People Before Profit and Solidarity fail to galvanise voters

Anger at housing crisis does not translate into support in same way as water charges

Dún Laoghaire TD Richard Boyd Barrett: “I think realistically once Clare Daly ran it was always [the case] that she was going to take the left vote...” Photograph: James Forde

Dún Laoghaire TD Richard Boyd Barrett: “I think realistically once Clare Daly ran it was always [the case] that she was going to take the left vote...” Photograph: James Forde

 

After a weekend of peaks and troughs for the Greens and Sinn Féin, another group of politicians and activists who will be licking their wounds over the coming days will be the People Before Profit/Solidarity parties.

With a poor showing in both the local and European elections, it is clear they have failed to galvanise voters affected by the housing crisis in the same way as they galvanised support from the water charges movement.

In the European Parliament elections Dublin constituency, Solidarity ran Rita Harrold and People Before Profit ran Gillian Brien. Both disappointed, if all the early indications are to be believed.

Dún Laoghaire TD Richard Boyd Barrett blamed the late entry of Independent TD Clare Daly into the European race for their lacklustre performance in the polls.

“I think realistically once Clare Daly ran it was always [the case] that she was going to take the left vote and that is what has happened. She would be seen by most people who vote left as kind of similar to ourselves.”

Left alliance

As of Sunday evening, Solidarity and People Before Profit were polling below the Social Democrats, Labour and Sinn Féin.

Much like Brendan Howlin, Boyd Barrett said there is “not a shadow of a doubt” that left-leaning parties should think about uniting, adding “it should have done so a long time ago.”

He said sometimes it is only small differences or tactical differences that keep them from doing so.

Yet within hours, he was being attacked by Labour. On RTÉ, Joan Burton told him that he and his colleagues “in many ways, are the establishment”.

“This is very bitter stuff,” Boyd Barrett retorted, adding that such comments were the reason Labour’s vote had collapsed. Such interactions do not auger well for a potential mega-alliance of the left.

Personalised campaign

Figures inside both parties admit it was a bad weekend. They had few victories to celebrate but gathered seats in Dublin South West Inner City, Ballyfermot Drimnagh and Blanchardstown Mulhuddart.

Some in the People Before Profit group have personalised their housing campaign by directly targeting Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy.

In one example, the party’s candidate in Kimmage Rathmines, Peter Dooley, who was not successful in taking a seat, confronted Mr Murphy inside one of the count centres in the RDS on Sunday evening.

Alongside a group of protesters, he demanded that Murphy resign before a number of gardaí gathered in a ring around the Minister. Such tactics have not won favour with voters, it appears.

Speaking  today, Mr Dooley rejected any suggestion that he had personalised the issue: "It is not about Eoghan Murphy, it is about the issues, it is about people being evicted."

He said he had tried to ask questions of the Housing Minister at the count-centre, before the minister was quickly surrounded by his supporters and by members of the gardai: "I didn't harangue anybody, I didn't assail anybody.

"It was just a question. People are being evicted around us every day, it was about the issues. The Anti-Eviction Bill has been before the Oireachtas for the last six months and it has been held up by Fianna Fail and by Fine Gael."

People are facing eviction every day because of the imbalance of power between landlords and tenants, said Mr Dooley, leaving many families at near-permanent risk of being put out of their homes.

Questioned about People Before Profit's performance in the local and European Parliament elections, Mr Dooley said the party's vote had been affected because many tenants do not feel secure enough where they live to register to vote.

* This piece has been amended to add quotations from People Before Profit local election candidate, Peter Dooley