Who’s Who in Irish Politics? #GE2020


Tortured and dismembered 17-year-old children.
More than 10,000 homeless people sleeping on the streets, nearly 4,000 of whom are children.
Victims of homelessness treated like rubbish and facing permanent paralysis after being
crushed in “clean-up” operations. Attempted government-led commemorations to members of
the Royal Irish Constabulary who worked with the Black and Tans to defend the British empire
and murder our freedom fighters. An overcrowded health system in shambles with the trolley
crisis at its all-time-worst. As we continue to fail to achieve our greenhouse gas emissions
targets, Ireland is nowhere near meeting its climate-change goals, despite the fact that
we only have about 10 years to avert irreversible climate catastrophe. Rental prices have more
than doubled over the past decade, while real wages have remained stagnant. One in five
renters is spending more than 40% of their income on rent, giving them virtually no prospects
of saving up to purchase their own home someday, pushing predominantly young people and those
most vulnerable into further and further poverty. Working parents are paying the third highest
childcare fees in Europe, making the prospect of having children financially unviable for
most people. Worse and worse working conditions have become the norm as union membership is
at an all-time-low, giving workers less power and control over their lives than ever before.
Many are forced to take up precarious, unstable employment with companies like Deliveroo,
or work what are essentially zero-hour contracts – these are the kinds of working conditions
that haven’t been seen since the 1800s. Meanwhile, normal Irish citizens are still
paying off 42% of the entire European Union’s banking debt from the Bank Bailout in 2008;
the average EU citizen is paying off €192 for this debt, while every Irish worker is
paying nearly €9,000. Economic inequality is growing to dizzying
heights as conditions are getting better and better for the rich, but worse and worse for
the rest of us… This is Ireland, 2020, under Fine Gael-led governance. Anyone with half
a brain can see that things clearly need to change. With an upcoming election, we might
have a chance to effect such change – or at least influence it in some small way.
So who to vote for instead? Fianna Fáil – the ones who broke our economy and oversaw the
financial crash of 2008? How about Labour, the supposed friends of the average worker…
who betrayed us when they implemented and supported brutal austerity measures when last
in government which made average people worse off while the bankers and landlords maintained
their lives of luxury? I can’t make the decision for you, but today I’m gonna try
to give a brief overview of all the political options available, in terms of the various
parties, and where they sit approximately on the political spectrum. I’ll try to keep
things as simple as possible, and I’ll try to avoid technical jargon, so if you know
nothing about Irish politics, you’ll be right at home here.
So what are our options in terms of political parties to lead a new government to try to
get us out of this mess we’re in? Let’s go through the parties one-by-one from left
to right on the political spectrum. At the most leftward point of the political
spectrum, we have the Communist Party of Ireland. Now, this Marxist party is not going to be
running any candidates for the election as electoral politics is not its primary concern
at this time, rather focusing on building up power through trade unions, community organisation,
various campaigns, etc. For example, a lot of their energy at the moment is focused on
things like the Workers’ Rights Campaign, with the Trade Union Left Forum, which seeks
to repeal the 1990 Industrial Relations Act which hugely damaged the rights of workers
in Ireland, and replace it with a Fair Employment Act that would guarantee: 1. The rights of
union access to all workers; 2. The right to union recognition; 3. Full Collective Bargaining
rights; and 4.The end to the voluntarist industrial relations system. The hope here would be that
it could help redistribute power from the ruling classes to the workers through enabling
and empowering a militant trade union movement. This would help bring about real democracy
in people’s day-to-day working lives, rather than an abstract, shallow democracy where
you vote for random (usually rich) people to rule your country once every four or 5
years. As the name would suggest, the CPI is economically
and socially left-wing. Workers’ Party
At a similar position on the spectrum would be the Workers’ Party, who are enjoying
some renewed success after they relaunched their party activity in Dublin and subsequently
had a local councillor on Dublin City Council, Éilis Ryan, from 2015 to 2019. She’s also
running in the general elections, alongside David Gardiner, and potentially others. The
policies that they would push are, as the name would suggest, very pro-worker, pro-tenant,
and anti-landlord; basically, the antithesis of the current Fine-Gael-led government. They
have interestingly suggested the introduction of a “Landlord Tax” which would bring
in much higher taxes to landlords who own two or more rental properties on those second,
third, fourth, etc. properties. They support public housing, free public childcare, better
public transport which would be free for those who don’t own cars, fully free education
at all levels, and giving more power to local authorities rather than national authorities.
They very much fight against right-wing efforts to privatise key sectors and industries, and
support bringing services into public ownership where possible. Moving towards a slightly less far-left position
now would be the anti-imperialist, socialist republican party Éirígí. Their primary
goal is the non-violent establishment of a 32-county socialist republic of Ireland. But,
real socialism, not Scandinavian-style social democracy or the likes. They operate similarly
to the Communist Party of Ireland, often focusing more on activity in various campaigns, with
electoral politics only playing a small part in their activity. Notable campaigns include
fighting for Universal Public Housing, Womens’ Rights, and International solidarity efforts.
They don’t appear to be running in the upcoming general election. Right, so this next one’s a bit trickier.
These are actually three separate socialist parties (People Before Profit, Solidarity,
and RISE) who come together under one banner as part of an alliance, Solidarity-People
Before Profit, for elections. The common thread among them is one form of Trotskyism or another,
for those interested in specifics. They want to make housing a human right; scrap
property taxes on your personal home; end our two-tier health system in favour of free-at-point-of-use
public healthcare; restore the pension age back down to 65; move towards free lifelong
education; increase the minimum wage to €15 an hour; heavily tax individuals earning over
€90,000 per year; guarantee 33 hours of free childcare per week through a National
Childcare Service; ensure equality, accessibility and support for all those with disabilities
and special needs; radically fight climate change by targeting the large-scale companies
and corporations such as those 100 who are responsible for 71% of all global warming
emissions – remember, even if you do your piece individually to fight climate change
by going vegan, cycling to work, and buying the most “sustainable” products, and convince
all the people you know to do so, too, it won’t make a difference if these 100 companies
are allowed to continue to destroy the planet. We’ve only got 10 years before the damage
is irreversible and we find ourselves in climate catastrophe. This is why a more radical fight
is necessary. We can’t consume our way out of this mess, we need to fight those who are
most responsible and we need to do it now). They have a good record of following up on
this as demonstrated by People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith’s radical Climate Emergency
Bill which was tabled in 2018, but this was vetoed by the Fine Gael government and unable
to pass. They have a strong record of fighting for the rights of sex workers, women’s rights,
and LGBTQ+ rights. They’ve also fought tooth and nail to legalise medicinal cannabis, particularly
Gino Kenny, so if you want to see cannabis legalised (and I know a lot of young people
in particular do) then it should be noted that they’re the party most likely to make
that happen. Right, that was a lot, and that’s primarily
just People Before Profit’s policies and record, we could talk for hours about the
small differences between the various groups, but we’ll have to move on if we want to
cover the whole political spectrum. Oh, and I forgot to mention, People Before Profit
aren’t particularly vocal in calling for a referendum on a Reunited Ireland, but they
would campaign to reunite the 6 and 26 counties for a 32-county Ireland if the vote was called,
so take from that what you will. Okay, next up we have Independents 4 Change.
Again, another left-wing socialist grouping which includes politicians with strong records
of standing up for working people like Joan Collins. [play “Yous just don’t really
give a f**k” clip] However, as it is a group of independent candidates with diverse interests
and areas of focus, it’s difficult to apply policies to the whole group. You would need
to look at each candidate individually. Moving now from left-to-centre-left, we’ll
start with Sinn Féin, though I should mention that while they’re generally left-to-centre-left
in the 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland, they have arguably been closer to centre-right
while in power in the 6 counties of Northern Ireland. Supporters say this is due to them
needing to go into government and work with right-wing parties like the DUP as part of
the North’s power sharing agreement. That may or may not be true, but let’s put it
aside for the moment. Sinn Féin is a party that has seen a meteoric rise in popularity
over recent years. Long gone are historical suspicions about Sinn Féin due to the party’s
and Gerry Adams’ in particular, the party’s former leader, alleged connections to paramilitary
activity. They have always polled particularly well in working-class areas, and their influence
is now spreading into middle-class areas, too, with Mary Lou McDonald in charge. They
are now the third-most popular party, after Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, in Ireland, replacing
the position historically held by Labour. If we take them at face value, their policies
are reasonably left-wing, or at very least social democratic. Their stated goal is to
bring about a 32-county democratic socialist Republic of Ireland. So, democratic socialist
republican, left-wing natio nalists (which is significantly different to right-wing nationalism).
They plan on delivering 100,000 public homes on public land over the next five years. They
plan a three-year rent freeze and want to have a referendum on making housing a constitutional
right. Their economic and social policies on paper are basically a slightly less radical
version of those mentioned earlier when talking about People Before Profit and Solidarity.
For example, they’re planning on heavily increasing taxes on those earning over €140,000
per year, against People Before Profits’ increased taxes on those earning over €90,000
per year. So Sinn Féin would appear to be slightly friendlier to the middle, and even
upper-middle, classes. They also obviously focus a lot more explicitly on the national
question of reuniting Ireland once and for all.
At their recent Ard Fheis, they committed to and reaffirmed solidarity and support with
Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia in their efforts to either maintain or build socialism, something
which would be unimaginable for the other major parties like Fine Gael or Fianna Fail.
But, again, is it mostly just rhetoric, or do they really mean it? It’s hard to know
because within the party you have everything from hardcore Marxist-Leninists to milquetoast
social democrats and liberals, and even the odd social conservative (who might be economically
more left-wing). In terms of realistic alternatives to Fianna
Fáil and Fine Gael, Sinn Féin are THE party to watch. With their popularity in opinion
polls currently approximately matching support for Fine Gael, it’s looking very possible
that they could enter into government at some point in the near future – more likely than
not in some sort of a coalition with Fianna Fáil. Alternatively, it’s possible that
at some stage they might become the government’s majority party, supported and bolstered by
the aforementioned left-wing parties for a left coalition. That would represent a significant
sea change in Irish politics, and one which very much is on the horizon in the next decade
or two. Now I mentioned some members of Sinn Féin
being economically left-wing but socially conservative, and that’s important to understanding
the creation of the next party who will be running in the elections. After a split from
Sinn Féin due to their support for the Repeal of the 8th Amendment (legalising abortion
in Ireland), Aontú was formally launched in 2019. They maintain many of the same policies
as Sinn Féin – they emphasise workers’ rights and reducing economic inequality. However,
they are firmly against abortion – though they admit that there’s no way that abortion
will ever be made illegal in Ireland again. And, in contrast with the usual conservative
arguments against abortion, they situate their opposition to it firmly in an economic context.
They suggest that many people only get abortions due to it being financially impossible for
people to afford to have children, and they would focus on providing the social safety
net so that such a situation would never arise again; free childcare, more support for parents,
etc., etc. Conversely, we now have the Social Democrats
who are very much on the left in terms of social issues, but their economic policies
are much more centrist. Formed in 2015 by former Labour Party and Independent TDs, they’ve
gone from strength to strength over the past few years. They follow the standard social
democratic models laid down by Scandinavian countries like Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.
They’re very pro-European Union, which contrasts with most of the other political parties further
to the left in Ireland. Most other left-wing parties, and certainly all of the socialist
parties, are opposed to the European Union’s forced privatisation of certain sectors, its
forcing of Ireland to pay off 42% of the entire EU’s banking debt, the fact that its laws
make it impossible to implement socialist policies that would meaningfully redistribute
wealth and power within member countries, its unwavering institutionalised neoliberalism,
and of course the EU’s fundamentally undemocratic nature. Even Sinn Féin was historically very
anti-EU for these reasons, though it changed its tune recently, seemingly due to not wanting
to be associated with the right-wing racists, bigots, and xenophobes who have regrettably
spearheaded the UK’s Brexit. On paper, the Social Democrats are very similar
to Labour, though as a newer party they don’t yet have the stigma associated with them of
selling out the working class and implementing austerity when they get into government. However,
many on the left have felt betrayed by Gary Gannon, the Social Democrats’ Councillor
in Dublin City, for selling out public land to private developers at O’Devany Gardens
in Dublin’s North City Centre, an area which had historically been 100% public housing
– so there’s good reason to be cautious with them on their economic policies, even
to see them as potentially centre-to-centre-right economically in practice. That said, they’re
still very much progressives and on the left in terms of social issues. The Green Party in Ireland has seen massive
growth in the last couple of years, with more radical figures like Saoirse McHugh gaining
national and international attention. This is largely in response to the widespread fear
of impending climate disaster, which causes people to think an easy solution to the problems
would be to simply “Vote Green”. And in some countries, this might be helpful, if
you have for example a green party who are explicitly challenging business, challenging
global capitalism, etc., doing exactly what I mentioned People Before Profit doing. The
Green Party, unfortunately, made clear that it is NOT going to challenge business interests
(again, responsible for 71% of all global warming emissions) when it voted down a proposal
in 2019 to make the party explicitly anti-capitalist. Don’t be confused. The Irish Green Party
is not eco-socialist party, they’re green capitalists at best (with one or two notable
exceptions in terms of its members). From their website: “The need to address long-term
problems, such as climate change and biodiversity loss, is a key priority for the Green Party.
[…] we believe it is possible with a combination of technological advances, regulatory decisions
and positive behavioural change.” So, tech-bro solutions, piecemeal reforms, and naïve individualistic
liberal personal responsibility. This is why I place them in the centre, rather than on
the centre-left. Now they’re socially quite liberal (most
parties in Ireland nowadays are) especially on drug policy. At least they are ideologically,
having given support for cannabis cafés like they have in Amsterdam, though they haven’t
to my knowledge attempted to put forward any practicable legislation to the Dáil to implement
such a policy themselves. They support worker co-operatives, though,
at least in their policy, so that’s nice, I suppose. Though they obviously have their
own limitations under capitalism. Historically, they were in government with
Fianna Fáil from 2007 until 2011. Very bad timing as they oversaw the worst of the financial
crisis. The one positive thing they did while in power was contribute to the passing of
legislation allowing for civil partnerships for same-sex couples (which would pave the
way for the marriage referendum in 2015), though it should be noted that this was primarily
the result of widespread social movements and grassroots activism from LGBTQ+ groups
and their allies, and the pressure that these put on the government.
Labour There’s not much to say about Labour that
hasn’t already been said about the Social Democrats. On paper, their policies are basically
the same as the Social Democrats. Socially liberal, economically centrist. They’re
apparently for the people, pro-workers’ rights, pro-trade union, supporting progressive
reforms, reducing social inequality, etc. However, while in government with Fine Gael
in 2011, Labour sold out the workers by implementing brutal austerity measures, cuts to social
welfare benefits, especially targeting single parents and medical card holders. Their track
record shows that they’ve sold out working people every time they’ve been in a coalition
government, so that’s why it’s difficult to take them seriously as a centre-left party,
and it’s more accurate instead to put them in squarely in the centre. The memory of their
past betrayals is still strong, and they’re widely seen as suspicious among the working
class, and the support base is now primarily a bastion of middle-class progressive liberals
and champagne socialists. Now onto the big lads.
At the centre-to-centre-right, we have Fianna Fáil. They are the party likely to win the
most support in the upcoming election. Historically they would have leaned more towards the centre-left,
but have gradually moved rightwards since their formation in 1926.
They describe themselves as “The Republican Party”, with gestures towards egalitarianism,
inclusion, diversity, etc. etc. The slogan on their posters at the moment is “An Ireland
for All”. The party is big tent-ish. Its internal left-wing is social democratic while
its internal right-wing is neoliberal. There are as many social liberals as there are social
conservatives in the party. They’re often portrayed in the media as being a bit more
more socially conservative than Fine Gael, but slightly more left-wing economically,
especially with their old connections to trade unions. Their former leader, Bertie Ahern,
even famously, or perhaps infamously, described himself as a socialist in the Dáil in 2004.
In truth, these ideological gestures don’t really hold up to much scrutiny. They’re
generally quite populist and will give in to the demands of the people. But beyond that,
they don’t seem to have strict ideological principles that they stick to consistently.
They, alongside Fine Gael, have dominated Irish politics for the last 90 years, with
one or the other in power at all times. They’re currently generally seen as the lesser of
two evils, and the outcome of this election will likely reflect that. Nope. Not happening.
Alright, I’ll try to be fair…ish. Fine Gael, otherwise known as the Blueshirts, is
a centre-right-to-right-wing party who come from a strong tradition of… actual real-life
fascists like Eoin O’Duffy. Not joking. They have brought the country to its knees
over their past nine years in power. Remember all that bad stuff I mentioned in the first
2 minutes of this video? Anyway yeah, that’s all on them. In fairness, they did allow a
number of important measures to pass, such as progress on LGBTQ+ issues, abortion, the
removal of the baptism barrier from schools which allowed schools to discriminate and
give preference to students based on their religious affiliation… But it’s important
to remember that these were all measures that were pushed for by other people, and that
Fine Gael took the credit for them, the knobs. They style themselves as being progressive
and liberal. But they only support progressive measures when it would be political suicide
not to. In other words, when grassroots organisations have done all the hard work and heavy lifting
of protesting, knocking on doors, having difficult conversations with people about sensitive
subjects like abortion and marriage equality, changing the minds of the masses and building
up mass support for progress… only THEN will Fine Gael step forward and take credit…
for other people’s hard work. We saw this most clearly with Leo Varadkar’s historical
position on LGBTQ+ rights, take what he said in 2010…
Versus his championing of LGBTQ+ rights in 2019…
And the US-bootlicking…? I think Fine Gael’s policies can really
be best summed up in these three words; “F**k poor people”. They represent everything
that’s wrong with modern Ireland, all of the hypocrisies and contradictions in the
system. Yeah… That was me trying to be fair about
them. Speaking of bad politics, we’re now firmly
over on the right wing when we talk about Renua. Renua are quite a new party, only forming
in 2015. Economically and socially very right-wing. Pro-business. Anti-abortion. Against sex education
being provided in schools. Very interested in keeping the Catholic Church involved in
our political sphere. The odd right-wing anti-LGBTQ+ dog whistles about “family values”, etc.
They also link to Prager U on their website, which is kind of funny. But they’re mostly
just old-school conservatives, really. Anyway, that’s it. There’s probably one
or two far-right, ultra-nationalist, authoritarian parties, too, but who cares? No platform for
fascists. I won’t be making fun of them for being silly or ridiculous, for being a
joke, etc. – because that’s what happened with Bolsonaro in Brazil, and look at what
that has got them. So, that’s all. Those are the options we
have and there are some really good options there. You don’t need to vote for Fine Gael
or Fianna Fáil again – seriously, please don’t vote for the vampires in Fine Gael.
And yes, I know that this video is biased. Everyone is biased in some way or another,
and I’m definitely biased in favour of the left. If you want centrism, liberalism or
conservatism, open up any newspaper or web article and you’ll find more centrism than
you could imagine in even the wildest of your dreams.
Thanks as always to William Leetch, Luke Anokin, Rare Hero, and the rest of you who support
me on Patreon. I’d be fecked without yis. If you found this video useful, please consider
donating a euro or two per month on Patreon to help keep this work going.
Right, thanks for watching. Hope yis found it helpful. Slán go fóill “My Lovely Leo” Oh when I first met my Leo he knocked on my
door, My mate let him in and he stood on the floor, Says I am lovely Leo the stuff of folklore, come to see if you’re up in the morning. He stood in my room and he asked me the time, Before I could answer, he says it’s half
nine, And what are you doing in bed all so fine? why don’t you get up in the morning? Oh my lovely Leo, he wears a blue shirt, He was destined for greatness the day of his
birth, if you ask him nicely he’ll tell you what
you’re worth, Just a kick up the arse in the morning I says to him Leo, I’m so glad you are here, I’ve a dose of the blues and I’m filled
up with fear, If I don’t see a doctor the end might be
near, So I cannot get up in the morning. He says my young man, this blue heart you
won’t melt, For nary a feeling have I ever felt, And I’m cutting and cutting the oul mental
health So you’ll have to get up in the morning. Oh my lovely Leo, he wears a blue shirt, He was destined for greatness the day of his
birth, if you ask him nicely he’ll tell you what
you’re worth, Just a kick up the arse in the morning But Leo, me Leo, I can’t pay me rent For taimse in arrears and my money’s all spent The landlord, has taken me for every cent I’ll be out in a couple of mornings He says stop all your moaning or haven’t you
read, If you can’t pay your rent then your lease
it is dead, At least if you’re evicted you’ll get out
of bed, You’ll be raring to go in the morning. Oh my lovely Leo, he wears a blue shirt, He was destined for greatness the day of his
birth, if you ask him nicely he’ll tell you what
you’re worth, Just a kick up the arse in the morning But Leo, me Leo, I have a young child, She’s only in school and I have to provide, What can she do with no place to reside, If she’s out on the streets in the morning. Why don’t you send her to an oul boarding
school, Oh 10 grand a year and she’ll turn out no
fool She’ll have bedding and boarding and learn
how to rule, How to get the plebs up in the morning. Oh my lovely Leo, he wears a blue shirt, He was destined for greatness the day of his
birth, if you ask him nicely he’ll tell you what
you’re worth, Just a kick up the arse in the morning I says Leo, me Leo, what cloud are you on, Were you smoking oul dubies in the sun for
too long To your class of rich cronies I do not belong With ten grand I’d be grand in the morning. But c’mere to me Leo I told you a lie, I was out all last night, I was high as a
kite, And I’m sick of your snivelling sly feckin’
shite, And I’ll never get up in the morning. Oh my lovely Leo, he wears a blue shirt, He was destined for greatness the day of his
birth, if you ask him nicely he’ll tell you what
you’re worth, Just a kick up the arse in the morning When he heard what I said oh his face it went
red He says, you’re a lowlife, get out of the
bed You’re no banker, no landlord, you’re
no thoroughbred You disgrace of a man in the morning And it was finally then that I thought I’d
oblige, I sprang out of bed and took hold of his tie, And I dragged him to the door and I flung
him outside, And went back to me bed in the morning. Oh my lovely Leo, he wears a blue shirt, He was destined for greatness the day of his
birth, if you ask him nicely he’ll tell you what
you’re worth, Just a kick up the arse in the morning

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