The radical Left in Ireland has made significant advances since free market capitalism - which even had Insider fooled for a while - collapsed its own banking system in 2008. In that year, we were shaken unceremoniously awake from the long political sleep, which had fallen on the Western world since the fall of the Berlin Wall, by the sound of Allied Irish, the Bank of Ireland, and the rest of them, wailing at our windows for what amounted to the biggest social welfare payment in Irish history.
When the Irish branch of international money lending Inc. came crying to us for rescue, and our obedient political establishment began manically handing them blank cheques, Sinn Féin held just four Dáil seats.
Now, largely on the back of the consistent and articulate opposition of its leading spokespeople, such as Mary Lou McDonald, Pearse Doherty, and Eoin O’Broin; to the sado-austerity - which governments including Fianna Fail, the Green Party, Fine Gael, and Labour imposed on the State in a fashion that would almost make the Marquis de Sade blush - Sinn Féin has grown to become a significant political force, and likely player in the formation of the next government. Insider welcomes this and thinks Sinn Féin participation in, and even leadership of, the next government here would be a very good thing indeed.
Carrying on the way we have is the one option we cannot afford. Take just one issue, this State faces a housing crisis which is well on its way to becoming a catastrophe. It is matter of a couple of years before institutions such as NUI Galway begin to implode because of the inability of its first year students to obtain any accommodation, never mind the quality of said accommodation, in Galway city. This is already happening at the margins.
Many NUIG students start the term by staying in tourist hostels in the hope they will obtain a proper place to live later. Of course there are plenty of others caught up in the homelessness epidemic through no fault of their own, including a large number of children, as recently publicised by the brilliant #MyNameIs campaign against child homelessness.
The housing crisis is not an accident. It is the result of policy, and it is a policy which the two cheeks of the same bottom that is Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are determined to continue. These people are no more interested in using the resources of the State to directly build the local authority housing, that would solve the housing crisis, than the late Bishop Browne was in ever learning how to use a vibrator.
They are opposed, in principle, to local authorities directly building large numbers of houses, and on ideological grounds to the State becoming a major provider of housing, even if the result of them sticking to that principle is people dying of the cold on the streets. This has less to do with practicalities, such as delays caused by planning applications and the like, than the fact these people have drunk the Milton Friedman Kool-Aid so long they would rather do anything than admit their beloved market has failed.
First there was the housing boom which led to the collapse of the banks. Now there are almost 3,000 children in emergency accommodation nationwide. Only someone suffering from acute political delusions could now believe a government led by either Leo Varadkar or Micheál Martin will face down the vested interests, which must be faced down, if we are to begin to put an end to all this avoidable human misery.
This raises sharp and difficult questions for Sinn Féin, and for others on the Left too. If the option of Sinn Féin propping up the vast political and moral emptiness that is Micheál Martin is ruled out, as Insider thinks it must be, then what is the party's options in terms of potential allies?
The Greens and Labour have both chosen to sacrifice themselves on the altar of the afore-mentioned sado-austerity and, as currently constituted, seem destined to amount to not much more than terminally ill fringe liberal parties. On the other hand, the Dáil now contains a higher proportion of TDs whose political origins are in revolutionary Trotskyism than any other country in Europe.
People Before Profit and Solidarity have six seats between them, with potential for further growth. Clare Daly and Joan Collins both got their activist training as members of Solidarity’s predecessor, The Socialist Party; while respected Tipperary TD Seamus Healy is a former member of the League for a Workers' Republic. There are other potential allies to the left to whom a Sinn Féin led Left government could look for support and participation, such as Galway West TD Catherine Connolly, as well as Mick Wallace, Thomas Pringle, Tommy Broughan, and others. These are the people who individually, and together, have provided the real political opposition in Ireland since 2008.
There is no reason, or at least no sane reason Insider can think of, why People Before Profit, Solidarity, Independents4Change, and other genuine Lefts could not negotiate a joint platform with Sinn Féin at the next general election, including a transfer pact, and a potential programme for government. Trade Unionist, Right2Water leader, and Home Sweet Home founder Brendan Ogle tried to get something like this going at the last election by gathering a broad swathe of candidates together to run under the #Right2Change banner.
It will not be easy. An alliance such as this must, if it is to work, be broad enough to include people who, sometimes for legitimate politico-historical reasons, personally despise each other. Sinn Féin would have to urge their voters to transfer to Ruth Coppinger in Dublin West. People Before Profit and, especially, the Socialist Party/Solidarity would have to face down what Insider calls their Tridentinist wing, the Trotskyist equivalent of those ultra-Catholics who do not care if the pews are empty as long as the priest’s still jabbering away to nobody in Latin.
And the Social Democrats could also, should also, be involved in such an alliance. Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall have both been brilliant, essential parts of the opposition and would, Insider is sure, be useful participants in a left government. There do appear to some on what Insider call the craft-beer wing of the Social Democrats who harbour notions about going into coalition with Fianna Fáil, and so would resist an open pre-election alliance with the real Left. However, many tankards of Metal Man Pale ale it takes, the hipster wing of the Social Democrats must, for their own good and ours, be talked out of their Stephen Donnellyesque delusions that so much as touching Fianna Fáil can result in anything other than death.
Ten years ago, to an outside observer such as Insider, the hard left in Ireland seemed to be mostly reduced to the occasional half-mad eejit roaring and shouting in the street about Palestine. Now, there is a real prospect of a Left led government which could, in partnership with other likely Left led governments in Britain and elsewhere, make the Apples of this world pay their fair share and give us a country where every child is at least guaranteed, for starters, a home.