Sinn Féin must learn from mistakes of others, says Eoin Ó Broin

SF Summer School: Vincent Browne says party would achieve nothing in government

Vincent Browne: said Mr Ó Broin was being naive if he thought Sinn Féin could effect radical change as a minority partner in a future coalition government. Photograph: Peter Houlihan/Brian McEvoy Photography

Vincent Browne: said Mr Ó Broin was being naive if he thought Sinn Féin could effect radical change as a minority partner in a future coalition government. Photograph: Peter Houlihan/Brian McEvoy Photography

 

Sinn Féin must learn from the mistakes of like-minded parties in other countries if it is to bring about radical transformative change in Irish society when it goes into government, Dublin Mid-West Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin has said.

Mr Ó Broin said that Sinn Féin, like other left-wing political parties in Europe, was seeking to draw from the best of both the revolutionary and reformist traditions through mobilising the people in mass movements and through radical parliamentary politics.

But he warned Sinn Féin must learn from the lessons of the British Left when the British Labour Party presented its radical manifesto in 1974, the Socialist/Communist coalition in France in 1981 and, more recently, Syriza in Greece where, despite mass support, radical programmes failed to deliver.

Mr Ó Broin said building popular support and gaining electoral office was the easier part of the challenge, but for Sinn Féin to transform Irish society it must present a credible alternative to failed neo-liberal economic policies and it must forge alliances with other progressive forces in society.

“We need to move from a low-wage, low-quality service economy to high-wage quality employment in the services and exports sectors, with universal public services. It means doing all of this in the context of economies of scale and with the economic benefits from Irish unification,” he said.

“It is possible to have strong economic growth that is environmentally sustainable and socially just, and it is possible to persuade people it is in their interest to live in a united Ireland, but only if we show them the new Ireland is based on equality of outcome and improved life opportunities for all.”

Mr Ó Broin was speaking at the Sinn Féin Summer School in Baile Bhúirne in Co Cork where he was debating with broadcaster Vincent Browne, who said that Mr Ó Broin was being naive if he thought Sinn Féin could effect radical change as a minority partner in a future coalition government.

Decades of debate

Mr Browne said history had shown radical change could only come about after decades of debate where a particular mindset achieved a hegemony, and he believed that could take 30 years; Sinn Féin going into government as a minority partner would achieve nothing of substance in the interim.

He fully expected Ireland to remain as it currently is in terms of wealth and power for the next 20 or 30 years, and Sinn Féin if it entered government as a minority party with either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil would end up accepting the senior party’s agenda as had happened repeatedly to Labour.

Mr Browne, who revealed he voted for People Before Profit at the last general election, said even if somehow Sinn Féin managed to become the majority partner, he saw no hope of Irish society being transformed, as Sinn Féin’s 2016 manifesto was little different from those of other parties.

He had spent “a miserable three hours” reading the Sinn Féin manifesto and it was certainly no different from that of Labour and practically the same as that of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael; the only issue Fine Gael would have with it was its proposal for mandatory trade union membership.

Sinn Féin’s plan to obtain extra revenue by increasing taxation by 7 per cent for the top 6 per cent of earners would bring “a puny” amount of revenue and he dismissed Sinn Féin’s proposal to increase the minimum wage to €9.65 as equally unlikely to have transformative effect on Irish society.