Prominent TDs in Left Alliance deny split over motion

 

LEADING MEMBERS of the United Left Alliance have dismissed as “without foundation” suggestions that the group has had its first serious split.

One of the ULA’s TDs, Richard Boyd Barrett, drafted the text of the first Private Members’ motion to be tabled by the “technical group”of 15 deputies drawn from Independents and smaller parties.

The motion contends there is an “overwhelming democratic case” for putting the €67 billion bailout package with the EU and IMF to a referendum.

A two-day debate on the motion will begin in the Dáil this evening.

The only two deputies who did not sign the motion were Mr Boyd-Barrett’s ULA colleagues, Socialist Party TDs Joe Higgins and Clare Daly.

In contrast, the two Independent TDs on the opposite side of the political spectrum of the ULA, Shane Ross and Stephen Donnelly, both signed the motion.

Mr Higgins said yesterday the reasons he and Ms Daly had declined to sign the motion were attributable to tactical differences rather than any philosophical or personality clash.

“I’m sorry to disappoint you but there’s no split in the ULA or anything like that,” said Mr Higgins.

“The Socialist Party does not see the referendum as being the key thing to push. We would prefer to push the fight against austerity measures by mobilising trade unions and the community. Iceland had a referendum and it was carried and it only resulted in relatively minor changes.”

Mr Boyd-Barrett said there was no question of “any big row” within the ULA.

“We had no debate. I brought forward the proposals and the text and we had brief discussion on it.

“There is complete agreement within the ULA about the need to oppose the bailout deal. I am fairly sure that the Socialist Party intends to vote for the motion, but maybe they have found another way of prosecuting that goal.”

Mr Higgins pointed out that TDs would not get a chance to vote on the motion as the Government would table a counter-motion that would probably say that February’s general election was effectively a referendum. “Of course, we will vote against the Government counter-motion,” he said.

He said there was no implication for the ULA of his and Ms Daly’s decision not to sign the motion. It would not hamper the effort by the ULA to move from being an alliance to a fully-fledged political party.

Mr Boyd-Barrett said the ULA was moving to becoming a political party on a medium-term basis.

“Before that happens, the different components of the ULA are free to pursue their own policies as long as they do not conflict with the basic principles of the alliance.”

A number of smaller left-wing parties and groupings came together to form the ULA in advance of the general election. Its other TDs are Séamus Healy in Tipperary South and Joan Collins in Dublin South Central.

Finian McGrath, who chairs the technical group, said he was not disappointed with the failure of the group to reach unanimity with its first Private Members’ motion.

“Nothing should be read into it. There was a small difference of opinion. I do not do splits.”