Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

23 May 2002 Edition

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A realignment of Irish politics

There is an understandable focus on which parties will form the next government. The next week will see debate, speculation and much tactical manoeuvring as the Taoiseach goes through his options.

Whatever the composition of that government, one thing is certain. It will be a government that is about continuing the centre right strategy of the last administration on economic and social matters. It is also certain that it will be a Fianna Fáil led government. And it is arguable, despite the PDs' verbal gymnastics, that the people voted for the return of the outgoing government.

But the wider implications of the elections are not so clear-cut.

We could be seeing the beginning of a realignment or at least a redefining of Irish politics. So the big question is not just about who will form the government. It is also about who will form the opposition to that government and what will be the basis of that opposition.

There is a huge challenge for those parties or individual TDs who have an inclusive and progressive view of Irish society to answer that question.

Sinn Féin TDs will play their role in trying to build an alternative to the vested interests that have benefited most from the prosperity of recent years. There is also a need to defend the gains, which have been made by sections of ordinary people who in fact were the creators of the wealth of the Celtic Tiger.

Sinn Féin's only interest in increasing our political strength is to utilise that strength to bring about equality, to end poverty, and factor equity and justice into the rights of citizens in their entitlements to decent jobs, a public health service, education and housing.

We campaigned on these issues as well as for the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and the objective of Irish unity. But we have no monopoly on any of these positions. They are shared by members of all the other parties, including some who will form the government.

But if progress is to be made those of us who share this vision on an ideological basis or as a matter of principle will have to learn to coalesce, to map out broad programmes of work, and to provide principled opposition. This is vital given the likelihood that the incoming government may be about selling off public services, imposing further privatisation on our health services, and reinforcing and deepening the gap between rich and poor.

The Sinn Féin Officer Board will meet today with our newly elected TDs to commence the task of delivering on our mandate. In the period ahead we will be meeting with all the other parties in the Dáil. We will also be opening up consultations with all of those groups and organisations that campaign on equality issues.

As the third richest state in the European Union, there is a big responsibility to deliver equality to those sections of our society most disadvantaged and deprived. Left to its own devices, the new government will continue with its old agenda. That is not an agenda for equality.


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1