Labour leader calls for ‘left of centre’ alliance in RTÉ debate

Smaller parties to have considerable influence on formation of next government

Labour leader, Brendan Howlin, has made a fresh call on the Social Democrats and the Green Party to form a “left-of-centre progressive alliance” in advance of any talks on their possible inclusion in the formation of a new government following Saturday’s general election.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time during the last major TV debate before polling day, which involved representatives of the smaller political parties, Mr Howlin said such an alliance of like-minded parties should be formed rather than allow each to be “picked off” during any talks on the make-up of a future coalition government.

The Labour leader said he had already made the suggestion without any pre-condition and would welcome the opportunity to meet with the leaders of the Social Democrats and the Green Party next week to discuss such an alliance.

Social Democrats co-leader, Róisín Shortall did not respond directly to the proposal but said the three parties already enjoyed “a high level of co-operation”.


With polls showing Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin each capturing between 20 and 25 per cent of the vote, the smaller parties – Labour, the Green Party, Social Democrats, Solidarity/People Before Profit and Aontú are expected to have considerable influence on the formation of the next government.

With the focus moved away from the three main parties, the various representatives availed of their moment in the spotlight to highlight some of their policies which they argued differentiated them from rival parties in a debate that lacked any real clash.

Geographic divisions

Aontú leader, Peadar Tóibín, who criticised RTÉ’s decision to omit his party from the first debate with political leaders at NUI Galway on January 27th, said it aimed to solve the country’s geographic divisions of major congestion in the cities while rural Ireland was “emptying out its young people”.

Justifying the need for a new political choice for voters, the Meath West TD observed: “There are a lot of political parties but not much political difference.”

Mr Tóibín claimed many parties of the left had become distracted by “culture wars and identity politics”.

Asked if he would not still be a Sinn Féin TD but for the abortion issue, Mr Tóibín said he believed his inability to influence the direction of that party had led him to form a new party.

He said Sinn Féin, like other parties, suffered from a “central groupthink”.

Asked about priorities and possible “red line” issues, Ms Coppinger said Solidarity/People Before Profit wanted to use “wealth and resources for the benefit of the majority” in particular to tackle the crises in housing and health.

“Housing is the single biggest issue bar none,” Ms Coppinger said.

She claimed one of its proposals was a “millionaire’s tax” which would generate €4 billion but was considered “off limits” by other parties.

For the Social Democrats, Ms Shortall said the party was very keen to ensure it brought “integrity and honesty to politics” and that it was straight with people about solutions.

She said the party’s focus would be on delivering affordable housing, decent healthcare and allowing families to have a better work/life balance.

Mr Howlin said a priority for Labour would be to “end the waste of public money” while the party was also clear that it would not be promising “massive tax giveaways”.

Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan said the biggest issue remained climate change and the biodiversity crisis which would require leadership, ambition and people working collectively.

“Our world is on fire,” he remarked.