Southern Election analysis

Socialist Voice June 2002

THE SOCIALIST Party made excellent gains in the Southern general election. The Socialist Party received an excellent vote in Dublin West where Joe Higgins increased his vote to 6,662 (21%) and was re-elected. In Dublin North, Cllr Clare Daly doubled her vote to 5,501 and just missed out in winning the seat. Clare ran an excellent campaign and finished ahead of former Fine Gael minister Nora Owen. Other Socialist Party candidates made impressive progress around the country.

By Gary Mulcahy

The Southern general election has seen the two government parties, Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats: the first time a sitting government has been returned since 1969.

This result was no endorsement of the policies of Fianna Fail. Rather they held on mainly because the effects of the coming recession have not yet been felt. Although they have squandered the benefits of the Celtic Tiger boom the continued economic growth has created an underlying stability.

This, coupled with the weakness of the opposition, meant they have been able to hold on. The main opposition parties, Fine Gael and Labour, failed miserably to provide any real alternative. As a result, Fine Gael the second largest party, have been decimated. Fine Gael leader, Michael Noonan, immediately resigned. All of the likely candidates to succeed him have lost their seats, leaving Fine Gael in permanent crisis.

Labour for some years now have been correctly seen to be no different from the establishment parties.

Despite the government parties gaining seats, there is huge anger amongst ordinary people towards the corrupt political and economic elite in the South.

This has been reflected in the votes for parties and candidates who are perceived to be 'anti-establishment'.

Sinn Fein were able to tap into this mood, using left wing rhetoric to increase their representation in the Dail from 1 to 5. The one constituency where they did not do as well as expected was in Sligo-Leitrim where Sinn Fein have been exposed for voting in the hated bin tax. The Greens increased their seats from 2 to 6, and 14 independents (mainly single-issue candidates focusing on health and education) were elected.

The votes for parties and candidates outside of the main capitalist parties shows that there is a considerable mood for a radical alternative to the main parties.

With the onset of economic crisis this mood will develop and the cracks in Fianna Fail will begin to show - just as the cracks in Blair's New Labour government are already clear despite his winning a second term. Working class struggles will develop - on jobs, on services, on wages and other issues.

Both Sinn Fein and the Greens will be found wanting on these issues. The real face of Sinn Fein has been exposed in the Assembly where they are endorsing the privatisation of services. While they can grow for a period in the south because they can present a radical face in opposition their aim is to get into a coalition with Fianna Fail where they would carry out the same anti working class policies as they are supporting in the Assembly.

What is needed is a real socialist alternative to the parties of big business, The votes for the Socialist Party, especially in Dublin West and Dublin North, are an important step towards the building of this alternative.

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