Speaking about the future governmental coalitions at this year's Desmond Greaves Summer School in Dublin, ATGWU official Michael O'Reilly said:
THE LEFT'S blind pursuit of removing Fianna Fail from office at any cost could weaken its electoral appeal and undermine its ability to achieve power.
The effect of submerging its political ambitions into a mismatched alliance with Fine Gael has already blunted Labour's policy development. Labour's political programme will inevitably be downsized to accommodate a more conservative Fine Gael.
The key political issue is not the removal of Fianna Fail from office but challenging the right-wing stranglehold over the economic and social agenda. If all the left can do is participate in a non-Fianna Fail coalition as a minority partner to an essentially right wing party, it will have achieved very little.
All analyses to date suggests that a pre-electoral pact with Fine Gael will substantially boost their strength while leaving Labour with only marginal gains. So what is the motivation for people to support Labour when Labour is content to act as an anti-FF prop? In the last local election, Labour's support increased by less than 1% - hardly a good portent.
Labour should, instead, seek to redefine Irish politics. Simply put - the Irish electorate should be presented with a stark choice: either continue with the right-wing policies of FF-led governments or choose the only other alternative - a left-led government that will challenge neo-liberalism, promote equality and champion the public realm.
Equally, the ICTU must stop acting as a prop to the most right winged government that has held office since the war. The trade union movement cannot defeat the privatisation programmes of this government by a simple industrial relations strategy without a strong political dimension. They need to politicise their members and play an active role in promoting the unity of Labour, Sein Fein, the Greens and community organisations to challenge the right winged policies of the current government.
In addition, Labour and the trade unions should reach out to single-issue and community organisations, campaigning together on mutually beneficial goals. There is already an alternative programme emerging out of the work of these groups - the only problem is that they are working in isolation.
Only in this way, can Labour, the trade union movement and the Left begin to achieve real power in society and challenge the Right's stranglehold over government that has gone on since the founding of the state.
Connolly Association, c/o RMT, Unity House, 39 Chalton Street, London, NW1 1JD
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