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The Irish elections:Joe Higgins

The major tragedy of the Irish elections is that Joe Higgins, who has been a member of the Dail for 10 years, lost his seat. Not by much, it's true, but that doesn't change the consequences.

Higgins is a member of the Irish Socialist Party and was its sole Teachta Dála (TD). The SP is an member of the CWI, the toy international associated with the English Socialist Party. In the Irish election, the SP first preference vote overall dropped some 20%.

But Higgins, was from anything I've read from afar, a pretty good example of a socialist in parliament. Since he was almost unique in the English (& Gaelic) speaking world (outside of Scotland)in that regard, I think his electoral loss needs to be noted. Higgins success was a sort of benchmark that enriched the electoral work of the CWI elsewhere and here in Australia they can boast an elected representative, Steve Jolly, on inner Melbourne Yarra city council.

They have had similar initial & tentative success at the local level in England and the Scottish Socialist Party --which had been so successful electorally grew out of a split in the CWI in Scotland.

But this loss is sure to have some fallout, coming as it does with a collapsethe fall in Sinn Féin's vote. representation. I guess my nationalist preferences show as I had been covering the whole disaster of the Good Friday Agreement for Green Left Weekly.[What is being written about Sinn Féin today from the left is a bit late as the massive rout was parleyed back in 1998.]

Closer to Dublin, Splintered Sunrise has this to say about the consequences for the SP:
A bad result too for the Socialist Party, with Joe Higgins’ reputation as one of the best performers in the Dáil not saving him, and Clare Daly again failing to make the cut. It’s interesting that Joe’s result in Dublin West is very similar to Seán Crowe’s in Dublin South-West, and their electoral base is sociologically very similar. There is obviously something going on in those suburbs, probably a mix of boundary changes and demographic changes, something of the general political conditions, and possibly the SP being stretched by trying to run two big campaigns simultaneously.

If there is a silver lining – and I’m not rejoicing in Joe’s defeat by any means, he was a very effective Dáil performer and no doubt Clare would have been too – it is that it may provoke some fruitful discussion in the SP, which is likely to face some kind of mini-crisis after its perspective has run aground. The more boorish sectarian elements in the SP, the yobboes, braggarts and spoofers, will have got a knock – now it’s up to the more thoughtful elements to see what they can do. In any case the SP’s go-it-alone culture will come under some pressure.

Much as I respect the work of the SP in Ireland -- despite what I think is its atrocious line on Irish nationalism(and you'd be right to wonder if that still exists in Ireland after the Good Friday Agreement) --Sunrise makes a telling point, and moves that are afoot to coalesce the left in the 26 counties may now have a better chance to bear fruit.


From Irish SP statement on election results:
With no real alternative people go for the 'lesser evil'
The election confirmed the view of the Socialist Party that we are at the early stages of the re-organisation and recovery of the working class from the historic sell-out by Labour Party in the 1990s and the acquiescence in general of the trade union leadership to the capitalist market through Social Partnership. The argument put forward that the election came at a key time and represented a vital opportunity to start a new broad left movement, via an alliance of candidates, has been shown by events to be wrong. (Many who had spoken of for such a slate had minimal commitment to left principles and a little record of struggle). The absence of activity and struggle by working class people at this point and the low levels of confidence made it a difficult task to maintain existing votes in this election, let alone establish a basis for a new workers’ party.

Richard Boyd Barrett, who is a member of the Socialist Workers Party, but who stood under the front - People Before Profit Alliance, got a strong vote of 5,233 or 8.9% and narrowly missed being elected in Dun Laoghaire. It is already being argued that this exceptional result in Dun Laoghaire shows that there is now the potential for the building of a major new left movement. That would be an equally imbalanced and an equally wrong conclusion to make as the idea of a shift to the right in this election. Even in comparison to the other four People Before Profit candidates, the Dun Laoghaire vote is exceptional as the other candidates got 2,080 votes or 4.38%; 1,058 votes or 2.8%; 591 votes or 1.75% and 365 votes or 0.56%.
Whether Richard Boyd Barrett’s vote really relates to the struggle to build a new left movement for working class people is very much open to question. Through his association with the Bin Tax struggle in particular, he got over 1,400 votes in the local elections in 2004. Given his active involvement in other campaigns and with his high profile, a vote in excess of 3,000 was always a likelihood in Dun Laoghaire.

However the approach of ditching reference to the SWP and the dropping of any socialist policies or content to the campaign was clearly an attempt to attract the liberal, middle class layers in the constituency and it’s clear that this was successful. Such people are less concerned with the potential decline of the economy and this vote was less prone to be squeezed in the last days. Undoubtedly this represents a good vote but is not the same as a vote that is based fundamentally on working class communities and socialist policies and approach. In some respects it is more akin to building a base of support that is similar to the Greens, rather than a step towards constituting a new left on a principled basis.

6 Com:

Anonymous | May 30, 2007

The SP statement seems a touch contradictory.

Anonymous | May 30, 2007

The Sinn Fein vote actually increased...

But don't let facts get in the way.

Red Wombat | May 30, 2007

Anonymous said...
"The Sinn Fein vote actually increased...
But don't let facts get in the way."

That they did.But they got squeezed by the FF/FG two-way contest (in a way not dissimilar to Scotland, and, possibly, Australia this year).

The left in general got gypped. This includes SF. But the result is nevertheless disappointing, and raises a few questions (PSNI, Eirigi, branch democracy, etc).

Dave Riley | May 31, 2007

FYI: I corrected my mistake in regard to SF in the text of the post by marking both my original text and my alteration.

Unity Blog | June 09, 2007

Unity blog's Joe C on the Irish elections:
The smaller parties sufferd from the "Squeeze" between the two larger
parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, who have both increased their
representation. Sinn Fein had a very disappointing election, and
despite polling over 12% a day before the elections, actually lost a
seat in Dublin (Sean Crowe) and failed to get Mary Lou mcDonald elected despite pouring huge resources into her campaign.

The loss of Joe Higgins and the failure to get Clare Daley elected in
Dublin North is a huge shock not only for the CWI / Socialist Party,
but fot the hundreds of thousands of people throughout the island who
admired Higgins courage, wit and socialist principles. Joe was robbed
by electoral boundary changes and the dropping of his constitunency
from a four seater to a three seater. No doubt he will be back.

The Greens clawed by, but are now being mooted as possible coalition
partners with FF. If this happens there will be huge consternation
amongst left greens such as Patricia McKenna. Their candidate Ciaran
Cuffe got transfer votes from the rightwing Fine Gael party to beat
the SWP's Richard Boyd Barrett in Dun LAoghaire, standing for the
People Before Profit ticket. For a good five hours, it looked like RBB might take it. One of the surprise breakthroughs of the election,
but unfortunately, no cigar?

Where now for the irish left? Time to lick the wounds, under 5 more years of Fianna Fail corruption and cute hoorism. At least the hated extreme right PDs were dealt a death blow, and their hated Reichsfuhrer Michael "Herr Flick" McDowell
(which in Irish means Son of the Devil!) was roundly and soundly crushed.

Prehaps this may open the denbate for a genuine regroupment of radical left forces, who all more or less ran seperate campaigns. One lives
in hope...

Joe C

AN | June 11, 2007

Comparisions with Scotland should be resisted I think, despite superficial resemeblence.

In both countries the left were squeezed, for reasons partly objective and partly of their own making.

But in Scotland the overall result was a shift to the left, and a broadly more favourable political envirnment for the left to operate in.

Whereas in Ireland the situation seems to be a general step to the right, and less favourable conditons for the left.

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