We are posting two articles from Socialist Democracy (Ireland) about the political situation on Ireland since the formation of the Fianna Fail, Fine Gael/Grene Party coalition government.
WHAT IS A SHARED IRELAND AND IS A BORDER POLL THE ANSWER?
The new programme for government for the three party coalition in Dublin includes a commitment to a ‘shared island’. The proposals include a new unit within the Taoiseach’s office which will work towards; ‘consensus on a shared island’, a strategic review of the British-Irish relationship, the consolidation of North-South co-operation, strengthening of ‘Strand 3’ institutions like the British Irish Intergovernmental Council and a deepening of Ireland’s relationships with the devolved governments of Wales and Scotland. If you haven’t heard of these its because they are meaningless prinkles designed to decorate the renewed partition of Ireland contained in the Good Friday Agreement (GFA).
At the same time the nationalist SDLP is to create a forum “to discuss future constitutional arrangements on the island of Ireland”. This ‘New Ireland Commission’ will involve a panel of “elders … experienced people who have contributed to building a new Ireland based on mutual respect and agreement over a long period of time.”
What does this mean? Not a rapprochement with unionism! In 2018, Leo Varadkar was praised for appointing Armagh farmer and politician Ian Marshall to the Seanad – the first unionist to be represented there since the 1930s, but in the scramble to share out positions and patronage today between three parties both unionists and northern nationalists were pushed to one side.
What the proposals are about is making it absolutely clear that, whatever a “shared Ireland” is, it’s not a United Ireland. Sinn Fein propaganda around a border poll is to be firmly suppressed.
Not surprisingly Sinn Fein, supported by People before Profit, are denouncing this suppression of democratic rights. Sinn Fein MP Francie Molloy went as far as to say that Irish nationalists had been ‘sold a pup’ and that the GFA was a con job – a statement hastily withdrawn when he was warned that this amounted to an endorsement of the rejection of the agreement by republican critics.
Molloy in turn came under attack. His critics pointed out that the GFA did not contain a commitment to a United Ireland nor did it contain a guarantee that there would be a border poll. It merely invested the British with the power to call such a poll if they felt like it and even then it would be restricted to the North. The members of the Southern state would not be consulted. As Francie Molloy was one of the chief negotiators of the agreement it was difficult to see how he had missed this.
It’s clear that someone is being sold a pup, someone is being conned, but the victims seem more and more to be Sinn Fein’s supporters!
The political frenzy around a ‘shared’ Ireland is based on a glaring reality. Joint membership of the European Union has hidden the land border in Ireland and, when Brexit arrives, it will become much more visible. Irish capitalism is reacting by taking the issue off the table and replacing it with ‘shared Ireland’ ideology – this is what led to a recent attempt to celebrate the imperialist “Black and Tan” forces. Sinn Fein are hyping up the bluster around an imaginary provision in the GFA. They are having internal problems over their abstention on resolutions opposing the extradition of republican Liam Campbell to Lithuania. In addition the announcement that those driving into the 36 county state from the North will shortly be required to produce a green card makes nonsense of their united Ireland claims.
The main success of Sinn Fein lies in the issue of irish unity being transformed into a slogan rather than a policy. As a slogan it can be reduced by them and by the majority of left groups to an aspiration by nationalists with limited impact on day to day life.
What if we replace the phrase “United Ireland” with the phrase “An Irish Democracy”? That immediately throws into relief the nature of the Stormont assembly and the Dail, accentuated by the forced coalition of the main capitalist parties and the lack of a convincing political opposition.
It’s true that an Irish Democracy would not resolve the struggles of the working class, but it would provide an immensely better environment in which workers could unite and express their interests, as evidenced by the long struggle by the British and their unionist and gombeen nationalist allies to drown that struggle in rivers of blood.
Of course, to achieve that we are not talking about a border poll any more, we are talking about a workers revolution!
This article was first posted at:-
IRELAND FINALLY FORMS A STABLE GOVERNMENT – FOR 17 DAYS!
The 2019 election and its aftermath showed the deep instability of the Irish state after years of austerity in the service of the 2008 banking debt.
The two major capitalist parties between them could not muster a majority. It was a big setback when they had to put together a national government and an even bigger setback when they had to haggle and cajole the Green party into place as the meat in the sandwich. After months of bargaining Fianna Fail’s Micheál Martin was installed as Taoiseach of the new tripartite coalition on the 27th June.
Just how unstable the political deal is was demonstrated when agriculture minister Barry Cowen was sacked on the 14th of July seventeen days after the formation of the government.
If the speed of the first crisis shows the depth of instability, the reasons for the sacking speaks volumes about Irish society.
Many years ago a speaker at a solidarity conference described Ireland as a “4th world country” meaning that Ireland was dependent in the same way as many other former colonies but what made it ‘fourth world’ was the absolute refusal to admit this. In public discourse the comparison state is Denmark, an imperialist power. Dependency is never discussed because the ruling class supports imperialist penetration of the economy. Through the Good Friday Agreement they support the indefinite occupation of the North by Britain and the jewel in the crown of economic policy is the subsidising of transnational companies via low rates of corporation tax.
But because Ireland is a dependent economy it has never been able to generate state funds on the level that would allow a welfare state. The absence generates a system based on patronage and clientelism, where people scrabble for access to sparse resources. With 3 parties in government how can the ministries and power be shared out? One response was to create a number of junior ministries and to pack each party’s office with special advisors paid from the public purse. Responding to criticism, the Taoiseach replied that: “This is a tripartite government”… Everyone has to get a fair crack of the whip! Local reporters quipped that the Dail would need an extension to fit in the flood of extra appointments.
There was immediate civil war within the most populist of the parties, Fianna Fail. The west of the country had been left without a share of the spoils. The aggrieved TDs set out to get even. Aided by Garda corruption they released details of a drink driving conviction that minister Cowan had not disclosed. Attempts at a rebuttal led to further leaks until the minister was sacked and immediately replaced by Mayo TD and FF deputy leader Dara Calleary, who has no experience of agriculture but is seen as representing the west.
There are a whole series of consequences from this episode. Fianna Fail now have a vendetta rumbling in the background. Fine Gael, traditionally the party of big money, stood to one side and are eyeing their increased popularity to see if they can make a break for government power in the future. The Green party were slavishly loyal to Fianna Fail, clearly showing that any expectation that they would fight for progressive measures in government was seriously misplaced.
Rounding off the episode was an announcement from the European Court clearing Ireland and Apple corporation of wrongdoing in a scheme where over €13 billion in tax was hidden in an office with no location and no employees. This led to general jubilation and the conviction that running a tax haven for transnational companies represented the way forward for economic progress.
However the battle about patronage is not the only fracture point in Fianna Fail. The whole of the current party strategy is based on the exclusion of Sinn Fein from government. For the Irish bourgeoisie the Good Friday Agreement represents a mechanism for putting to bed the national sentiment for Irish unity. Immediately after the Dail row Micheál Martin travelled North, pledging that there would be no border poll on Irish unity during his watch and offering progress on “a shared Ireland” as an alternative.
The problem here is that many in the West have relied on rhetorical nationalism to hold their support and see an alliance with Sinn Fein as a way back to the driving seat in Irish politics. How that develops depends on how Martin wins the political jockeying for position that is a central part of coalition. Things are not going well. Yet again Fine Gael are gathering support as the more coherent voice of Irish capital, best able to ensure stability.
Many tests lie ahead. In addition to growing crises around the European economy and Brexit, the last informal national government fell because of the burgeoning crises in health and housing. The new programme for government promises to resolve these issues but the proposals are more of the same, founded on encouraging private investment for “affordable” housing. Pandemic emergency legislation saw the homeless housed and a temporary National Health Service, but as the emergency steps are withdrawn Fianna Fail have taken both ministries and will be the face of regression on housing and health. They will be to the forefront in the coming struggle.
As with the growing crisis across the globe what we see in Ireland is a jury-rigged system buffeted by events. Stability comes from the fact that the opposition is in as great a state of decay as the capitalists. Only the most marginal protest comes from the trade unions. Both the Irish Labour Party and Sinn Fein joined in the critique of government featherbedding but An Taoiseach was able to point out that Labour were the first to bring in special advisor status and that Sinn Fein had milked the system dry in the Northern administration.
It is clear that these parliamentary poseurs and the supporters of a Left government led by Sinn Fein will not be to the forefront in the coming battles.
Thus article was first posted at:-
- IRELAND – PROGRAMME FOR GOVERNMENT – AUSTERITY WITH A GREEN TINGE
- THE GREENS IN GOVERNMENT? – Ireland has seen this movie before
- FANTASY FOOTBALL – THE IRISH LEFT AND FORMING A ‘LEFT GOVERNMENT’
- IRELAND’S FRAMEWORK FOR GOVERNMENT– A Framework for Capitalist Survival