Interview with Joe Carolan: Left alternative gains in Ireland’s general elections

March 3, 2011

Hailing originally from Ireland where he was active in the Socialists Workers Party, Joe Carolan is a leading member of Socialist Aotearoa. Here he is interviewed by Ian Anderson (Wellington branch of Workers Party and The Spark editorial board).

The Spark: Could you start by recapping what shifts happened in this year’s Irish General Election?

Joe: Well, to start with there was the complete electoral destruction of the favoured ruling class party Fianna Fail. They lost over 60 seats, including seats they’ve held since they first formed as a constitutional political party. In part this represents the death of nationalist illusions in the party, which had to do with their historical participation in the Civil War. The illusion of Fianna Fail as an upholder of national sovereignty was broken by their sell-out to the IMF and to neoliberalism in general.

Then you had the destruction of the Irish Green Party. The Green Party was exposed in two respects. Firstly they demonstrated that Green Parties are not automatically on the left, similar to Germany where the Greens helped to attack the working class and push through neoliberalism. They also sold out principles of their own, for example their craven surrender to Shell Oil, or the use of Shannon Airport by the US Military. So those two ruling parties lost a lot of ground, and good riddance.

There were significant gains by Fine Gael, the other major ruling class party. The split between the major ruling class parties does not go down left/right lines, and has more to do with the Civil War. Fine Gael came from the tradition of IRA leader Michael Collins, who accepted a free state with partition, while Fianna Fail is associated more with republicanism, the idea of a united Irish state.

Fine Gael is socially liberal, so many liberals treat it as a natural ally. The Labour Party has pursued a strategy of coalitions with Fine Gael.

Sinn Fein, a group broadly associated with left republicanism, has also gained seats – even, to their own surprise, in areas they have never previously held. They’ve grown from 4 seats to 13. The growth of Sinn Fein, the growth of the Irish Labour Party, and electoral support for the new United Left Alliance show a strong desire for change among the Irish working class.

The parties have not yet formed a coalition. Read the rest of this entry »


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