Irish Politics

Philip Ferguson plf13 at
Tue Feb 13 15:48:59 MST 2001

>They (Phoenix)  had a fairly caustic piece on the would be Irish Socialist
>recently. They portrayed it as being nothing more than an SWP attempt to
>hang on to the Socialist Party's coat tails - which was funny but not very

Paddy Prendiville was in British IS in the early 1970s, btw.

>Pat McCartan

I just heard that he is a judge these days.  So he probably doesn't miss
his TD's salary.

>> A while back I looked at the local body elections.  I was actually
>> surprised SF had done so well.  Places there was hardly any organisation
>> when I was a member now have SF local and county councillors.  If you
>> at their showing in Monaghan and Cavan, I would think they have a
>> reasonable chance of picking up a second seat there.
>It's not beyond the realms of possibility, and to get four or five seats
>they'll have to win a second there. The problem is that none of the other
>TDs look all that vulnerable and O'Caolain has frankly been useless.

I can imagine that of Caoimhin.  He's probably quite good as a local
councillor, arguing for improved roads in Monaghan but he certainly wasn't
the sharpest knife among their southern candidates for Leinster House.

>No chance. They'll put in a respectable showing in Sligo-Leitrim, but if
>they take any of those seats I'll eat my shoes.

Hey, I might hold you to it!

>[snip SF have a popular leadership]
>That one is a double edged sword. Adams and McGuinness raise their profile,
>but also cost them votes. You will note that the North is not used as a
>major selling point by SF in urban constituencies in the South.

But haven't things changed quite a bit?  Now that the war has been packed
away, Adams can actually appear as some kind of Nelson Mandela figure
(which, indeed, he is).  The southern masses have always been quite
anti-British imperialism, and SF is the party with the street cred on the
issue.  With the war over and the anti-republican censorship in the South
lifted, I would think that the northern leaders are a huge asset to SF in
the South.  In fact, I think Adams could win a seat in Leinster House.

I noticed recently, that there was a poll among teenagers or high school
students and SF ranked the second most popular party (behind FF).  I think
there is quite a big potential for them to win seats.

Of course, they would then be faced with forming a coalition with FF.
Hopefully, this would be the last straw for whatever remains of a left
within SF/IRA.

>Tony Gregory is still there. He is an extremely hard working constituency
>TD and he has no interest in broader matters whatsoever at this stage.
>None. I don't think that he would even mention the "s" word or that "r"
>word in public.

I never really worked him out.  For someone who came out of the socialist
republican tradition to be happpy ensconced in Dublin-Central and
uninterested in anything outside of it always seemed strange.  He did agree
to be a sponsor for the anti-extradition campaign, and allowed his name to
be associated with various other progressive causes, but basically he
turned into a gas and water local politician.

>Nicky Kelly is a funny one. He was never a TD, by the way.
>He is a councillor and is no longer associated with the IRSP. He also seems
>to have dropped any anti-establishment views and - wait for this - was
>talking about joining Fine Gael last I heard. He has an outside chance of a
>seat in the next election.

Yes, I heard that from someone else just this morning.  Ironic that FG is
headed by Noonan, who was justice minister when Kelly was fitted up, and
bashed up, by the state 'Heavy gang' in the 70s.  How the wheel turns.  But
Nicky always struck me (I only knew him slightly in the late 80s/early 90s)
as a man with an eye for getting on for himself.

>> >Similarly, the Socialist Party's Joe
>> >Higgins took a Dublin West seat from them and is safe in it. Clare Daly
>> >the Socialist Party is in with a good shot of taking another seat off
>> >in Dublin North.
>> >
>> >The outlook is less than bright for Labour on their left flank. The
>> >question is if they can take seats from the other right wing parties to
>> >compensate.
>> The fact that a whole series of left-wing candidates from very small
>> parties or no parties have managed to win seats in the last few elections
>> makes the South quite interesting politically.
>Well - two. I can't see anyone beyond Higgins and Healy.

What happened to independent leftie Declan Bree in Sligo?

Ooops, just remembered, he joined Labour did he not?

>>  If these left forces (whch
>> have the TDs but not  many troops on the ground) and SF (which has the
>> troops on the ground but only one TD) came to some electoral agreement,
>> LP in the south could face a really major challenge.
>Absolutely no chance. Sinn Fein's strategy is to get into coalition with
>Fianna Fail as quickly as they can manage it. They have no interest in
>associating with the left, when there are ministerial cars to the right.

I don't think SFers are actually interested in ministerial cars.  Well, the
people they have recruited since the end of the war might be - I can well
imagine a chunk of middle class aspirants joining since the end of the war
- but the veteran elements aren't.

It's not really the trappings of office which are pulling SF to the right.

The problem was always that revolutioary nationalism was an unstable form
of politics.  It was a good starting point, but unless revoluionary
nationalists progressed to revoolutionary socialism, they were going to go
backwards to bourgeois nationalism.

The critical period in SF/IRA was the late 80s/early 90s, when the Hartley
'pan-nationalist alliance' position won out over the left-wing of
republicanism.  After that, they were on a trajectory into bourgeois
nationalism.  Since bourgeois nationalism in Ireland has usually been to
the left of Labour, including on economic policy, that opens up certain
electoral possibilities.  Also, they need to show their hardcore, that
ending the armed struggle has led to some advance somewhere else - namely,

So, their politics *are awful* these days - but it is not for the same
reason as the Labour bureaucrats.

>The smaller groups you seem to be referring to are the Socialist Party and
>the STWUAG. The Workers and Unemployed Action Group are unpredictable, but
>I'd be surprised if they want any part of Sinn Fein. As for the Socialist
>Party - well our relationship with SF is less than friendly. From
>McGuinness shafting the term time workers in the North, to their Dublin
>Councillors recent antics in helping through a service tax on working class
>families, SF are not a left wing party.

In the early 1990s, SF started to describe itself as a 'republican labour'
party.  I note that they still use this term and would certainly see
themselves as on the left.

To the best of my knowledge they strongly opposed the bin charges in
Dublin.  They sold out the national liberation struggle, but they don't
really need to sell out bin charges so the attacks on them over that issue
sound unconvincing to me (I've seen attacks on them by anarchists over the
bin charges issue).

But, tell me abut McGuiness and the term time workers in the north.

>Nor do they have all that many troops on the ground, at least in Dublin.
>What they have is money. Bags of it. Donated by American businessmen. They
>have so much money in fact, that there was an idea floated recently by some
>of the establishment parties (whose local business donors don't have the
>same financial muscle) of banning donations from outside the state.

Well, that's a hoot.

When I was in SF, we had no money.  Sometimes there was so little money
that full-timers couldn't be paid.  I once survived for about a month
mainly on milk mixed with water, and cream biscuits which cost 19p, because
there was no money to pay full-timers.

The Dublin branches' main source of fund-raising was collections.  I was
finance officer for some time for the Frank Stagg cumann (in the Liberties)
and we used to go around at night at the weekend in local pubs shaking
collection tins under people's noses, and dodging the cops, the Special
Branch and the traffic cops.

The American money is no doubt a major source of conservatising of SF.

More information about the Marxism mailing list