Paul Murphy leaves Socialist Party to launch new group

Dublin TD’s departure follows failure to resolve year-long dispute over party strategy

Paul Murphy is leaving  the Socialist party after it failed to resolve an internal year-long dispute over the extent and level of co-operation it should have with other left-leaning parties and movements of the left. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Paul Murphy is leaving the Socialist party after it failed to resolve an internal year-long dispute over the extent and level of co-operation it should have with other left-leaning parties and movements of the left. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

The Dublin South West TD Paul Murphy is leaving the Socialist Party and will launch what he describes as a new socialist group next Monday.

Mr Murphy, who has been a TD since 2014, is leaving after the party failed to resolve an internal year-long dispute over the extent and level of co-operation it should have with other left-leaning parties and movements of the left.

Mr Murphy and a small group of his supporters had argued for deeper engagement with parties such as Sinn Féin and the Green Party, and with grassroots left-wing groups and movements such as Extinction Rebellion. A majority of party members opposed this approach.

Another area of contention surrounded the level of engagement in civil campaigns such as Together for Yes.

Mr Murphy, and the two remaining Socialist Party TDs, Ruth Coppinger and Mick Barry, met The Irish Times as a group on Thursday. The three TDs said the parting was amicable and the two groups would continue to work together.

“There was a genuine discussion on the struggle for socialism. We exhausted that process of debate,” Mr Murphy said.

He said that rather than pulling the party apart it was better to recognise the reality of the differences that existed. And that meant two separate entities, but ones that would collaborate and cooperate.

Mr Murphy’s new group will still be involved with the broader Solidarity-People Before Profit alliance but will no longer be part of Solidarity.

Mr Murphy decided to leave the party ahead of its national convention last weekend. Unusually he did not attend the convention.

“Our side of the party would have placed more emphasis on engaging in broader movements and participating in coalitions with others,” said Mr Murphy.

“[THAT INCLUDES] working with people who are not socialist but agree on important movements in the here and now,” he said.

No elected representative will leave the party with him. Among those who will join Mr Murphy’s group are former spokesman Dave Murphy, Diana O’Dwyer, and a number of trade union members and abortion rights activists.

Difference of emphasis

Mr Barry said there was a difference of emphasis of engagement but he believed they had more to do with relations with existing political parties such as Sinn Féin than new grass roots movements.

He said a “big majority of Socialist party members have chosen not to go with the new group”.

The two groups disagreed over the extent of involvement of the Socialist Party in grass-roots movements such as Extinction Rebellion, the youth climate change strikes, new socialist groups in Britain and the US as well as civil society coalitions such as Together for Yes. Mr Murphy has argued in favour of more engagement with these groups and movements while his Socialist Party colleagues argued that the primary focus should be on building up the strength of the party.

There were disagreements over the extent of the party’s role in Together for Yes, the broad umbrella group which campaigned to repeal abortion laws.

While supporting it, and participating in its campaigning, the majority view, as set out by Ms Coppinger, was that the extent of its involvement should be limited.

“Together for Yes was very conservative and very linked to the Government… It was in effect the Government campaign. (It was) not willing to advocate a pro-choice position which we believed was necessary.”

Mr Barry said Mr Murphy had raised the issue that a significant number of workers and young people had voted Sinn Féin and they were an anti-establishment force.”

“It’s something of a different issue (now) given the Sinn Féin tack to the right and the support for the market and coalitionism,” he said.

“For us that’s problematic. We have members in the North of Ireland who are building cross-community socialist politics and building a base for fighting in the trade union movement,” he said.

Ms Coppinger said the Socialist Party also viewed Sinn Féin as a sectarian party as “they can only represent one side of the divide” in the North. She said there was a huge appetite for working class politics in the North.

“The reality is that Sinn Féin are part of the establishment of the North where they are implementing cuts and the austerity programme,” she said.

Mr Murphy’s group also looked more favourably at the influence of Momentum in the Labour Party in Britain and looked at the possibilities for such movements in Ireland.

“I say socialists should be inside Labour if possible, participating in the debates that are going on, arguing for socialist policies, while they organise separately from Labour,” Mr Murphy said.

For his erstwhile Socialist Party colleagues that would be a step too far.

Ms Coppinger said they all supported Jeremy Corbyn and his attempt to have a left programme for the Labour Party. The difficulty, she argued, was Mr Corbyn was “imprisoned by the Blairites.

“He is trying to tack between the right and the left,” she said.