Left gains in Ireland

Five deputies for the United Left Alliance, while Sinn Féin takes at least 13

February 27, 2011
4 min read

Elections to Ireland’s lower house, the Dáil, have seen a jump in representation for the left, while also rewarding Ireland’s Tories. The vote for Fianna Fáil, Ireland’s traditional party of government, slumped, leaving them with less than half the 77 seats they had before.

Fine Gael, now the largest party, is likely to seek a coalition with Labour, which has beaten its previous highest seat tally and seen a big jump since the last parliament. Yet it has done so largely with the votes of people opposed to austerity, which Fine Gael is committed to continuing, albeit with some cosmetic changes.

Ireland uses proportional representation in multi-seat constituencies of between three and five seats. The Single Tranferable Vote system is somewhat complex, and voting is still continuing in some constituencies, but the overall picture is now clear.

The Greens lost all six of their seats. They were widely criticised on the left for supporting spending cuts in coalition with Fianna Fáil. While they’ve continued to publicly justify their decision to go into the coalition by citing green reforms that would not otherwise have happened, there will surely be serious reflection going on in the party after these sobering results.

Left-republican Sinn Féin more than tripled its share of the vote, with Gerry Adams elected with 22 per cent of first preferences in Louth. In an amusing aside, David Cameron’s office was forced to apologise to Adams after he resigned from his Westminster seat to run in the Irish republic’s election. Technically MPs are not allowed to resign, so the traditional way of allowing them to do so is to give them the office of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead. This is an “office of profit under the crown” which makes them ineligible to sit in the House of Commons. Cameron’s office claimed he had accepted the post, prompting Adams to reply: “I simply resigned. I was not consulted nor was I asked to accept such an office. I am an Irish republican. I have had no truck whatsoever with these antiquated and quite bizarre aspects of the British parliamentary system.”

The United Left Alliance, which was put together hurriedly at the end of last year, is mainly made up of the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party-dominated People before Profit Alliance. However, one of its five elected deputies, Séamus Healy, is the key figure in the Tipperary-based Workers and Unemployed Action Group.

Healy was elected first in the three-seat Tipperary South constituency, as was the Socialist Party’s Joe Higgins in Dublin West. Higgins made a breakthrough in the European elections in 2009 when he beat sitting Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou MacDonald to the third Dublin euro-seat. He has also been a Dáil deputy before, though not in the last parliament, and is a popular figure in Dublin for his role in the campaign against the Bin Tax.

The Socialist Workers Party’s Richard Boyd-Barrett just made it as the last of four deputies from the Dublin constituency of Dun Laoghaire. It was a run off between him and Ivana Bacik for Labour, but once she was eliminated, her votes transfered to him – though not before she had demanded a recount.

Given the nature of their breakthrough, the United Left Alliance must now consider what kind of left reorganisation it wants to pursue. Undoubtedly the ULA will become a more enduring formation, but whether it remains a simple electoral alliance or becomes something more concrete remains to be seen. In theory, its two main constituents (who are allied to parties of the same name in Britain) are fairly close politically. Yet they come from political traditions which tend to regard their own particular brand of trotskyism as sacrosanct.

Since its breakthrough in 2009, the Left Party in Germany has been copied in various places across Europe, but the model the ULA would perhaps be better looking to is the Left Bloc in Portugal, which started as an agreement between two small far-left groups and now has 10 per cent of the MPs in Portugal’s parliament.

Yet while the left has been strengthened electorally, with a Fine Gael/Labour government unlikely to upset the IMF and Europe’s neoliberal establishment (which in any case Fine Gael are part of) it will be popular mobilisation that still counts in the months to come.

James O’Nions


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change

Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself

Secrets and spies of Scotland Yard
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces

How progressive is the ‘progressive alliance’?
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank

The YPJ: Fighting Isis on the frontline
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava

Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'

Confronting Brexit
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond

On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network

Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter

#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement

Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.

Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees

Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace

Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill

Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility

Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports

From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices

How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed

In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design

Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform

Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out

Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris

Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen

Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant


13