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Mick Hall • 15 October 2004

The recent statement by the Fianna Fail Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern, in which he pointed out it was only a matter of time before Sinn Féin went into a coalition Government in the South, is being seen by many as a carrot being held out to the Provisional Republican Movement which is intended to encourage them to stand PIRA down sooner rather than later, or perhaps even a public statement by Fianna Fail of a quid-pro-quos if they were to do so. If so, it may well be wiser for Sinn Fein’s long term prospects if Mr Adams and his immediate leadership cadre refused to sup on this particular chalice. It may turn out to have been spiked with a slow acting poison, designed to bring about the demise of Sinn Fein as a major player in Ireland's political arena. Why so, some may ask; surely SF can only benefit from the public exposure and media coverage they would gain from being part of the Government within the Republic of Ireland. Perhaps, but history points to the reverse, not a single one of the political parties who have down the years entered Government in the Republic of Ireland as a junior partner have prospered. Nor, bar one, have any of the leading politicians within these parties. The sole exception is Pat Rabbitt and he and his colleagues had to liquidate their organisation, the Democratic Left, into the Labour Party to do so, and even in his case the jury is still out.

Indeed far from rewarding the smaller parties for entering government, the electorate has punished them, in some cases severely, seemingly blaming them for the sins of the senior party within the coalition they had entered. Clann na Poblachta, the Party founded by Sean McBride, a former chief of Staff of the IRA, gained ten TDs in the General Election of 1948 and entered into a coalition with Fianna Gael and the Irish Labour Party. Many felt they were on their way to becoming a major political force within Ireland. However by the early 1950s they had been reduced to two TDs. There followed a period of further decline and by the end of the 1950s Clann na Poblachta had disintegrated altogether.

The Labour Party has faired better as it had a more solid core constituency. Over the years it has been a member of a number of Coalition Governments with both of Ireland's main political parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, although it has never lived up to the often-made suggestion that it would replace Fine Gael as Ireland’s second party. The LP emerged from its last period as a member of a coalition government, this time in office with FG and the Democratic Left badly bruised (1994-97), losing nearly half of their seats in the Dail in the subsequent general election; their most high profile LP leader for decades, Dick Spring, went on to lose his own seat in 2002.

The Workers Party/Democratic Left which itself originally grew out of SF —some people believe that the WP trod the very same path that Mr Adams is now treading, the only difference being they took the walk over thirty years before— was once considered to be the for-runner of a new Left within Ireland, in much the same way as some members of Sinn Fein see their own party to be these days. After breaking from the Republican Movement in the early 1970s and eventually discarding the SF prefix to adapt its new name the Workers Party, they went on to gain seven seats in the Dail. The WP then went on to experience the type of split that is all too familiar on the left, when due to political and personal differences six of the party’s TDs broke away to form the Democratic Left, which with unseemly haste they then liquidated into the Labour Party with whom they had spent a period in office as members of a Fine Gael led coalition government. The WP has struggled on without having anything like its former success, suffering what seems to have become an iron law of Irish politics. i.e., the electorate is unforgiving to smaller parties when they enter into a coalition with one of the two larger parties.

The last of the smaller parties to enter into a coalition has been the Progressive Democrats who, like the SDP across the Irish Sea, was to be the harbinger of a new type of politics to the Irish People. This turned out to be nonsense as far as both of these parties were concerned and it is difficult to see the PDs lasting as a political force beyond the current decade when its leading personalities leave the political stage. The PDs sole purpose these days seems to be to make sure their most senior members have their bottoms seated comfortably within a Government issue ministerial limo.

In the long run it is the electorate that carries the most weight and if I were Gerry Adams, I would think extremely careful before drinking from a golden chalice marked 'coalition', the more so if it were offered by a man wearing a green glove. I would also consider cutting out carrots from my diet; they are, after all, coloured orange. For if his party enters into a coalition government with FF, which is in reality a right wing party with an opportunist green tinge, what will this say about Adams' claim that Sinn Fein is a party of the left? Now whilst a Labour, Green, Sinn Fein coalition could at a stretch be seen as a principled joining together of like-minded politicians, it really is difficult to see how joining Fianna Fail could be seen as anything more than SF joining up with Tammany Hall-like, gombeen-men. Something, incidentally, that Mr Adams has not shied away from doing in the USA. To conclude, as far as entering into any coalition in the South is concerned, Sinn Fein has some interesting decisions to make, which in the long run will be as important to its future development as when they decide to finally stand PIRA down.






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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

15 October 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Intimidation Continues in Rathenraw
Anthony McIntyre

Mick Hall

Choosing the Green
Liam O Ruairc

Anti-Racism Network Rally
ARN Steering Committee

A Coversation with Gerry Adams
Paul de Rooij

12 October 2004

George Harrison: An Appreciation
Sandy Boyer

Derrida, doctrinaires, debate
Seaghán Ó Murchú

That Hammering Sound
Michael Youlton

Truth Hurts
Mick Hall

Left Nationalism In Euskal Herria
Anthony McIntyre


The Letters page has been updated.



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