6 July 2006 Edition
Building the real alternative
The true political alignment in the Dáil was exposed at midnight last Tuesday when Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael joined together to vote through a Defence Bill that undermines Irish neutrality and independent foreign policy. They were opposed by Sinn Féin, the Green Party and a few independents. The Labour Party abstained.
This is but the latest example of how on real policy issues there is little or no difference between the two large right-wing parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. And in typical opportunist fashion the Labour Party simply went into hiding - fearful to vote for the Bill lest it alienate many of their members and supporters who value neutrality but are equally fearful of exposing too stark a difference between them and their Fine Gael 'partners'.
Such gaps also exist between Fine Gael and Labour on other key issues like the privatisation of Aer Lingus and the two-tier health system. That is not to say that Pat Rabbitte and company would not swallow Fine Gael policies whole in order to get into Government. The Labour Party would do so in the future as it did in the past. But in the meantime it has to rally its support base to make the gains it believes are possible in the general election.
Both Fine Gael and Labour take the Green Party for granted in all of this, hoping that they to will 'do a Labour' and make up the numbers in a coalition. Green Party members should think very hard before going down that road.
Few in the media care to set out these uncomfortable facts. They are too busy teeing up the personality contest between Enda and Bertie and their sidekicks Pat and Mary.
The effect of all this is to narrow the ground for attack on the Fianna Fáil/PD government which has brought inequality in Irish society and incompetence in Irish governance to new depths.
Sinn Féin this week signalled its determination to challenge the FF/PD government on all fronts while also exposing the reality of the Coalition of the Confused. This is the way to build the real alternative in Irish politics.