21 August 2008 Edition
Building Sinn Féin as a credible political alternative
DECLAN Kearney (An Phoblacht 31 July 31) is right when he asserts that Sinn Féin policies must be seen as relevant if it is to develop the political strength necessary for their implementation. However, the party must be careful not to assume this means altering policies to fit the prevailing political orthodoxy of neo-liberalism and individualism.
In the pursuit of political strength we must not lose sight of the prize. Political strength is necessary to deliver the prize but is not the prize itself.
Sinn Féin must be wary of attempting to occupy ground held by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Besides being a negation of the aim of a socialist republic such a strategy would not even deliver political strength since that ground is already overcrowded.
If Sinn Féin is serious about taking power in Ireland it must create a vision of a new Ireland which will inspire people to actually want to go out and vote for it. It has been the inability (for whatever reason) to present such a clear alternative vision, which has been one of the main contributing factors in the stunting of Sinn Féin’s growth in the South.
Such a vision needs to be practical and credible. That means articulating policies in a language people understand and moulding such policies to meet, in a practical way, the challenges of an increasingly globalised world. It may also necessitate the development of distinct sets of policies for the short, medium and long-term around the economy, health, education and housing provision, etc. to suit prevailing economic circumstances.
However, the socialist republic should remain the end goal and policies need to reflect and complement this.
Sinn Féin’s strengths are that its struggle is grounded in self-sacrifice, solidarity, the commitment of activists and its experience in working and living in struggling communities. Its socialism is not merely theoretical but based on pragmatic responses to oppression.
Despite this Sinn Féín remains a very broad church and whilst this has had its advantages in terms of opposing occupation, it has also had disadvantages in the development of ideology. Many people support Sinn Féin for its adherence to a united Ireland rather than its critique of capitalism.
However, at a time when Sinn Féín is in Government in the North and preparing for Government in the South, it needs to be clear where it stands on the latter if it is to be viewed as a credible alternative for the electorate.
FÉILIM Ó hADHMAILL,
Hunting and the IFA
THE Irish Council Against Blood Sports welcomes the decision by IFA
President, Padraig Walshe, to stay away from a recent pro-hunting seminar in Dublin.
As hunting animals with packs of hounds is completely incompatible with farming interests, it was very appropriate for our national farming organisation to shun the hunters.
The Irish Farmers’ Association’s move can be seen as an acknowledgement of the threat hunting poses to agriculture and is undoubtedly being applauded by the long line of farmers across the country who have suffered the consequences of rampaging hunts.
Among the incidents noted by the Irish Council Against Blood Sports are hunt hounds disturbing and killing livestock, mounted hunters
pockmarking pastures beyond recognition, people and pets being attacked by hounds and the flattening of crops and boundaries. Also of major concern are hunters disregarding biosecurity and spreading disease from one farm to the next.
We hope that Mr Walshe’s stance will inspire even more farmers to close their gates to hunters and help hasten the demise of this cruel and destructive activity.
Irish Council Against Blood Sports,
PO Box 88,
University fees debate
I MUST take issue with the prevailing attitude of the political left in Ireland in relation to the recent debate around the re-introduction of university fees in the 26 Counties.
What exactly did the scrapping of fees do to tackle inequality in Irish education? Not much as far as I can see.
What the scrapping of fees did achieve however was to remove millions of Euros out of the education system and put it back into the pockets of middle-class parents who can well afford to pay for their children’s education.
Those who could not afford fees should not and did not have to pay to go to university. If fees are re-introduced they will still not have to pay.
Scrapping fees, in the absence of a radical change in the tax system, merely pandered to the wealthy middle class.
Parties of the Left cannot forever go around calling for free education, free healthcare, free public transport etc. without advocating the necessary economic reforms that these policies would require - namely higher taxes on wealth, property and multinational corporations.
If political parties are not willing to implement wealth re-distribution through a progressive tax system, they cannot complain if others propose doing it in another way - such as making the wealthy pay their fair share by means including university fees.