Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

1 June 2000 Edition

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The coalition debate - My two pennies' worth


As I was winding my way down from Creggan on the Bloody Sunday march last January, I found myself chatting with a comrade from Mayo.

We discussed everything from our chances in forthcoming electoral battles in the 26 Counties to the GAA, life, love and whether or not we believed in wing backs

Although he stubbornly favoured a flat back four, we reached agreement that our main political enemy in the 26 Counties is Fianna Fáil.

That weekend we had, separately, discussed with comrades in Derry the party's growing strength in the 26 Counties at all levels. Both the man from Ballina and myself over in Donegal had been quietly horrified at the sanguine view from the Foyle when it came to the subject of Fianna Fáil.

The view from Derry was that we should seriously consider going into coalition with Fianna Fáil next time around. Can you conceive of a party like Sinn Fein being in partnership with a party that has Burke, Foley and Haughey in it? Can you?

That such a cohesive party as ours could entertain such massively different world views within its ranks on such a central issue led me to ponder the massive reality that partition imposes on even active, able people dedicated to its destruction.

This is a debate that this movement has not yet had. So these are my thoughts on the whole notion of where we go as we start to score election successes in Leinster House.

The man and woman in the street, along with their dog, know that Fianna Fáil is rotten to the core. It is a sobering thought, as Albert Reynolds reminded a British hack who was blathering about decommissioning, that his party `` also grew out of an armed movement''. They did. The guys who set up Fianna Fáil were the republicans who the Staters didn't kill or couldn't catch.

They left Sinn Féin in 1927 and set up a Republican Party, which entered the Dáil and contested the 26-County area only. Fianna Fáil, in its organisational DNA, was flawed from Day One.

What kept them from becoming a generation earlier the gross, corrupt cabal they are today was that the leadership and the rank and file of Fianna Fáil were genuine committed republicans.

They had done the business against the British and then the Staters. They weren't in it for themselves. Whatever their failings or shortcomings, they believed in what they were doing and wanted to achieve the goals of the Easter Proclamation.

Today's lot are so decomposed from that original body that one can barely allow oneself to look at them on TV let alone put up with the stench of decay that must follow them around.

CJ Haughey, Ray Burke, Pee Flynn, then Denis Foley a ``poor Kerryman''. You would be stuck to find such a corrupt bunch anywhere. In the midst of this public decomposition of the Free State body politic there are kites being flown in the Irish Times and the Sunday Business Post that when Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has company in the Dáil that we will be natural coalition partners for Fianna Fáil.

Oh really?

Our task must be wipe out Labour as the party of the urban working class and simultaneously eat into the Fianna Fáil bedrock, both urban and rural.

If we have any ``deals'' with a minority Fianna Fáil administration, it will be very much in the Tony Gregory /CJ type of coalition. Exact the maximum benefit for your constituents (in the widest sense of the word) and remain outside the cabinet room. Such behaviour is out with the conception of Ruairi Quinn and Mary Harney, who crave the trappings of office like a strung out addict looking for the next hit.

It's not a new argument, but it's worth restating: Fianna Fáil in the last 30 years has systematically sold out everything the party was set up to achieve.

Remember how Haughey abused the breaking heart of Marcella Sands as her MP brother lay dying in 1981? Haughey played photo opportunities with distraught relatives all the while he was keeping Charvet's shirt factory on overtime.

The public representatives of Sinn Féin get a stipend to meet their living expenses. The outrageous salaries that are lavished on politicians do not go into the pockets of our Assembly members, MPs, TD etc. That money goes into party coffers to build our organisation and prepare for the election trail. Bottom line: if you're into politics because it's a nice wee earner, then don't join us!

There is also the unhappy history of what happens to the junior partners in coalitions. Clann na Poblachta, Labour, Democratic Left. The current junior partners, the PDs, are riding the Fianna Fáil tiger - they will get eaten up when they dismount to fight the next election as a distinct political brand name.

The Labour Party destroyed itself when the entire organisation saw their ultimate objective as keeping Dick Spring Tánaiste - no matter who was Taoiseach after the votes had been counted.

People vote in elections often as much to get rid of the government as to put in the party they like. By being in permanent government and not being able to appreciably alter the programme of government, it was the worst of both worlds. Even after ingesting the husk of DL, the Labour Party is going nowhere except down.

They fear us. They know we can't be bought. We must bury them. There will be only one party of labour on this island - the republican labour party - Sinn Féin.

Connolly's challenge, which he first penned in ``The Irish Flag'' remains. The Labour Party and the Stickies failed as parties of the working class because they pretended that there was a country called ``The State''. They styled themselves almost a bizarre type of Red unionists. They failed.

Democratic Left is no more. Labour we will mortally wound in an election or two. The only wrong turn we could take on that march would be to enter into coalition with Fianna Fáil.

Our aim in the 26-County elections must be to maximise the representation of working class interest through Sinn Féin - for no one else will do it. When we have several Sinn Féin TDs in Leinster House we can start to extort, yes extort, benefits from for the excluded and dispossessed in the 26 Counties.

Having people in Leinster House who actually mean what they say, don't gorge themselves on the gravy and are in touch with the people who elected them puts a bomb under the whole edifice of the Free State body politic.

Just as we are on the cusp of hurting corporate Ireland's feudal gameplan for the Irish working class - why should we banquet with aristocracy? The only coalition I can recall of in this state where the junior partner gained was the CJ/Tony Gregory ``coalition''. That is the way to do it.

Who is to say at the moment that Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin's presence is not having an effect on the Ahern administration? Four or five Sinn Féin TDs would exert more influence, much more.

This party has no policy, at present, on entering a coalition with Fianna Fáil, or anyone else for that matter. I believe the Ard Fheis was wise in deciding to place the matter in the hands of a special delegate conference. We currently dont have a policy one way or another.

My view on this is clear, but it's just my view. In the meantime, I think comrades in cumainn up and down this island should be considering our options in the event of more Sinn Féin TDs.

I was back in Derry recently. I wandered up the hill to the Creggan this Easter to pay my respects to our fallen comrades. As the hailstones made me hide in my hood, I pondered on this truth. The very fact that we had cause to discuss the possibility of government at an Ard Fheis shows how much the terrain of our struggle has broadened - just as Bobby Sands demanded it should.

Coalition? We might, we might not, but we'll be able to. Our years in the dark are over. The Risen People's Party is pushing for power, clamouring for change. No. They didn't die for nothing.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1