy newman says:

    Significantly, when FF invited all parties to consensus-building talks on how to implement a deficit-reduction plan based on severe spending cuts over 4 years. Labour paticipated in these talks and was clearly publicly associated with the ‘austerity’ Budgets in the public mind.

    In fact, its own Budget plans a net €5.5bn in cuts, rather than FF’s €6bn (and FG’s €6bn).

    SF’s alternative was to shift the burden of taxation from the poor to the rich and use State assets to fund a €7.5bn stimulus package of government investment.

    SF also said they wouldl not abide by the impositions of the EU and IMF, where Irish taxpayers are saddled with €67.5bn in further debts to bail out Europe’s banks, along wth being robbed directly of €17.5bn in their own assets.

    So Labout have demonstrably failed on two points:

    i) they have not put sufficient distance between themselves and FF’s austerity budget; and

    ii) they have unimaginatively colluded in a “business as usual” approach to parliamentary ettiqutte in allowing FF to put the Finance bill through the Dail BEFORE a general election, despite a Grotesque, unprecendted, bizarre and unbelievable crisis in FF’s authority to act as the government.

    If labour oppose the finance Bill then they needed to insist that it is not heard in the Dail until after the general election, yet both labour and FG have effectively colluded in FF thwarting the intentions of the electorate by allowing a vote on one of the most significant milestiones in the republic’s history by a discredited parliament and a morally and politically bankrupt government.

    Now you can cling to your sophistries that labour’s futile gesture of voting against the bill means that they are opposed to it; but if they were really opposed to it, they woudl be seeking to stop it being passed by this busted flush of a Dail which doesn’t reflect the interests nor the views of the electorate.

  9. andy newman says:

    Tom : “I just don’t think you’re being very balanced.”

    Since when was there a requireemnt in political commentary to be “balanced”

    My own view is that the best option for the centre left in this election is to vote Sinn Fein, and to advocate a Labour Party led coalition of the parties of the left.

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