Socialist Worker

Irish election: Establishment gets a kicking as people deliver verdict on austerity

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2492

People Before Profits newly elected TD for Dublin Mid-West Gino Kenny being held aloft after result announced

People Before Profit's newly elected TD for Dublin Mid-West Gino Kenny being held aloft after result announced (Pic: @pb4p)


The establishment took a kicking in Ireland’s general election last weekend.

The vote reflected continuing resistance to austerity, and in particular the powerful campaign against water charges. The left of Labour Anti Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit (AAA/PBP) group and Sinn Fein made significant gains.

The socialist AAA/PBP has won five seats so far, with good chances in two others that are still being counted. This is a great achievement.

People Before Profit's newly elected TD (MP) for Dublin Mid-West, Gino Kenny said, “We'll use the Dail (parliament) to mobilise as many people as possible. When there are strikes or upheavals, we'll be there.

“We'll use the parliament to voice the concerns of people who are fighting. The main thing is to be shoulder to shoulder with anyone who's striking against the system.”

Richard Boyd Barrett, a member of the Irish SWP and People Before Profit, was re-elected. He increased his vote significantly to be the first elected in the Dun Laoghaire constituency.

Richard said, "We played a really critical role in building what is probably one of the biggest mass movements in the history of the state around water charges. That has boosted our fortunes enormously.

Agenda

“Although we have relatively small forces in the Dail we set the agenda for the left on a whole range of issues.

“People are still very angry at the unfair impact of austerity. It has generated an enormous housing crisis, a huge shambles in the health service and low pay.

“The more the government talked about recovery the more people were saying, where's our recovery?

“The water charges movement was always about much more than water. It was a culmination of fury and anger against six years of austerity and the betrayal of the Labour Party finally finding a focus.

It was a culmination of fury and anger against six years of austerity and the betrayal of the Labour Party finally finding a focus

Richard Boyd Barrett

“There's a fantastically high level of political engagement in the working class. I don't think that's going away any time soon and I think it will put enormous pressure on any government that comes in.

“Our task is to continue to agitate and push that movement forward.”

The outgoing Fine Gael/Labour coalition government’s electoral campaign emphasised “economic recovery” and “stability”.

But their early hopes that they could win on the basis of claiming to have secured prosperity soon turned to dust. One opinion poll taken just before the election showed more than half said they “had felt no economic benefit” from the supposed recovery.

Ireland has the second highest percentage of low-paying jobs in the developed world.

"Whingers"—as Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny described the voters—got their revenge and gave him and his coalition partner the Labour Party a seriously bloody nose.

The Labour Party went from 20 percent of the vote last time to 6.6 percent

Reject

Voters have followed the path taken by the Spanish and Portuguese electorates in rejecting a government that implemented an European Union (EU)/International Monetary Fund bankers' bailout.

Since 2010, Ireland’s top 300 wealthiest individuals have doubled their wealth. These 300 individuals have a combined wealth of £70 billion, a fifth of all the wealth in the country.

In contrast half of all Irish people have less than 5 percent of that wealth.

Just over three decades ago, the three main parties received 94 percent of vote. In the 2007 election, the combined popular vote for Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour was 79 percent. Now it is just over half. So the establishment parties are down 25 percentage points.

The last two elections have rewritten Irish parliamentary politics.

After being the natural party of government for most of the history of the Irish state, Fianna Fail was decimated in the 2011 election for implementing an EU austerity package.

This time Fianna Fail recovered slightly. It did this partially by tacking left in opposition to the government. It campaigned on an "Ireland For All" slogan. It portrayed Fine Gael as only being interested in the wealthier classes. Which is true about Fine Gael - but it's true about Fianna Fail too.

Paul Murphy, elected from the Anti Austerity Alliance, was right to say the election was a "political earthquake".


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