Tag Archives: General election

The Time is Ripe to Create the Republic

“You never know if the time is ripe until you try. If you succeed the time is ripe, if not, then it was not ripe.” James Connolly, 1915.

That observation is as true today as it was in 1915. But while Connolly was prepared, one year later, to put it to the test, there is no evidence that we are prepared to do so despite finding ourselves in the most propitious moment in the past 94 years to re-establish the progressive, enlightened, Irish Republic, for the benefit of all.

Instead, we blather about the Republic but effectively do nothing to put it in place, we stare misty-eyed at the past but are myopic when looking to the future, we squabble with each other about whose method is best or interpretation more pure, we wring our hands at the degradation of our people as if we are helpless, we stand and observe as the no-mandate parties take power once again, we give out about the same-old-politics and then give in.

We have to stop doing that. The republic is there for the making, but only if we have the courage of our convictions, only if we imagine the republic as it must be today – a 21st century republic, only if we believe in it, only if we are prepared to work for it, only if we develop a strategy to win it, only if we forge the alliances with other believers that are necessary to make it a reality, and only if we explain to the people how that republic would enhance their lives in very real ways.

The cards we have been dealt favour such a project. But have we the courage and the commitment to play that winning hand?

Thanks to the centenary of the 1916 Revolution, and despite the best efforts of the political class to play that down, the people are more engaged with the notion of a republic than at any time since the 50th anniversary in 1966. The Proclamation took centre stage. In every part of the state, national school students went home one day and engaged their parents and grandparents with questions and observations about the Proclamation. In other words, the republic was smuggled into homes by children, and families talked around the table about it, and what it could mean.

In stark contrast to the ideals of the Proclamation, and the sacrifices a previous generation were prepared to make to establish the republic, the people have been presented with all of the signs of an utterly failed state in which crisis follows crisis and scandal follows scandal, in which incompetence is rewarded and jobbery and corruption excused, in which obfuscation and the cover-up are the norm, in which private interests trump the public good, in which (Catholic) church and state are still inseparable, in which grotesque inequality is evident at every turn, and in which the norms of a true democracy are routinely thrashed.

But this is a republic, they tell us. Yes, in the same way as a dodgy car salesman turns a clapped-out Nissan Micra into a Mercedes by sticking a Mercedes badge on it. This is not a republic.

All over this country good people, decent people, caring people, work alone or in groups on issues of real public concern. They labour under the illusion that engagement with the regime can bring about meaningful change. They assemble in protest outside parliament, imagining that some notice will be taken – but are viewed from behind the windows of Leinster House as just noisy gnats. Some make it into Leinster House and emerge satisfied that some politician or other has leaned towards them to say “I’ll do what I can for you’ – with all of the sincerity of a snake-oil salesman. The system is not designed to resolve issues of pressing concern to citizens who are not part of the political class. We know this to be true.

In a properly constituted progressive republic things will be very different. The republic is owned by the people and not by any ideological sect. The republic is founded on immutable principles of Liberty, Equality and Solidarity. Think about each of those words in their wider meaning, the private as well as the public – the personal as well as the national, and it becomes obvious that the republic cannot exist if it doesn’t strive at all times, under the direction of the people through genuine democratic engagement, to vindicate those principles.

Women must be well aware that under the current regime – the latest manifestation of a continuous conservative regime stretching back to the foundation of the state – there is no possibility of achieving real equality with men or true personal autonomy in mind, spirit and body. In a republic, drawing on the promise of the Proclamation and based on those three republican foundational principles, women’s equality with men and their personal autonomy, their liberty, will be a given – otherwise the republic cannot exist.

The same is true of those sections of society that suffer economic disadvantage and impoverishment, including deprivation in housing, health, nutrition, education, employment and opportunity. Their status will remain the same under the current regime, driven as it is by corporatism – rampant capitalism – a false ideology that demands that a precious resource is thrown on the scrap-heap as if that makes any economic sense, to say nothing of the ethical/moral dimension of such oppression. The republic will work assiduously to correct that gross imbalance and injustice, otherwise the republic cannot exist.

The same applies across a whole range of social, economic, justice and human rights issues. The current regime working as always in the interest of a powerful minority will not resolve, for instance, the issue of Travellers’ rights, or of the rights of those in Direct Provision, or the rights of those suffering mental ill-health, or of those forced into emigration, or a host of other big and small issues, which in a republic will have to be resolved – otherwise the republic based on those three principles cannot exist.

The same applies in the area of foreign policy, international relations and our place in the world. While the majority of our people express support for neutrality and non-engagement in wars, the state is busy dismantling a too-vague expression of neutrality and moving towards NATO involvement while simultaneously facilitating US wars in the Middle-East. An ethical republic would present itself internationally as peace keepers and facilitators of conflict resolution. It would also present itself as committed to resolving international issues around the environment, sustainability, resources, justice and freedom from oppression.

If we want to correct the failures of this state then the progressive enlightened republic, with a constitution fit for a republic and supported by the people, is the only viable option. The Proclamation and its further development in the Democratic Programme passed by the Dáil in January 1919 provide us with an initial template to follow. A modern constitution worth examining is the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The preparation of an initial draft constitution of the Irish Republic is well within the scope of civil society groups and individuals to achieve in the coming year.

Can we win democratic support for the creation of the progressive republic? I firmly believe we can, if that is what we want to – and intend to – achieve.

The recent general election showed that politics is in a state of flux, that the people have thrown off the habits of the past in sufficient numbers to fracture the hegemony enjoyed since 1922 by the two conservative-capitalist parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, supported when necessary by the Labour Party. Support for those two parties is now below 50%, while there is now a solid core of left/republican parties, groups and individuals in parliament.

The Right2Change initiative was an important element in provoking that shift among sections of the electorate, and will be in the run-up to the next election. Its one failing – and this is not a criticism – was in not being able, not least because of time-constraints but also because of disunity among its community pillar, to find and support a community R2C candidate in every constituency. That strategy of having a non-party citizen-candidate is important in the context of an antipathy among sections of society to Sinn Féin and other parties of the Left, exacerbated and exploited by a hostile media on behalf of the political class of which senior media operatives are an important part and are beneficiaries in maintaining the status quo.

We will have an election in the near future. It may be in six months, or eighteen months, or at a stretch two years. If we get to work now we can be in a position to fight for a seat in every constituency for a non-party candidate who is committed to the idea of creating that progressive enlightened republic. Ten extra seats for the progressive republic would tip the balance in its favour. To achieve that we will need a body of Citizens for the Republic as soon as possible in every constituency, explaining the basis of the republic and the benefits for the great mass of people of its reinstatement, encouraging people to talk around the table about the republic with family and friends and to engage with others to spread the good message about the republic and the great boon it would bring to our lives.

All elements of civil society – NGOs, organisations, voluntary groups and individuals – have a key part to play in spreading that message. The republic is the only place that we get to realise our ambitions, that we resolve issues, that we create a true democracy – the republic owned by the people. We are capable of realising James Connolly’s ambition for the republic, that it would act as a beacon of hope for oppressed people around the world.

First imagine the republic, understand it, believe in it, then go to work for it. Tap into the goodwill that exists for it thanks to this centenary year. Mine the myriad failures of the state to correct serious problems affecting so many in society across a range of issues and so often involving personal catastrophes. Forge the republic!

I began with Connolly’s quote. Let me end with a quote from a very different individual, W B Yeats – but in essence the same message!

“Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.”

 

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Clarity, Trust and Cooperation required for Left victory

It would have been helpful if today’s explanation by the Socialist Party of its position on supporting a Left government had been issued much earlier, and in this detail.

Writing in the Irish Times today, Socialist Party TDs Paul Murphy and Ruth Coppinger say – “The Anti-Austerity Alliance wants to be part of a left government that can mark a fundamental and radical shift away from a society dominated by the profits of the 1 per cent to one where the needs of the 99 per cent and the environment come first. Such a left government will have to exclude Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour as they would clearly act in a coalition to block any significant change taking place.”

They go on to say – “If it is possible after the next general election to form a government without the traditional establishment parties, the Anti-Austerity Alliance will discuss with others to see if a left programme for government can be agreed.”

Further, regarding Sinn Féin, they say – “Unfortunately, we have major doubts as to whether Sinn Féin would agree to such a programme. As one of the architects of the “Fresh Start” agreement in the North, it has demonstrated that it is willing to implement austerity, agreeing to welfare cuts and 20,000 job losses, while also cutting corporation tax. In the North, they are based on one community and the party’s actions deepen sectarian division.”

And this – “In the case that no left programme for government can be agreed, but a government could be formed without the establishment parties, our TDs will vote in the Dáil to allow the formation of that alternative government.”

It should go without saying that any group within the broad Left can have reservations about any other group. However, to stand aside from the first real opportunity to be part of bringing down a 92-year corporatist-fascist regime, in any combination of the three parties of permanent misgovernment – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour, on the basis of a mistrust of another Left party or group, represents for me a failure of imagination, a failure of ambition, and a failure to grasp the dynamic of a broad Left campaign and the dynamic that would become apparent should that campaign be successful to the point of entering into government.

Sinn Féin has committed to the Right2Change policy principles, repeatedly. Prominent spokespersons for that party have constantly said that Sinn Féin’s preference is to be able to form a progressive government with other Left parties and groups and independents. The best way to avoid any other scenario is to work hard, together, to make possible the election of enough Left TDs to form such a government. If that is achieved, Sinn Féin will be as tied to the rest of the Left as they will be to Sinn Féin, and the formation of a government and the prioritising of policies will of necessity be a joint decision.

It is very unlikely that anyone on the Left would want to collapse such an arrangement if it showed itself to be a genuine advance towards a far better society and state. That includes Sinn Féin.

Murphy and Coppinger worry that “Its recent talk about coalition with Fianna Fáil and Labour will cause concern among those who look to Sinn Féin to bring about change. If Sinn Féin truly wanted to see an end of the rule of the establishment parties in this country, it would rule out coalition with them and instead declare for an anti-austerity government based on non-establishment forces.”

As I see it, Sinn Féin is engaged with trying to win over loose Fianna Fáil votes to bridge a vote-transfer gap that has been a problem in the past, and my view is that that, and an effort to show how useless Fianna Fáil with its stand-alone stance would be to potential FF voters, is the reason for letting the notion hang out there that maybe, if, possibly, Sinn Féin would coalesce with Fianna Fáil so long as Sinn Féin was the senior party.

Sinn Féin strategists are renowned for knowing their power-base, and planning for the medium term and long term. They will be very well aware that many Sinn Féin supporters from outside the party would walk away from the party at any sign of an alliance with Fianna Fáil, and that that break would in many cases be permanent.

The best way for the broad Left to make certain that any alliance with Fianna Fáil doesn’t happen (Fine Gael being several bridges too far and Labour being probably of no consequence post-election) is to create the far better option by winning enough Left seats, thereby creating the ideal scenario for Sinn Féin – a decisive break with the past 93 years of counter-revolutionary government and a fresh start for the people of this country, and to do that in the centenary year of the 1916 Revolution. It is only within a progressive government that Sinn Féin can achieve that.

Using Sinn Féin’s position in the Six Counties as a marker of its stance in the Twenty Six, is specious. The comparison doesn’t stand up given the carefully fostered, deeply sectarian history of the past 200 years and the control that London exerts over all aspects of life in the Six Counties. To pretend that the Stormont Assembly and Executive represents government in the real sense of democratic control is wrong and disingenuous. The forces that operate on Sinn Féin, or the DUP from its side, some internal to the Six Counties and some from London and to a lesser extent Dublin, and that render compromise compulsory and not voluntary, are not replicated south of the border. Here, our democratic deficit and our social and economic problems are of a different nature.

Opposition to Sinn Féin comes from a very diverse set of actors – Loyalists, Unionists, anti-Sinn Féin republicans, British Tories, the southern political class and counter-revolutionary parties and the mainstream media across Britain and Ireland – north and south.

That opposition or suspicion may be based on valid or imagined reasons – imagined reasons can be just as potent as real reasons in fueling opposition. Some of it is ideological, or party-political, or about control, or protecting a political patch, or about differences in strategy around the Peace Process and the ending of armed confrontation, or about the armed confrontation that lasted for three decades and/or about the social or personal fall-out from that, or about that most potent force – identity.

And then there is that body of citizens south of the border alienated, perhaps forever, from Sinn Féin, for a variety of reasons. These include Fine Gael and Renua supporters, and some Labour supporters.

Add to that the suspicions of the Socialist Party, the Workers Party and various independent socialists and republicans.

But here is one indisputable fact – without the presence of Sinn Féin as part of a progressive movement we are consigned to suffer yet another corporatist-fascist regime, and the ones who will suffer that most are the ones who simply cannot afford having to endure any further punishment.

It is for that reason that many on the Left have put aside their differences with others so as to advance the prospects of real political change and progress in the Twenty Six counties.

This latest statement from the Socialist Party, expanding on previous ones, and offering more clarity and some modification in stance, is welcome. It would be good if Sinn Féin responded to allay fears, and even better if direct discussions took place between the two parties to clear the air. Unnecessary misunderstandings weaken the Left and strengthen the Right.

It would be advantageous to the Left campaign if the Socialist Party could go further and play its full part in a concerted effort to end the tyranny of the Right and to put in place a government that would rule for the benefit of the masses and not for the beneficiaries of our never-ending kleptocracy, the political class.

Imagine the progressive republic. Imagine the boon that would be to a majority of the people of this failed state. We have one golden opportunity to put it in place.

Go the extra mile.


Borrowing From History To Win General Election

In Irish War News, published from the GPO on 25th April 1916 one day after the start of the revolution and the issuing of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, Patrick Pearse wrote:

“We have lived to see an Irish Republic proclaimed. May we live to establish it firmly, and may our children and our children’s children enjoy the happiness and prosperity freedom will bring”.

The Proclamation, which most of our people respect and take ownership of, is the template for the progressive republic that would bring happiness and prosperity to the people.

If the left correctly portrays a progressive policy platform for the upcoming election as the natural development of the fundamental ideas in the Proclamation, particularly paragraph four, those progressive policies will be more easily and widely accepted throughout the country, even in traditionally conservative areas.

The reactionary parties on the other side cannot credibly borrow from 1916 and the Proclamation of the Irish Republic to bolster their case. The record of their resolute opposition to establishing a true republic over the past 93 years of shared power makes that unbelievable, and their failures masked by their empty rhetoric would have to be high-lighted by the left.

The left also has to reach beyond the language of theoretical socialism to garner sufficient democratic support to defeat neoliberalism and its local proponents of cynical austerity, and to create the conditions for true happiness and sustainable prosperity for all.

That lesson can be learned from the Corbyn campaign across the water. Communicate directly and in straight-forward language. Present the ideas in terms of practical beneficial consequence to the greater number of people of all classes other than the greedy class. Play in a sincere way to the essential decency and fairness and generosity of spirit and intelligence of the great majority of people.

And empower the people. The left must commit to the idea that the progressive republic is owned by the people and must spread that message, and that ownership of the republic will be vested in the people through a constitution which they will have final approval of and the capacity to refine over time as they see fit.

At this moment of ever-increasing engagement by the people with the principles behind the 1916 revolution, it would be foolish in the extreme to spurn the opportunity that brings to the left for potential success and real change in the interest of the common good.

Any election is based on a war of words and ideas. And every election involves the use of propaganda – communication that seeks to influence opinions and attitudes – by all sides.

The forces of reaction – Fine Gael and Labour, and Fianna Fáil – will have the propaganda services of mainstream media at their disposal. The left must resort to alternatives, particularly social media and public rallies and meetings, to counteract that. Again, the Corbyn campaign shows us how effective that can be.

The upcoming battle between progressives of all stripes and the forces of reaction will be hard-fought but winnable, and every intellectual and propaganda weapon on the progressive side must be brought to play. In that, the emotional attachment that so many have to the Proclamation and its progressive vision is, as the centenary looms, a very strong card to play, more than a match for the Joker the other side will try to pull from their sleeve.

The prize is worth fighting for. The revolutionaries knew that, and so must we.

The Irish Republic. The people’s progressive republic.


Broad Left Policy Platform Essential – Now

We will have a General Election in the next few months, no later than April 2016 but very possibly before the end of this year. With signs of a dramatic shift in public attitudes that election represents the first opportunity since quasi-independence in 1922 to fundamentally change the politics and the ideological basis of government in this state, and to create a better society for all.

Instead of capitalising on that opportunity we are still, at this late stage, witnessing a war of words between socialists and republicans and within both socialist groups and republican groups.

For some in either camp it seems far more important to hurl abuse or to issue weasel words against prospective allies than to work assiduously on a set of ideas to present in common to the people in the hope that they will take the opportunity as rational autonomous citizens to radically transform the sort of society we live in for the better.

What ideas are there that should be capable of finding broad agreement on the political left among socialist groups and republican groups, and between socialists and republicans? As a socialist-republican straddling those categorisations, here are 15 policy areas that I think should be relatively noncontentious.

1 Adequate, affordable, secure housing as a right, where necessary through public provision.

2 A single-tier publicly funded, secular and excellent education system with no provision from the exchequer for private fee-paying schools with exclusive enrollment policies. Religious instruction outside school-hours. Ending the university-controlled points system for third-level entry. Free third-level or vocational education/training subject to contractual obligation to work within the state for any three of first five years post-graduation with debt-related penalties for non-compliance.

3 The right of all children to adequate housing, nourishment and provision of health and care according to need, guaranteed by the state.

4 The right of workers to employment, or to further education or training as required, including those who wish re-enter the labour ‘market’.

5 A living wage, the ending of oppressive zero-hour contracts, workers’ right-to-organise and right-to-negotiate guaranteed by the state.

6 Full equality for women including pay-rates, personal autonomy and dignity including reproductive rights. Repeal of the Eighth Amendment. Provision of supports for mothers and carers commensurate with their contribution to society for that work.

7 State ownership of essential services, natural resources & physical infrastructure. Constitutional provision for public ownership of water and protection of Mother Earth.

8 Empowerment of communities, starting with disadvantaged communities – rural and urban. State support for community initiatives to achieve personal and community empowerment.

9 Strong laws against public and private corruption with strict sanctions. Ending political appointments to judiciary. Curbing legal costs for citizens. Equal access to civil courts regardless of means. Refocusing criminal justice system and penal system. Taking politics out of policing in favour of civic obligations.

10 Realigning taxation system to shift burden towards wealthiest. Ending tax-exile status, tax loopholes and tax-havens. Enforcing Corporation Tax.

11 Properly codifying the state’s position on neutrality, opposition to war, concentration on international and intra-national conflict-resolution and peace-keeping. Adherence to international codes on prevention of torture, refugees, humanitarian obligations, etc.

12 Proper commitment to reunify the people of the island through concerted, direct, rational dialogue with the objective of creating a fully representative all-Ireland parliament based on equality, respect and civil and religious freedoms.

13 Greater local and regional democratic control as appropriate. Making government fully accountable to parliament and the people. Creation of a democratically elected upper house to speed legislation and as a counter to excessive power of parliament. Installing a publicly accessible online register of lobbyists and a publicly accessible tendering system for state acquisitions, both updated daily.

14 Regulation of media in terms of ownership and the public’s right to essential information, fairly and accurately delivered. Active fostering of ideological diversity in media in the public interest. Insistence on journalistic ethics in the public interest. Higher values of Public Service Broadcasting a requirement for state media.

15 A commitment to expedite a widespread public consultation process towards creating a new constitution for a genuine republic.

Written-up in a little over an hour, this list could be contracted to be a 10-point or 12-point plan, or expanded to include further ideas. Of course, it may be that socialists would take issue with some elements of the list, and republicans with others, although it is hard for me to see where that would apply. But that is what sober discussions should be able to tease out.

The upcoming election should not be about disputation between potential allies but about disputation between conflicting ideologies – on the one hand the over-arching ideology of the state’s ruling parties since 1922 and on the other an ideological alternative that is being demanded by upwards of 50% of prospective voters in the next General Election.

Meanwhile, on the ground, grassroots political activists and mobilised communities are developing their own ideas. Leftist parties of all stripes would do well to understand the price they will pay if they fail to reach agreement to provide an alternative to the hegemonic tyranny of the right by providing a different road-map that would make a better-functioning society possible.

As paragraph four of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic points out, the republic is not just about the prosperity of the people, but about their happiness too.

And who, other than the wealthy, is happy with the state we live in – the political state, and the psychological state?

Stop sniping, stop hurling insults, sit down and discuss. And show us the list. We want to be able to vote for something worthwhile.

Like the prospect of a decent future.


Create Alternative or Continue to Fail – Time for Dialogue

Although there are good reasons for optimism arising out of the protests that centre on water metering and billing at the moment – particularly the politicisation of so many who had been silent, the problem is getting past the widespread and mistaken belief on the part of most citizens that our only demonstrable power resides in our interaction with the ballot-box every four or five years.

Because of that, pressure must be maintained on those parties that are not FF, FG and Labour, and on independents – whether lone voices or representing groups, to atempt to overturn permanent misgovernment by any combination of those three parties and replacing that bad option with the option of a progressive alternative combination.

Let us admit from the off that the progressive alternative that we can construct in the short-term will not be perfect, but let us understand that we are capable of refining that initial model. ‘We’ does not indicate a top-down leadership but a bottom-up movement of politicised and increasingly better-informed autonomous citizens.

The most important result of the presentation to the people of an alternative is not necessarily electoral success this time but rather the process of breaking old bad habits of opting for the ‘safe’ haven of ‘the divil you know’. We have had 93 years to learn the hard lessons of that repeated foolishness, and we didn’t.

But the next time out at the polling stations in the General Election offers the opportunity to allow enough people to imagine, many for the first time, that there may be another better option. And if it worked (and it’s a long shot) and there was a government including SF, SP, SWP, other leftist parties and independents, but which didn’t ultimately measure up to our expectations, then we are not married to them either – a politically better informed and more adventurous electorate would be better positioned to move the pieces around the chessboard and less likely to accept failure.

There are real signs of a hunger for change and a willingness to leap into the unknown on the part of 40%-50% of likely voters. There are real signs of a growing active citizenry determined to have their say, to speak directly to existing power structures, and to make their demands for a place at the negotiating table.

Writing Sinn Féin out of that alternative equation, failing to pressure that party into moving further left, is to effectively run up the white flag and to consign the citizens to another five years of counter-revolutionary tyranny. There is currently no alternative that works without the numbers that Sinn Féin will provide which may well be closer to 30% than 20% by election-time. There are valid criticisms that can be made of that party, just as there are valid criticisms that can be made of the SP, SWP and other left groupings. Those criticisms should not trigger ostracisation but should trigger honest dialogue aimed at genuinely serving the citizens by creating a viable alternative.

There are those who will have to hold their nose so as to get over the potential mix of an alternative, some part of which they don’t like or don’t fully trust or about which they have misgivings. We all have to do that to a greater or lesser extent. The important thing is that we hold our nerve, dispel the idea that there can be a ‘pure’ revolution, and try to achieve an electoral payoff that lays the foundation for future transformational change if we don’t succeed this time – or even if we do. Light a fire in the imagination of citizens, and fan the flames. And then don’t be surprised if they start exercising some real control. Welcome it.

Meanwhile, and in parallel, all on the left should engage with the process of creating a new constitution for the sort of society (I call it the Irish Republic, but that’s my bias) that we think would work far better for all citizens, and for those who live among us, than the existing failed entity. Venezuelans and others have been able to do that, but for some strange reason we either believe it to be unimportant or that we are incapable of pulling it together. Without doing that work all we have to offer the people as we seek their support are broad principles, often fuzzy, rather than a clear outline of what the state that the citizens must own has to offer politically, socially and economically under that new constitutional regime over which the citizens must exercise ultimate authority.

Leaving the gate open for more of the same dreadful failure that we have consistently endured since 1922 is simply not an option for any genuine socialist or republican whose concern must be implementing immediate change to significantly alleviate the severe plight of many of our people, and whose goal must be the creation of a far better country in which to live, and not just exist.


Irish Water: washing away the mandate fiction

I need to amend the prediction that I have been making since 2011 – that the next General Election would not take place in 2016 (politically dangerous, given the centenary) but in autumn 2015.

Who would I do that?

Because this government has all the signs of one that could implode at any time. It may limp on but it is in terminal decline, just as the Cowan coalition was in 2010.

Not just fractious backbenchers, but fractious coalition ‘partners’. Labour is the new Greens – facing disaster at the polls and with nothing to suggest that the situation can be retrieved. Searchers may comb the shipwreck, but the most they will find is a handful of survivors clinging to life in pockets of foul air.

Fine Gael backbenchers and local authority office holders are talking openly of leaving the party. Fine Gael cabinet ministers, just as previous ministers in the Fianna Fáil-Green coalition like Noel Dempsey and Dermot Ahern did, are issuing holding statements that bear no connection with the reality of the situation. Labour ministers are operating as if they were deciding policy around water charges, without reference to the senior coalition partner.

This is a shipwreck, for sure. The hole below the waterline is too big to be patched. The rusting hulk will not make it to dry-dock. Even if it did, the shipyard workers are in open revolt.

The sensible thing to do three weeks ago would have been to announce that the Irish Water scam would be mothballed for six months while a new plan was drawn up to be presented to the people. That would have bought time, and might have defused the situation. But arrogance is a blindfold.

This government talks of mandates to implement policies arising from the 2011 election. These are largely a fiction. Fine Gael secured 36.1% of the vote, Labour 19.4%, giving a majority of 55% and a larger majority numerically in terms of parliamentary seats, given the vagaries of the PR-multi-seat system.

That’s a mandate, isn’t it?

Not on water charges, it isn’t. Fine Gael’s policy since 2009 was for the corporatisation (and ultimate privatisation as an ideological consequence) of water, predating any appearance on the scene by the EU-ECB-IMF Troika and their austerity programme. Labour’s pre-election position was the opposite. Both parties offered these commitments in their manifestos. The Fine Gael position secured 36.1% support. That is not a mandate to create Irish Water. Combining it with Labour’s 19.4% for the opposite course of action does not, by any stretch of the imagination, make it a mandate from the people to implement a policy of such far-reaching importance.

Any tinkering around with  water charges, or with Social Welfare vouchers, or with tax credits – which we will pay for anyway through other taxes, will not work. It is too late now. This government is hated. There is open revolt on the streets throughout the country. The most recent opinion poll gives a combined support for Fine Gael-Labour of just 29%. In other words, 71% of the electorate will not, on that indication, support these parties next time out. That is rejection of this government by the people. Add in Fianna Fáil, the third of the parties of permanent government since 1922, and the poll figure is still less than 50%.

My advice to the alternative parties and independents, for what it is worth, is to burn the midnight oil now. Put policies in place now. Talk to one another now to see if a common platform can be created – those policies on which there is broad agreement to implement in the interest of the people who have suffered most, that can point a better way to deal with noxious debt, that can shift the burden of taxes onto the rich, that will put public services including housing, health and education onto a sound and equitable footing, that will protect public utilities within the framework of public ownership and without the possibility of privatisation, and so on.

In other words, a different, enlightened, progressive vision of this country to the corrupt, brutal, counter-revolutionary three-party hegemony that we have endured since quasi-independence.

If those parties and independents of a potential alternative government really do care about the people, and see the State as the servant and the administrative implement of the people, then they will be able to put a programme of essential policies together. If they can’t do that then we will know that, once again, party or personal ego is more important than the needs and demands of the people.

Let us have, for the first time in 92 years, an opportunity to vote for a viable government that is not some combination of the same old corrupt counter-revolutionary parties – Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil and Labour.

In the meantime, on the street, let’s keep up the relentless pressure on this rotten, incompetent, dictatorial government and its hangers-on.

The people are winning. Consolidate the last victory and move towards the next. Gather together the voices of dissent. There’s a change coming.

Be unified, be determined.

Bí ullamh! Be ready.


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