Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Irish Left Unity: a new round of engagement in a year of change, 2020

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Guest post by Des Derwin

The period before and since the general election has produced a renewed interest in left unity. There have been many contributions on it from across a wide sweep of the left.
There are several direct proposals for unity, or more unity.
As a small assistance to all this I have compiled links to and extracts from most of the leading interventions, since the general election, in the new round of interest in left unity. The collection is below.

Irish Left Unity: a new round of engagement in a year of change, 2020. 

Links to and extracts from selected articles, posts, podcasts and interviews.


1. Jacobin; Michael Taft: ‘This Month’s Elections in Ireland Are a Historic Opportunity’, 2nd January 2020


2. Rise website: ‘Why a Combined Left Challenge in the General Election is Essential’, 6th Jabuary 2020.


3. Paul Murphy TD, speaking at the ‘Stop the Stitch Up’ rally, Dublin 7th March 2020.

“We need to build a mass political party of the left which is open to different trends, to be organised within, and to represent working class people.”


4. RISE website: ‘After Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, what next?’ by Diana O’Dwyer, 20th February 2020


5. From: RISE website: ‘We need a socialist government’, 7th March 2020.

“Build a new mass left-wing party

There is a desperate need for a mass political party of the left. Because of Sinn Féin’s acceptance of the capitalist market and its hesitancy to engage with people-power movements, it will not be that party.
None of the existing radical left parties are likely to grow directly into that mass left party either. Instead, we need a left party that is anti-capitalist, anti-coalition and anti-oppression, while being open for different groups to organise within it.
RISE and our TD, Paul Murphy, wants to work with others to build such a party. While fighting for every reform in the here and now, we are a revolutionary socialist group that sees the need to end the rule of the bosses and big corporations.”
Left Unity Needed for Socialist Green New Deal


6. RISE website: ‘No going back, but what’s ahead’ by Cian Prendiville, 1st May 2020.

“This new era will pose new challenges and opportunities for the socialist left.
The recent general election was a brush with fate. The fractured socialist left took blows, but kept on our feet, holding onto most of our seats. This shows that a certain base of support for socialist TDs has been built. A Sinn Fein surge squeezed our vote, and we struggled to respond in a positive and principled way. In too many places the left split its vote, costing perhaps two seats and putting a third at risk. We should learn from that, and strengthen the left for the future.RISE’s proposals for a combined left challenge are a good starting point.
The truth is, this isn’t a bad place to begin. Just before the 2008 crash, Sinn Fein had 5 Dail seats, now it is the largest party in the state. Crisis changes everything.
Back then the socialist left had no seats. Now on the cusp of another major turn, we are the ones with 5 seats. We are the ones with the ideas to change the world. A desire for a radically different and better world is growing every day.
Let’s make this the decade of that revolution.”


7. Irish Broad Left blog: ‘Uniting the Left to fight for an ecosocialist united Ireland’ by Cian McMahon, 6th June 2020.


8. RISE website: ‘Open Letter to Grassroots Greens: Reject Coalition with FF and FG’, 18th June 2020.

“There is an alternative
You don’t have prop up and greenwash Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. There is an alternative.
Reject the deal, join with the Left in the Dáil and help build the movements on the streets, in communities and workplaces. If Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael do cobble together a government with right-wing independents, it will not be a strong one. Remember that the right-wing governments have been forced under pressure of movements to repeal the 8th and legislate for abortion rights, to introduce marriage equality and to abolish the water charges. Together, we can build successful movements to fight for radical measures to tackle the climate crisis and to improve people’s lives.
In doing so, we will be preparing the way for a left government that would act in the interests of working families and young people, raising living standards and making environmentally-friendly decisions easy, rather than implementing austerity. A left government would implement a socialist Green New Deal, including measures such as: free, green and frequent public transport, a green jobs programme, a real move to sustainable agriculture, a four-day week without loss of pay, a just transition, and democratic public ownership of the key sections of the economy. Such a government will need the active support and mobilisation of movements to take on the big corporate polluters, big agri-business and the landlords and developers who stand in the way of the transformation we urgently need.
What James Connolly wrotein 1909 has enormous relevance to Green Party members wrestling with how to vote on this deal today: “Moral – Don’t be ‘practical’ in politics. To be practical in that sense means that you have schooled yourself to think along the lines, and in the grooves those who rob you would desire you to think.”
The urgency of the climate crisis is not a reason to be ‘practical’ and settle for the illusion of influence. It is a reason to join with the left and build a political and social movement to deliver the change the science demands.”


9. RISE website: ‘Open letter to left Greens’: What next?, 26thJune 2020

“The alternative

Above all, we need your involvement in social movements which will drive change. In the coming months and years we will need to work together to build movements for climate justice, housing action, and a National Health Service. Even with a right-wing government in power, we can win victories.
Left-wing activists who oppose coalition with Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael and leave the Green Party can play a crucial role in building a broad party of the anti-capitalist and eco-socialist left. From our perspective in RISE, these movements would be tremendously strengthened with a broad party of the left, encompassing all who share a commitment to people-power movements to drive change and oppose austerity, oppression, and coalition with the establishment parties.
Such a broad party should facilitate different caucuses or networks within it, as for example the Democratic Socialists of America does. There would therefore be space in such a party for all of the existing groups and independents of the principled left to join and be active within it. RISE would advocate for revolutionary eco-socialist ideas within such a party.
The truth, as we all know, is that the left is currently a fractured landscape. So what, concretely, can left activists who break from the Green Party do to most effectively contribute to building that broad left party? Within that landscape, People Before Profit is the highest profile organisation on the left by a significant distance.
Since our founding, RISE has worked very productively and collaboratively with PBP. We therefore appeal for left-wing Greens to enter organised discussions with People Before Profit and RISE, and any others interested, about taking joint steps towards such a broad left party. This could represent a qualitative step forward towards the construction of a mass left party, and strengthen our ability to build movements for eco-socialist change in every workplace and community.
We are eager to discuss further with Green activists. Please contact us at”


10. People Before Profit website, ‘Let’s Bring The Left Together To Fight This Government’, 29th June 2020.

The new government of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party is a huge disappointment for the many people who vote for change. The two right wing parties got only 43% of the vote but now they dominate the cabinet. Many voters wanted to break the cycle where they ran both government and the opposition.
The new government will attempt to put on a vaguely progressive mask but few will be fooled. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have a long record of looking after the privileged and the Greens will be used as a mudguard to cover their tracks. It should be remembered that the new Taoiseach, Mícheál Martin sat in a government that landed the people of Ireland with a €64 billion debt – which we are still paying off.
This coalition want to lock themselves into office for four and a half years – so that they have space to take unpopular measures. They will soon mount an attack on the Covid payments for workers and the unemployed. They will do little to protect construction workers who have just witnessed a High Court judge removing their legal protections. They will go back to a two-tier health system – and pay huge sums to the private hospitals. They will not impose rent controls or build enough council housing. In short, they will be an anti-working class government.
But they will have significant weaknesses. They do not have a big enough support base in Irish society to carry through unpopular attacks. They can be driven from office by mass mobilisations on the streets.
The coming together of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will also re-shape Irish politics on left-right lines. As these battle-lines are drawn, we urge those members of the Greens who voted against coalition to leave that party now. Nobody with an ounce of left-wing ideas should play any part in supporting or excusing this dreadful government.
We need a left that will work with Sinn Féin but also offer a different, stronger politics. While Sinn Féin won considerable support from working people, they have a poor record on climate justice and actively supporting militant workers’ struggles. Their embrace of neoliberal policies in the North stands in contrast with their rhetoric in the South. They have not ruled out the possibility of being in a coalition with Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael in the future.
This is why People Before Profit are reaching out to left wing activists from different backgrounds to invite discussions on how we can build a big, broad radical left party or co-operate with each other more closely.
In any such discussion, People Before Profit advocate for a number of key issues;
  • That the modern Irish left needs to operate on a 32 county basis, standing in the tradition of  James Connolly in advocating an end to partition through building a radical new Ireland.
  • That we should support grassroots workers in their struggles to build strong fighting unions that break from social partnership.
  • That the mobilisation of people power is the surest way to effect change.
  • That the left must be strongly identified with fighting racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia.
  • That system change must be our guiding motto in saving our planet from climate chaos.


11. Tribune: ‘Where Next for the Irish Left?’ by Michael Taft, 1st July 2020.


12. Jacobin : ‘Ireland’s New Government Just Puts a Green Face on the Old Order’ by John Reynolds and Colin Coulter (Maynooth University), 1st July 2020.

(More on general political and left situation than on left unity as such. For more on left unity from the authors, see RISE podcast of 16th July below).


13. Independent Left website: From ‘Why join Independent Left?’

“Solidarity and People Before Profit are the closest fit to us but have a hierarchical, carefully controlled internal life that is not fit for the purpose of socialist change”


14. Independent Left website: ‘Independent Left Reply to People Before Profit’, 2nd July 2020.

‘Socialists and left unity in Ireland 2020’

To members of People Before Profit
[IL response to PBP initiative, ‘let’s bring the left together to fight this government’.]

“With these goals in mind, we look forward to working with you and others in creating a fruitful conversation that does indeed bring the left together.” [‘Others’ is a link to Shane faherty’s article.]


15. Modern Distortions blogsite: ‘The Old World is Dying and the New World Struggles to be Born; Call the midwife, Ireland needs a new left party’ by Shane Faherty, 4th July 2020.7.16


16. Cedar Lounge Revolution blogsite: ‘The Old World is Dying and the New World Struggles to be Born; Call the midwife, Ireland needs a new left party’ by Shane Faherty, 9th July 2020.

Repost and new commentary.

Extensive discussion in comments thread.


17. Tomás Ó Flatharta blog: ‘The Old World is Dying and the New World Struggles to be Born; Call the midwife, Ireland needs a new left party’ by Shane Faherty, 9th July 2020.

Repost and new commentary.


18. Tomás Ó Flatharta blog: ‘Saoirse McHugh is leaving the Irish Green Party’, 11th July 2020.


19. Right To Change podcast: ‘The Long Wait For A Party Of Real Progressive Change To Be Formed Is Over’; presenter Brendan Ogle, speakers Joan Collins TD, Karen Doyle (Cobh Says No), Rhona McCord (Unite), 13th July 2020.—THE-LONG-WAIT-FOR-A-PARTY-OF-REAL-PROGRESSIVE-CHANGE-TO-BE-FORMED-IS-OVER-egmaki


20. RISE Media, Left Inside podcast, Episode 13: ‘New Situation, Old Order’; Diarmuid Flood interviews Colin Coulter and John Reynolds (Maynooth University and Jacobin 1st July 2020), 16th July 2020.

See end of interview for discusion of socialist left.—New-Situation–Old-Order-w-Colin-Coulter-and-John-Reynolds-egqk62


21. Just Transition Greens: announcement of formation, 22ndJuly 2020:

 Just Transition Greens
Wednesday, 22 July 2020
Friends and colleagues,
At the weekend the Green Party Executive Committee approved an application from a new green-left organisation, the Just Transition Greens, to be formally associated as an affiliate group of the Green Party. The application was signed by 16 party members including ten elected representatives at Oireachtas, Assembly and local government level across the island of Ireland.
The application notes how both candidates in the current leadership election recognise the need to be more engaging with members and more active as a party in the area of social justice. This is an issue affecting particularly young, often female, members of our party, who are most demanding that we achieve social and equitable change in government and outside of it. It means connecting better with people where the party has not done so before, including rural and disadvantaged communities.
This concern is domestic, in housing, healthcare, work, agriculture and every aspect of unfair privillefe in society and economy. It is also global, in efforts for climate justice. For example, how Ireland as a wealthy country should aim for net zero [emmisions] by an earlier date than 2050, like Austria and Finland, in order to leave carbon soace for poorer countries.
The Just Transition Greens emerge from the positive debates and communities of interest that have developed in the party over the past few months. The organisation reflects the need to now come together and speak again as one green voice – but also to recognise the need to empower the fullness of that voice.
The recognition of the Just Transition Greens as an affilliate group by the Executive Committee is timely, so that members who may be thinking about leaving the party can remain affiliated to it and influence its thinking and decision making. We hope also to attract members by providing an organisation that people who are interested in green and social justice issues can join from there (sic) affiliate (sic) with the Green Party.
In the coming months, we will begin holding meetings and growing as an organisation. If you believe that climate action and social justice must go hand in hand, join us and help to build the next wave at or follow us on Twitter at
John Barry
Lorna Bogue
Robin Cafolla
Tate Donnelly
Aine Groogan
Neasa Hourigan
Peter Kavanagh
Sean McCabe
Saoirse McHugh
Sinead Mercier
Oliver Moran
Aengus O Corrain
Una Power
Lourda Scott
Liam Sinclair
Rachel Woods
[Note that the announcement is signed by Saoirse McHugh. Its intention notwithstanding that “members who may be thinking about leaving the party can remain affiliated to it and influence its thinking and decision making”, The Irish Examiner reported the following day that ‘She added in her tweet thread this morning that she would not join the new splinter group Greens for Just Transition, within the Green Party as she couldn’t “stomach” being affiliated with the party any longer.’ More interestingly she also tweeted, according to ‘that she hopes the affiliate group Just-Transition Greens break-off from the Green Party and form “an actual eco-socialist party”’ (see below). Unless there are two prominent Saoirse McHughs in the Green Party. DD]


22. Irish Examiner, 23rd July 2020: ‘Saoirse McHugh quits Greens saying party is “toxic”’.

‘Former MEP candidate Saoirse McHugh says she left the Green Party due to concerns over the programme for government, and says the party is “toxic”…
Ms McHugh said that her reasons for leaving were “obvious” and that she had become disillusioned with the party over the last year. She, among others, had be vocally against entering government with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael over concerns that social justice issues would be cast aside and austerity measures would be implemented to pay back any pandemic debt.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Ms McHugh said she had been contemplating leaving for over a year…”It’s toxic in there, since the locals, and really I should’ve left after the convention last year after I had people saying I should join another party for speaking my mind, even back then that was an issue.” “I would say there been a lot of members who have been made feel unwelcome for things they said,” she adds…
“You ignore warning signs, it’s like a bad relationship, you keep hoping it could be different and great. “I don’t know what it’s like in other parties I’d imagine it’s similar but I imagine other party structures provide for such conflict.” “The constitution of the Greens doesn’t lend itself to that.”
She says she has no regrets about running for MEP where she garnered 51,000 first preference votes in last year’s European elections…Ms McHugh says there is “not a hope” she would join another party in the future. She added in her tweet thread this morning that she would not join the new splinter group Greens for Just Transition, within the Green Party as she couldn’t “stomach” being affiliated with the party any longer.
Ms McHugh’s departure continues a theme within the party of disillusioned young members who have questioned their loyalty after their party entering a coalition government with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. This, amid with a series of bullying allegations have rocked the greens since the election in February. Ms McHugh added: “I have seen how brilliant and brave people are bullied and silenced within parties that profess to be grounded in equality and democracy.” Leader Eamon Ryan admitted recently that the party had been inundated with complaints of bullying and the party were taking steps to rectify the issue. Ms McHugh’s resignation comes after a number of public resignations from members including chair of the Queer Greens, the LGBTQ+ contingent of the party, Rob O’Sullivan also left…’


23. Irish Examiner, 23rd July 2020: ‘Chair of new Just Transition Greens says Green Party ‘must change’.


‘Cork City Councillor Lorna Bogue, the interim chair of the newly-formed Just Transition Greens, has said the Green Party “must change their ways”, or risk being wiped out in the next general election. Just Transition Green is a new affiliate group of the Green Party, based on the principle of social justice being intrinsically linked to climate justice. Current and former members of the Green Party, as well as those who don’t belong to any political organisation, can join the new left-wing group.
The outspoken Green Party councillor says she believes there is something to be salvaged within the party, and the new group was formed to bring like-minded people together to achieve a just transition. Cllr Bogue says a part of the Green Party is willing to reach out to other movements, and to reconnect with the environmental grassroots movement in particular. “That is something the Green Party itself is lacking at the moment. It’s become institutionalised as a political party.”
“I am still a member of the Green Party. This is a party I’ve put six years of work into, I will not be chased out of it.””I am still of the opinion that there is something to be salvaged from the Green Party. Seeing as we have got a seat at the table now, it is a valuable opportunity to learn how government works.”
“There are a lot of like-minded individuals within the Green Party who found each other during the programme for government process. “We were all saying the same thing: climate justice is the important thing. Environmentalism is something that has to centre people in it. “Our housing and health policies are just as important as our carbon reduction policies. All of these things are interwoven.””We want environmentalism which lifts people up, and makes sure that wealth is distributed evenly in our society, and to make sure no one is left behind as a result of the changes that will have to come about if we are transitioning to a zero carbon society.”
Cllr Bogue says while it is unfortunate the party voted to “reject climate justice” by entering government with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, she says there is an opportunity to be constructive. “This party has said certain things at the doors [while canvassing]. We want to stay true to that. People voted for me on the understanding that the Green Party is a left-wing party.””People’s issues have not changed. The housing and homelessness crisis, the health crisis, waiting lists, precarious work, all of those things are still there and need to be dealt with.”
She said they had already received a lot of sign ups to the new group. “I am excited for what comes next.” Speaking about her former fellow party member, Saoirse McHugh, who announced she was leaving the Green Party today, Cllr Bogue says she understands why she left the party. “While Saoirse is still supportive of this new endeavour, she feels like she doesn’t want to be associated with the Green Party, which is totally fair.””It’s actually a really sad indictment of the Green Party, that she is being made to feel this way. Senior members of the party have actively made her feel unwelcome, and I have witnessed that myself.””I don’t want to speak for her too much, but I say she felt a sense of relief.” She says it will be interesting to see what Ms McHugh does next, now that the Green Party are not “clipping her wings” and she is out of “the party structure, a party structure which is hostile to a lot of young women.”
Cllr Bogue says the Just Transition group is also about “having a home for people leaving the Green Party.” “People have left because the party has veered so far from its principles, in terms of how its acting in government.” “We have been through this before.””During the last time we were in government, there was a mass exodus of left-wing people when the decision was made to enter government.””When we were destroyed by the electorate in the following general election, people left again.” “That is not productive because it puts the party back into a cycle that repeats itself. Let’s not go through that this time. Let’s not wait until the party is destroyed to build it up again.”
She also believes more critical voices should be at the cabinet table, to ensure the Green Party is voting in line with its voters’ wishes. “The party is structurally very weak when it comes to facing their voters, back benchers and the general public.” “They are voting in line with the government, and then there is outrage from people because no one has… heard a critical voice.” “They have been perceived as very out of touch, because in some sense they are out of touch.”
She says it is important to have this critical voice. “I got used to being one of the few people who dared to speak out.” “Now we have a group behind us, and it is just brilliant. We can say what needs to be said now without fear.”
“Now is the time for a broad based, grassroots eco-socialist movement, on the scale of what we saw with the marriage equality referendum and the repeal the Eighth campaign.”
The Green Party were contacted for comment.


24., 23rdJuly 2020: ‘Saoirse McHugh has left the Green Party’.

THE PROMINENT ENVIRONMENTALIST Saoirse McHugh has left the Green Party.
The Achill activist rose to prominence after an appearance on Prime Time during the European election campaign, where she spoke passionately about the need for reform of the Direct Provision system and strongly criticised “millionaires scapegoating migrants”. After failing to win a seat in the Midlands-NorthWest constituency in the European election last May, McHugh said that she would leave the party if it went into government with either Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael…
“The reasons I have left are obvious,” McHugh tweeted out today.
I joined the Greens with the hope of furthering the cause of climate justice… The PfG that has been agreed on is a terrible document.
McHugh said that the membership were told the Programme for Government had “contained certain things that it didn’t”, and that problems in housing, tax avoidance, healthcare, and agriculture are linked with environmental breakdown.
McHugh also said that she hopes the affiliate group Just-Transition Greens break-off from the Green Party and form “an actual eco-socialist party”, adding that she “couldn’t stomach being affiliated with the Greens”.
McHugh also said that she doesn’t believe that the path “to a just and free society lies in electoral politics”, making reference to bullying and internal party struggles.
“This government, I believe (and I hope I’m wrong) will do massive damage to the idea of environmentalism by linking it with socially regressive policies.”
Last night, the Cork Greens spokesperson Rob O’Sullivan also announced that he was leaving that group, as well as the Queer Greens group, over the Greens going into coalition with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Another Green Party member said that she left the party recently because of a proportion of “middle-class older centrists who care more about cycle lanes than young people having a place to live”.


25. RISE Facebook post, on Saoirse McHugh resignation, 24thJuly 2020:

She’s right to leave.
The Green Party’s decision to go into government has firmly put it against the interests of working class people and the interests of the environmental movement. We see in the Dáil day after day the consequences of that decision, and we’ll see more of it as the government continues to implement its right wing agenda.
We need a broad left party – a party that brings together the socialist left, working class activists, trade unionists, and the feminist, environmental and anti-racist movements. To those left wing activists who are remaining in the Green Party for one reason or another – you should leave and come together with the radical left and help to build that kind of party with us.


26. Rupturemagazine from RISE, launched on 29th July 2020: ‘End Of The (Party) Line?’ by Cian Prendiville.


27. Rupturemagazine from RISE, launched on 29th July 2020: from the RISE website:

“…A new period demands new strategy, new tactics, and new forms of organisation. We must shake off the outdated schema and rid ourselves of ineffective and anachronistic methods. While working to construct a mass revolutionary party, we must strive to be more democratically organised and organically connected to all the real movements of workers and the oppressed.
So too with our theory and analysis. While developing Marxist methods, we must broaden the terrain upon which we apply them – from capitalist social relations to the metabolic rift that capitalism has forced between nature and humanity.
Rupture is a contribution to that effort from RISE. In each issue, we aim to analyse current trends in capitalist society, explore new ideas and research to expand our understanding, and attempt to answer the question facing all revolutionaries – what is to be done in the 21st century?”


Appendix 1:

Brendan Ogle, Unite ROI blog: ‘THIS IS NOT ANOTHER CALL FOR ‘LEFT UNITY’, 10th September 2019.


“…we are trying to build working class unity, ‘left unity’, in new and exciting ways. 
We hear many calls for ‘left unity’, and as much bemoaning its apparent absence from across the political spectrum. Even the establishment right constantly point to the failure of ‘the left’ to provide an opposition that they would try to kill at birth (and have done in the past) should it ever show signs of emerging.
Recently one of the smaller political parties called for it again*. To the media. This worthy and welcome call came timed for press coverage and late Summer ‘Think-Ins’ and spoke of a letter nobody has seen. The detail of the call was interesting. It spoke of both a failure to build a housing campaign on the scale of Right2Water and the need to exclude Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael from discussion, something I wholeheartedly agree with.
Yesterday (Monday) I was driving to work listening to Morning Ireland on RTE Radio 1. The Irish Labour Party, with a mere 7 Dail seats, were having their ‘think in’ and RTE gave their leader Brendan Howlin a prime time slot to discuss. What they discussed was the potential for Labour to win 7-10 seats in the next Election (they won 37 in 2011 and spectacularly blew it) and whether they would again prop up a right wing Government if they did so. We were told that Senator Ivana Bacik again opposed such a scenario, and Brendan Howlin again supported it. There would have to be a special post-election convention (that’s them deciding what to do with your votes AFTER you have cast them) and it would be ‘difficult’ for the party, but it’s likely that they would enter Government again.
D’ya think?
You may be expecting me now to remind you of how this is just a replay of the 2011 ‘debate’ Labour had when they decided that ‘Frankfurt’s way or Labour’s way’ would in fact be Frankfurt’s way and spent the next 5 years skewing the working class with such relish that they became despised. It seemed they fell over themselves to get the Ministries (housing, water, public expenditure) where they could do the maximum harm to the most vulnerable. Well no, I’m not going to talk about that. Go back further. Labour have served the second highest total number of years (19) in coalition Government in the state, second only to Fianna Fail. On every single occasion the Party has asked itself whether it should prop up a right wing Government it has answered ‘yes, we’ll take those Ministers jobs alright’, and on every single occasion it has weakened itself and damaged the working class. Not only have the positions not changed in decades, but even the names are the same. As long ago as 1989 Ivana Bacik and Brendan Howlin were having the same ‘debate’, with the same inevitable outcome.
If we are ever to see Ireland’s first progressive Government this pantomime must be called out, not facilitated on ‘the left’. What do I mean by this?
The recent extolling of the water charges movement in the left call for unity seems to me to miss an obvious point. The water charges movement didn’t begin with politicians. Or Trade Unions. The most united campaign we ever had began when a woman in Cork said ‘thou shall not pass’ to a water meter installer and her neighbours followed her lead. She led! Soon the Community in Edenmore did the same. Citizens led. Unions supported with money and logistics, the politicians got behind the campaign, but the water charges movement won (for now) because it was bottom up, not top down.
History will recall that when it came straight after to the housing emergency the campaign that was formed could not have been like Right2Water because it was deliberately structured to be the complete opposite to Right2Water. It was structured to be headed and controlled by politicians with some limited union support. It even brought the Labour Party itself in from the cold, opened the door to the party that had by 2016 presided over the sharpest rises in homelessness in Ireland since the famine. It was not about ground up community building where parties and unions respond to community building. And so, unfortunately, it didn’t work and the crisis turned into an emergency.
So where to now?
A number of things strike me. Imagine if all those calling for ‘left unity’ from within their own divided parties actually just left and started to work together for a bigger, greater good instead of fighting for 1 or 2 percentage points in polls and elections.
Then imagine if we just all accepted that Labour are simply part of a 2.5 party ‘state establishment’ that needs to be counteracted and that they are as left, right and opportunistic as Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have ever been, and we just aren’t falling for their theatre anymore.
And then imagine if we stopped just calling for ‘left unity’ and got on with building campaigns together, working together, soldiering together and being humble enough to show respect to each other while we did so. Right2Water worked (so far) because it stuck to simple core principles and was community driven, ground up.
Next Saturday (11 am in Abbey Street) the ‘Tom Stokes Unite Community Branch’ will begin the work of building a Deaf Community Branch, and we are also on the verge of building a ‘Hospitality Branch’ for workers – many of whom are migrant workers – being abused in the sector by outfits such as the disgraced ‘The Ivy’ in Dublin. There is work afoot, and work to be done. And yes, let’s talk about not repeating the mistakes of the past for once.
I’m finishing by asking the question again, of everyone. Maybe it is time people started to come up with honest answers:
Do you want to be a small part of something really big, or are you content to be a big part of something small?’
[* The call was made by People Before Profit, a previous call to the one featured here at No. 10, 29th June 2020. DD]
Related As Civil War politics ends at last, Ireland’s first progressive government is now a realistic ambition


 Selection compiled and edited by Des Derwin, 27th July 2020


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