‘Unforgivable’ for left wing parties not to join pact, says McDonald

Sinn Féin enters vote transfer deal with parties, Independents linked to Right2Change

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald  speaks to reporters on the party’s vote transfer pact. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald speaks to reporters on the party’s vote transfer pact. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times


Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has said it would be “unforgivable” if other left wing groups did not grasp the “opportunity” of a broad policy platform and transfer pact.

Ms McDonald confirmed Sinn Féin is to enter into a vote transfer pact with parties and Independents who sign up to the Right2Change policy platform, which has developed from the anti-water charges movement.

However, some left wing parties, such as the Socialist Party-Anti Austerity Alliance, have indicated they will not return the favour by asking their supporters to transfer to Sinn Féin.

“I can only speak for Sinn Féin,” Ms McDonald said. “Others now need to do likewise but let me reiterate. There is an expectation and an appetite that is unmissable amongst communities right across this State who want those of us who have argued so strongly against austerity, who have argued investment, who have argued for relief for low and middle income families.

“There is an expectation on all of us to do things and actually make that happen. We await the response of others but I would say it would be unforgivable, literally unforgivable, to miss an opportunity such as this.”

Support levels

Ms McDonald denied the move was an act of “desperation” on behalf of the party, which has dropped back to support levels of about 16 per cent in recent polls.

“Far from it. This document and this initiative of months and months of meetings and collaboration and I think that it is a recognition of us and by us, not just to talk about an alternative but to actually do things in a constructive way that make an alternative possible.

“We are satisfied that our electoral base, that it has grown, that it is robust. We will look of course to grow it even further in advance of the election.”

However, she added Sinn Féin is “of course” seeking to maximise its transfers but said the “driving impulse for this, in the first instance, is about the alternative politics we have been talking about and advocating over the course of the current Dáil”.

She said Sinn Féin will have its own manifesto and will seek to increase its own support but said the pact was about maximising “the number of progressive TDs elected to the next Dáil”.

“This movement has moved from the initial sole concern around water into considerations of other issues and, as a result of very long discussions and consultations, a platform has been agreed of broad policy principles which we in Sinn Féin are happy to have signed up to and endorse.

“We believe there is a great opportunity in the forthcoming election. We believe we need an alternative and a progressive government.

“Sinn Féin wants to be part of that and we believed that parties and candidates who share that platform and agree on these principles should, while attending to their own election campaigns, should equally encourage people to transfer to other like minded candidates.”

The Right2Change movement has indicated those looking to sign up to its principles have until Friday to do so.

“For people who have been devastated by austerity, for people who have been alienated from the political process, they are not really interested in small, petty squabbles,” Ms McDonald added.

“What they are interested in is the big idea, and the big opportunity for change and arguably we have never had the opportunity that presents itself now because it is not just Sinn Féin and other political parties and Independents.”

Party councillor Paul Donnelly, who is standing in Dublin West, said he will encourage his supporters to transfer to deputy Ruth Coppinger of the AAA even if she declined to reciprocate.