16 July 2009 Edition
Towards a political strategy for the 26 Counties
BY CAOILFHIONN Ní DHONNABHÁIN
Sinn Féin Director of Political Operations (26 Counties)
IT is now nearly six weeks since the local and European elections. Party activists have had a chance to recover from what was a long and gruelling campaign. Some activists are settling into their new roles as Town, City and County Councillors.
Our new councillors and those who retained their seats have been involved in working out agreements with other parties at council level and, where possible, such as in South Dublin County Council, in establishing agreements with other parties on the left.
A number of important meetings are taking place across the Cúigí to analyse the post election political landscape. Discussions have taken place in Munster, South Leinster and in Dublin and are to take place in the other Cúigí shortly.
These discussions, using the existing structures of the party, are seeing the views of cumann members across the regions being fed into a wider discussion about the outcome of the elections and the steps that the party needs to take now. The questions being asked include how does the party continue to build political strength and what plans are required to maximize our electoral performance.
These important grassroots discussions around a strategy for the 26 Counties are directly feeding into the work of the newly established 26 County Strategy Group. That group has been tasked with bringing forward a draft strategy paper for the 26 Counties. As this group begins its work it is clear that Sinn Féin needs to identify those sections of public opinion we are seeking to influence; and we should be communicating to these segments of the electorate what we stand for through a number of key messages, core ideas and carefully chosen campaigns.
In bringing forward this strategy we need to acknowledge where mistakes have been made in recent years. We need to understand why people aren’t clear what we stand for, and work out how to properly interpret their needs, hopes, and expectations. We then need to look at how we address all of this. In the time ahead we need to develop as interactive a process of discussion as possible on these issues within the party organisation nationally.
A second Lisbon campaign is due to take place in October. The impact of the economic crisis on the everyday lives of ordinary people is being exploited to try and push through what is an unchanged treaty. December’s budget is on course to implement savage cuts to public services and social protections. We need to work with those who share a common objective in resisting these cuts – communities who are set to lose services, the trade union movement and others. The severity of the budget may precipitate a general election which we need to be ready to fight. Employers are pressing forward with attempts to drive down wages and conditions and dismantle the industrial relations mechanism in place in the state. Unions have shown in recent weeks that they will fight these attempts all the way – we need to be supporting them in this.
There is a huge anger amongst large sections of the population, particularly those who have lost their jobs and those who recognise that it is they who will be forced to bear the brunt of cut backs in public services. How we harness that anger – how we communicate to these people that we are on their side is one of the challenges now facing the party.
Harnessing that anger will require the party to return to campaigning on issues affecting the communities which we are seeking to represent. As our councillors face into a five-year term in local government most are acutely aware that building a track record of representing their community is crucial. They also see that they must make the work of the council relevant to those they are elected to represent. We need to focus on building the party and building alliances. The apathy (and other factors) which causes so many voters in working classes areas not to vote is something that must be tackled as part of our strategy as we go forward. Central to that must be the empowerment of local communities, and encouraging ordinary citizens into grassroots activism – perhaps for the first time. How we approach these tasks will determine whether those people we are seeking to influence and mobilise, believe us when we speak of building an alliance for change which brings forward a real alternative.
The development of our political strategy for the 26 Counties, the extent to which it has the buy in of activists across the party and the degree to which it addresses the challenges we now face will be crucial in determining the future success of the party in the South.
STRIKE ON HERE: Unions have shown in recent weeks that they are ready to fight
An Phoblacht Magazine
AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:
- The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
- It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
- There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.