The recent Euro and local elections showed the left making major advances and gave proof of a substantial process of radicalisation in the Irish working class.
For more than 80 years politics in the Republic of Ireland was dominated by two Tory parties, Fianna Fail (FF) and Fine Gael (FG). The lead was played by FF which was the governing party for 61 out of 79 years between 1932 and 2011.
The economic crash of 2008, over which Fianna Fail presided, and the general election of February 2011 fundamentally changed that. Fianna Fail was reduced from the largest to the third party in the Irish parliament. In 2011 the main beneficiaries of the collapse of FF were Labour and FG. Labour persuaded large numbers of working class people that they would protect them from the harsh neoliberal policies of Fine Gael.
In the event they formed a coalition and failed to provide any protection at all. On May 23 they paid the price.
The headline news was a big rise for Sinn Fein and for “independents”. The swing to Sinn Fein resulted in it winning three seats out of 11 in the Euro elections in the South, one in each of the three constituencies, plus one in North Ireland.
The vote for Sinn Fein in the South was clearly an anti-austerity vote.The rise of the independents is a more complex phenomenon because “independents” come in all shapes and sizes – but the majority are left leaning.
Most important were the spectacular results for the far-left. People Before Profit, of which the Irish SWP is a major component, raised its number of local councillors from five to 15. This included an important victory by Gerry Carroll in West Belfast – Gerry Adams’s home base.
The Anti-Austerity Alliance, associated with the Socialist Party, increased its seats from six to 14, as well as winning a parliamentary by-election. It was in Dublin that the swing to the left was most marked.
In the local elections, People Before Profit went from one to five seats on Dublin City Council with a further seven in the outer areas. Two PBP candidates, Brid Smith and John Lyons, polled over 2,000 first preference votes.
One consequence of these results was the resignation of Eamon Gilmore, the Labour leader. What will be more important, however, is if these successes can translate into growing resistance on the ground.
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