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11 June 2009 Edition

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Government must go - time to build a Left alternative

THE local and European elections in the 26 Counties last week saw a resounding rejection of the government parties who have now lost their moral authority to govern.
Fianna Fáil obtained the lowest share of the vote in its history and the elections saw a virtual wipeout of the Green Party. The government has faced a vote of no confidence in the Dáil and the political pressure is mounting for Taoiseach Brian Cowen.
The election saw Sinn Féin make key gains in several constituencies. Sinn Féin entered local elections with 51 county council seats and came in with 54. The party improved on its substantial 2004 performance in local and EU elections.
Across five EU constituencies Sinn Féin took a massive 331,797 votes and 14.34% of the all-Ireland vote.
In the Six Counties, Bairbre de Brún’s success in holding the EU seat and topping the poll was an historic development with major political ramifications, yet to be fully appreciated.
Media coverage however focused on the contest within unionism, overshadowing the sheer scale of the Sinn Féin achievement. In an election where motivating voter turnout was crucial Sinn Féin’s success in getting a 26% first preference vote share is testimony to a hugely successful campaign.
Retaining the Dublin MEP seat was always going to be very difficult once the Dublin constituency had been reduced to a three-seater. The smear campaigns and personal attacks on Mary Lou McDonald and Sinn Féin local candidates by particular media outlets, notably the Evening Herald shows just what Sinn Féin is up against.
The campaign in Dublin brought out the worst the establishment parties who resorted to reactionary, sexist tactics in their desperation to ensure that it was McDonald and not one of the other sitting MEPs who would lose out.
Sinn Féin in Dublin is in the early stages of re-organising across the city and county and has regained ground from 2007. A huge amount still needs to be done.  The Dublin Cúige leadership met on Monday to recommence the work of building the party, making it more relevant, ensuring that Sinn Féin is active in local communities and starting preparations for the General Elections.  
Toiréasa Ferris’s performance in the South constituency was particularly impressive and she came very close to taking the last seat there.
The party also polled strongly in North West with Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, and in Ireland East with Kathleen Funchion and Tomás Sharkey.
The election saw a clear swing to the Left vindicating Sinn Féin’s call during the campaign for political unity among parties and individuals genuinely seeking to build a fairer, more equal society. The election result can, if the will is there, bring closer the prospect of a realignment in Irish politics.
In councils across the 26 Counties there is now the potential to form Left alliances and a real alternative at Local Government level.
It was clear during the election that voters were focused on national issues and wanted to give their verdict on the government. They have now done so loud and clear. With the government’s moral authority eroded to such a massive degree it is now time to call a general election.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1