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Ireland: Sinn Féin leader calls for discussions on building left alternative; Anti-austerity campaign boosted
By John Hedges
January 29, 2015 -- An Phoblacht, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Sinn Féin national chairperson Declan Kearney calls in the February issue of An Phoblacht for formal discussions on building an Irish left alternative in the wake of the success of SYRIZA in Greece.
Writing in An Phoblacht, Declan Kearney says:
“This is the time for serious political discussion among progressive Irish political, community and trade union activists on ideas and strategies to ensure the future election of a Left coalition in the South ...
“Those on the progressive and republican Left need to make that change irreversible by altering the current balance of forces to create a new political realignment. That will only come about through popular support for a credible political alternative that can effectively challenge the conservative power blocs and their policies ...
“Political engagement needs to take place among all those genuinely committed to democratic control of the economy, social justice and an agreed, united Ireland. Progressive political, social and community movements should collectively discuss the development of an agenda which mobilises the greater mass of Irish society in support of equality, protecting the most vulnerable, distributing wealth and resources according to citizens’ needs, and guaranteeing their rights.
"As new international political forces move towards governmental power, formal political discussion should commence in Ireland on how to forge consensus between Sinn Féin, progressive independents, the trade union movement, grassroots communities, and the non-sectarian Left. That process should concentrate on building durable, strategic, cross-sectoral, cross-community and political alliances North and South.”
Declan Kearney is writing in a forum under the heading 'Building an Alternative', with contributions by leading figures inside and outside Sinn Féin.
Dr Helena Sheehan, chair of the Left Forum, writes in the same issue of her desire for a new party of the left “converging with forces stemming from the republican tradition in an alliance with Sinn Féin that might eventually form the basis of a Left government”.
In July 2014, Mary Lou McDonald TD opened a forum for discussion by people inside and outside Sinn Féin on the way forward after the last elections and in which the Sinn Féin deputy leader said under the headline “Politics is not a spectator sport”: “We must ferociously challenge the status quo and build progressive alliances.”
Writing on the Sinn Féin website on January 30, Declan Kearney called for formal discussions to build a left-wing alternative alliance in Ireland.
The South Antrim Westminster election candidate said:
"There has been unprecedented upheaval in Irish politics in recent years. It would be premature to say the ongoing flux represents a permanent political realignment, but the status quo nationally has shifted, creating the potential for more change.
"Those on the progressive and republican left need to make that change irreversible by altering the current balance of forces to create a new political realignment.
"That will only come about through popular support for a credible political alternative which can effectively challenge the conservative power blocs and their policies.
"It is no coincidence that SYRIZA had such success in the Greek general election, or Podemos has become the largest party in Spain, and, the SNP [Scottish National Party] is on the rise.
"Stark ideological differences now exist over how Irish society should organise itself. There is a growing polarisation between the interests of citizens’ rights and community, and those of international banks and capital.
"A new critical mass for change is essential. Political engagement needs to take place among all those genuinely committed to democratic control of the economy, social justice and an agreed, united Ireland.
"As new international political forces move towards governmental power, formal political discussion should begin in Ireland on how to forge consensus between Sinn Féin, progressive independents, the trade union movement, grass roots communities, and the non-sectarian left, which will ensure the future election of a left coalition in the south dedicated to establishing a new national Republic."
Syriza triumph inspires Irish campaign against austerity
January 31, 2015 -- Irish Republican News -- The victory in last weekend’s Greek general election of the left-wing Syriza party has electrified European politics and inspired new confidence in Ireland’s anti-austerity movement and parties...
Sinn Fein’s finance spokesman Pearse Doherty congratulated the party led by Alexis Tsipras on its “stunning” victory, saying it offered a real change for Greeks and an opportunity for “progressive change” in Europe.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams described the election result as “a victory of hope over fear”. He congratulated the Greek Prime Minister on his historic election victory and wished him well in his new position as leader of the new coalition government. He also pledged Sinn Fein’s support for Mr Tsipras’s opposition to austerity and for the resolution of the debt burden as a European issue.
“Austerity has heaped severe hardship on citizens in Greece, Ireland and across Europe. It has seen public services dismantled and vicious attacks on the welfare of working people. It makes no economic or social sense, except for the elites,” he said.
“The Fine Gael/Labour government in Ireland is ideologically wedded to austerity and has shown no appetite in seeking a better debt deal for Irish citizens.”
The Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy described the result as a “decisive rejection by the Greek people of savage austerity and a campaign of fear run by the Greek and EU establishment”.
Richard Boyd Barrett, a TD for the People Before Profit Alliance, said Syriza’s win should prompt a new campaign to repudiate the “odious” debts of banks and bondholders imposed on ordinary Irish citizens.
“After six years of cruel and unjust austerity, the people of Greece have led the way in Europe, saying ‘enough is enough’”, he said.
Following his victory, Tsipras has pursued a long list of campaign pledges that it putting the country on a collision course with Brussels, Berlin and Frankfurt.
Privatisation plans have already been halted, and the minimum wage will be raised by over 50% in the most dramatic rejection of Troika austerity terms.
Tsipras told his new cabinet that the government is willing to negotiate on its demands for debt relief but will not abandon its core promises to the Greek people.
“We will not seek a catastrophic solution, but neither will we consent to a policy of submission. The country is holding up its head,” he said.
In the Dail [Ireland's parliament], Gerry Adams expressed dismay at Taoiseach [prime minister] Enda Kenny’s repeated rejection of the proposal for a European Debt conference. He said Ireland’s debt burden had been forced upon the people and was “the single biggest cause of our economic misery”.
This is not just an Irish problem, he said. “This is a European problem. It needs a European solution.
“There is nothing whatsoever to lose if the Taoiseach endorses a European Debt Conference. It makes sense. There can only be gains.”
The cutting edge of austerity was this week reflected in a further fall in the quality of Ireland’s health service, which has plummeted eight places to 22nd in a European league table.
The latest Euro Health Consumer Index (ECHI) was published as nurses continue to protest against overcrowding, cutbacks and general mismanagement in Ireland’s hospitals.
Public protests have also been taking place outside hospitals. In Limerick, left-wing protestors were dragged away by Gardai police after they blocked the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar’s car as he visited University Hospital in the city.
With dozens of patients piled up on trolleys inside the hospital’s Emergency Department, a spokesperson for the Anti Austerity Alliance claimed Varadkar had left the accident and emergency department looking like a “crime scene”.
Meanwhile, the government is moving to sell off the privatised Irish national airline, Aer Lingus. The planned sale was described as an “act of economic treason” by Republican Sinn Fein and a “major concern” by Sinn Fein.
“All the markers of a sovereign and independent state have been given away by successive administrations,” said RSF leader Des Dalton.
“For an island nation to be deprived of the ownership and control of all these essentials modes of transport and communication leaves the Irish people even further at the mercy of transnational capital.
Adams said direct air services and air route connectivity were “absolutely vital” for investment, tourism and business in Ireland.
The proposed takeover of Aer Lingus by IAG represented significant risks to the Irish economy and employment for Irish workers.
“The government again faces a choice, of rewarding wealthy businessmen at the expense of Irish citizens or of defending Irish national interests”, he said.