The real worry about Sinn Féin

Will the party be radical enough in tackling the State’s problems, especially if it is in coalition?

Sinn Fein president, Mary Lou McDonald TD.

Sinn Fein president, Mary Lou McDonald TD.

The recent Claire Byrne Live special, in which audience members were invited to put their furrowed brows on display, and share with the nation their hesitations about voting Sinn Féin, was, you can be sure, the opening salvo in what will be a relentless attempt by the media to shore up support for Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Greens.

Liberals think the role of the media is to get at the truth. This is an even bigger lie than the one the Devil told about his own supposed non-existence. When shove comes to push, as it will in the next General Election, the role of the media will be to keep things the same.

Yes, an independent voice or two will be permitted, here and there, to uphold the illusion of balance, but overall the print and television media will run a relentless campaign to try and make sure that those who have continue to have, and that those who do not continue not to have. There will be no Claire Byrne Live special in which audience members are invited to air their worries about keeping Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in power.

Moralising liberals

On that anti-Sinn Fein special, a property developer in a deep blue suit, with a history of donating to Fine Gael, was presented as an independent expert. We were also treated to a peculiar rant by Eddie Hobbs about Socialism and a man with two cows who, under the socialism Eddie thinks Sinn Féin will usher in, will be reduced to one cow. The other cow will apparently go to the man’s neighbour who is, according to Eddie, on social welfare. This attempted hatchet job did not work this time. It was all just a little too blatant - but they will be back.

Claire Byrne

Claire Byrne.

Economic inequality

That said, Insider, though he fervently hopes Sinn Féin does lead the next government, has his worries about the party, though these worries come from the opposite end of the spectrum to their critics and the folks at Claire Byrne Live. Insider worries that Sinn Féin will not actually be radical enough in government; particularly if the party is tied up in a coalition with Fianna Fáil.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

Political anoraks, such as Insider, are aware that there are still some in and around the Republican movement, and (oddly ) the Communist Party of Ireland, who hold the illusion that Fianna Fáil is in some way more progressive than Fine Gael. This may have been true 60 or 70 years ago, but those mildewed lefties, of whom Insider is actually very fond, still harbour the notion that Micheál Martin somehow represents something called “the anti-imperialist” wing of the Irish ruling class. They need to give up such illusions.

To attach oneself politically to Fianna Fáil is akin to voluntarily attaching oneself to a tumour. Insider was somewhat reassured to hear someone who has been close to the Sinn Féin leadership in the past tell him privately that a coalition with Fianna Fáil would, in his view, be “a disaster”.

The big crisis this State faces right now – and it is a profound one – is a crisis of economic inequality. A Sinn Féin-led government will not result in total economic equality and, sadly, will not abolish capitalism.

However, if it does not dramatically redistribute wealth from the haves - represented by the man in the deep blue suit on Claire Byrne Live, and the likes of Eddie Hobbs - to those currently being financially skinned alive by the price of just paying the rent, then that Sinn Féin government will fail, and its failure could easily lead to some of its working class base floating off towards the far right, in the way that some of Obama’s 2008 voters ending up voting for Donald Trump, when Obama promised change but actually left America a more economically unequal place than it was when he arrived in office.

The factors driving economic inequality since 2008 have been the twin policies of austerity and quantitative easing. The working and lower middle classes were made pay for the banking crisis via dramatic cuts to health, education, and social spending. Social welfare payments for young people were cut in half, forcing them into low paid employment which barely pays the rent.

The Department of Justice are apparently considering making it a criminal offence for landlords to say they will accept sexual favours in lieu of rent. This is what Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have reduced us to. And yet there will, just you watch, be no Claire Byrne Live special on their unsuitability for government office.

A new economic approach

While austerity has made our public services dangerously threadbare, and produced an anxiety-racked younger generation, quantitative easing has seen the ECB join the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England in printing trillions and lending those trillions to the wealthy at miniscule interest rates. The already very wealthy have used those trillions to invest in, among other things, property. This ‘quantitative easing’ money is one of the major factors driving property prices wild in Ireland right now.

It is this money which vulture funds are using to buy significant parts of our housing stock. In some cases they just leave them empty awhile before selling them on at profit. If we want to avoid a complete national calamity, we must reverse this situation. Wealth must be taxed more. There is, to paraphrase the late Margaret Thatcher, no alternative.

A new economic orthodoxy

SF Galway West TD Mairead Farrell and supporters after her election in February 2020. A sign of things to come? Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

We need a new economic orthodoxy with significantly higher public spending long term, and higher taxes on wealth and those on big salaries. The best hope for this absolutely necessary adjustment is a Sinn Féin led coalition which could include the Social Democrats, People Before Profit, left independents such as Catherine Connolly and Cllr Dean Mulligan (likely to be elected in Dublin Fingal ), and possibly even the Labour Party.

It will be difficult. There will be no end to the bleating of the wealthy and their representatives. On the hopeful side, Insider thinks Sinn Féin’s toughness, displayed in its refusal to disown and condemn the IRA campaign, is actually an asset in this regard. The party has shown a willingness to weather temporary unpopularity, and media storms, which will stand it in good stead in government. The establishment is clearly worried that Sinn Féin might actually mean it when it says it will do something about economic inequality. Insider hopes that such establishment worries turn out to be justified.


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