The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

A Left Vote for the Right Person

Anthony McIntyre

The last time Eamonn McCann contested an election I canvassed for him in a freezing Derry, but I was unable to cast a vote on his behalf. I only had a ballot slip for West Belfast where there were no socialist candidates. That is one of the drawbacks of not being in Sinn Fein – in the party we could vote often and in different places. Although one-man-twenty-votes did sit a shade awkwardly with our demand for the civil rights we long claimed to have been denied.

This time the order of my involvement in last November’s Assembly election was reversed – I did not canvass on behalf of McCann’s SEA but I gave it my vote. McCann’s integrity is solid but I was unhappy with the broader SEA decision to exclude the IRSP from sharing its platform on the basis of the party having an armed wing. The Workers Party has an armed wing and no objections were earlier raised to its possible involvement. Sinn Fein has an armed wing and many in the SEA are happy to cooperate with it on a range of issues.

Dolours Price, a few days ago, suggested that we both repeat our November Derry vigil outside one of Belfast’s polling stations, handing out SEA leaflets to voters on the way in to the booths. Although initially of a mind to do nothing other than vote, I relented and arranged to tie up with her this morning. But bereavement intervened and Dolours attended the funeral of Eamonn McCann’s former partner, the journalist Mary Holland, leaving her unable to make it up to the city. Still, there will be another time. Now that our dream of a united Ireland has evaporated, it is consoling to know that something at least remains from the hopes we harboured during the prison years, that the endless days banged up behind steel doors weren’t all for nothing; that there are candidates with socialist policies we can vote for; and we do not have to devalue and negate the authenticity of the decades spent in prison by voting for all the things we served every minute of every day against.

Dolours made her own mark yesterday in Dublin outside the Sinn Fein press conference. Carrying a hastily put-together placard with the words ‘Sinn Fein – Still lying – Still beating’ scrawled across it, she stood on the pavement attracting a considerable amount of attention. One party apparatchik scowled at her. The person in question, having tasted the good life, and divested herself of all radical baggage in order to cut the mustard with the rich and the famous, clearly didn’t want Dolours and her republicanism raining on her parade. Hunger strikers are to be used not listened to. But much of the tension that characterises relations between Sinn Fein and republicans would dissipate were the nationalist party to refrain from using violence and intimidation against those no longer happy with the direction in which the leadership has taken the republican constituency.

Today, after leaving my daughter on the school bus, I walked into the polling station on the Whiterock Road. Sinn Fein members were standing outside entreating people to vote their party. There were no scowls or hostile grunts. One offered me a candidate list and suggested how I should vote. He was polite and I responded in kind. On my way to the booth I glanced at the leaflet I had just received and was pleased to see that it was not ‘Vote Scappaticci No 1 - The candidate who helped deliver the peace process.’ Although, had it been that way, I have no doubt there would have been legions of canvassers and campaigners in his trail informing - such a choice of word - would-be voters that Scap was the victim of securocrats; that even if he was passing information he was only tactically touting for peace. A dangerous consequence of what Peter McArthur once put down to some people having so much respect for their superiors they have none left for themselves.

Bairbre de Brun was the Sinn Fein candidate. Serious, affable and never one to pass a Palestinian fundraiser without opening her purse, if politics were a technocratic exercise and votes were cast for those who were industrious, then a vote for Bairbre would be justified. But politics is also about ethics and ideas. And while her open stance on the Palestinian question might have tempted me to vote for her in a European election, I can’t delude myself that out of all the parties participating Sinn Fein is the one most likely to renege on commitments given. In this sense the party are Marxists of the Groucho school – ‘those are my principles, and if you don't like them ... well, I have others.’

When the votes are finally counted, Bairbre de Brun should be comfortably elected. Eamonn McCann will not secure a seat in Europe. But a vote is only wasted if you vote against your beliefs. Today I voted in accordance with my own. The chord struck as the ballot slip fell safely into the deposit box was very much in tune with the sentiments of the H-Blocks. A vote for a socialist candidate is a single thread in the attempt to weave an alternative fabric to the hegemony of establishment politics. Better to vote for the right person than the wrong winner.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

11 June 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


US Nationwide Irish American Group Holds 2004 Convention in Belfast
Sean Mc Aughey


The Chen Case @ the European Court of Justice - Money Talks and a Government Lies
John Meehan


A Left Vote for the Right Person
Anthony McIntyre


John Martin


Response to:
"Irish Americans"

Peter Urban


Sri Lanka: up country with the Tamil Tigers
Cedric Gouverneur


The Letters page has been updated.


7 June 2004


“A house ransacked by soldiers”: Translation’s plunder and preservation
Seaghán Ó Murchú


Acquittal of the Bogotá 3 - Interview With Caitriona Ruane
Toni Solo


Da Big Gorilla
John Kennedy


John, Pat and Neil Sedakas
George Young


Volunteer Robin Livingstone
Anthony McIntyre


The Anti Racism Network (ARN), in the beginning …
Davy Carlin




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