1 December 2014 Edition
Sinn Féin and Government – It’s the Republic
Building an Alternative
A government should not simply be about making up the numbers. It should be about vision, policies, goals and values
AS WE move towards 2016 and the next Dáil general election, the focus will switch to who will form the next government in the South. If previous debates on who might make up any government are a barometer, it will be all about the numbers – simple arithmetic. And while that is understandable and part of the picture, it dumbs down the debate.
A government should not simply be about making up the numbers. It should be about vision, policies, goals and values. It should not simply be about the ‘who’ but also about the ‘what and how’.
Who is in Government should be underpinned by what they will do and how they will do it.
Sinn Féin should change the narrative and shift the debate. We must not present ourselves as hungry for power but rather hungry for change. Our participation in Government must be about maximum change – unity, a fair economy, citizens’ rights, equality, strong public services and active citizenship.
The electorate in the South has had a bellyful of rhetoric and false promises. Those seeking change have been badly let down by Labour, the Greens, the Progressive Democrats and Independents who from time to time have propped up right-wing governments.
The missing ingredient is trust from an austerity-battered electorate who have had enough.
For Sinn Féin to win and keep the trust of the working class and the struggling middle classes our message must be clear and unambiguous. Slick or clever political manoeuvring or jargon will be found out. Mixed messages will get lost in translation. Ultimately, going into Government is a decision for our membership if and when the opportunity presents. And that is how it should be. We must, however, enter the next phase of electoral politics with a clear message, North and South.
• Sinn Féin says scrapping the water charges and Property Tax are 'red line issues'
And as we prepare for Government in the South we must keep an obvious eye to the North. A crisis in unionism, a failure by others to keep commitments and the spectacle of savage Tory cuts has created instability and uncertainty. To view and discuss potential coalition Government in the South in isolation to the difficulties in the North would be a mistake.
So we must think and act nationally.
Sinn Féin is for the reconquest of Ireland for the people of Ireland.
We are about ending corruption, cronyism and jobs for the boys.
We are for real political reform.
Poverty, inequality, racism and sectarianism have no place in our Republic.
We are for a fair economy and for the vindication of social and economic rights.
The party has already pointed to a number of ‘red line issues’, including the scrapping of the Property Tax and water charges. This is sensible and is part of rebuilding our tax base to one underpinned by progressive and direct taxation based on income. However, our participation in Government will penetrate deeper than those important changes. It will be about transforming politics, putting citizens front and centre and dismantling the unequal and unfair institutions and policies of two failed states.
I have my own view on coalition and, like any other member, I will argue my case within the party. It’s simple – not as a junior partner and not as a crutch for Fine Gael or for Fianna Fáil.
We should not be afraid of Government but nor should we act prematurely.
It all comes back to that key ingredient – trust. Let’s win the trust of the electorate, keep it, cherish it and build the Republic on solid foundations.
Exciting and challenging times ahead.