Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

14 September 2006 Edition

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Republicanism is real alternative to McDowellism

So the rabidly anti-republican Michael McDowell has succeeded to the leadership of the Progressive Democrats. Some say he was already leader in all but name. He will now also be Tánaiste, further emphasising the influence of the PDs in Government.

As Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform McDowell has abused his position to carry out a witch-hunt against the Centre for Public Inquiry, refused to introduce rights-based disability legislation and presides over a grossly unfair immigration and asylum system. He has failed to live up to his human rights obligations under the Good Friday Agreement and has reinforced rather than dispensed with the draconian Offences Against the State Acts. Fianna Fáil should not be allowed to forget any of this.

At his first press conference as leader McDowell lashed the Fine Gael/Labour alliance dubbing them the 'slump coalition' - all grist to the mill for the establishment media which has been doing its best to boost the prospects of Enda Kenny and Pat Rabbitte.

While McDowell's personal antipathy to republicanism is not in doubt, his regular rants must also be seen in the context of the contest for votes between the PDs and Fine Gael. Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin pointed out this week:

"As we approach a General Election it is worth remembering that the main plank in Michael McDowell's election platform in 2002 was his anti-Sinn Féin tirade. This was a cynical exercise designed to win votes from a section of Fine Gael supporters. We may well see this competition again for a perceived anti-republican vote but Sinn Féin will be challenging the PDs on their appalling record in Government and presenting the real alternative to the right-wing rump now led by Michael McDowell."

Whoever occupies the leader's position in the Progressive Democrats Sinn Féin will strongly oppose their right-wing policies. McDowell has stated that inequality is a good thing for the Irish economy and none of his PD colleagues dissented from that view. Fianna Fáil has been happy to allow this right-wing agenda to determine the direction of the Government. The Fianna Fáil/PD administration has worsened inequality, especially in the health services under the stewardship of Mary Harney.

Would Fine Gael be any better? Only the most naïve could believe so, yet this is the line that the Labour Party, and large sections of the media are trying to sell. It is up to republicans to show that the real political alternative is the republican programme of equality as represented by Sinn Féin.

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