Sinn Fein not committed to an anti-austerity left wing government

The party’s recent talk about coalition with Fianna Fail and Labour will cause concern among those who look to Sinn Fein to bring change

Stability: that is the Government’s pitch for its own re-election. While it rings true for the 300 richest people who have increased their wealth from €50 billion to €84 billion in the last five years, for many others it is a sick joke.

For those facing skyrocketing rents and unaffordable mortgages or threatened with homelessness, for those on hospital waiting lists, for the one in four workers who struggles to make ends meet, there is no stability.

With their mantra of "stability", they are also trying to restore the fortunes of establishment party politics. Seven years of crisis and austerity have not just upended people's lives, they have transformed politics. The most significant change is the dramatic decline in the combined support for Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour. In last year's European elections they were reduced to below 50 per cent, as also happened to the establishment parties in Spain and Greece.

This has been added to by the mass movement against water charges and the movement for marriage equality. There has also been an unprecedented politicisation and radicalisation in working-class communities, amongst women and young people.


The result is a significant opportunity for those who want to see an end to the rule of the conservative parties and the interests of big business, bankers and bondholders who they represent. It is an opportunity that must not be missed by repeating the mistakes of the Labour Party, which betrayed its voters by implementing austerity together with Fine Gael.

Principled opposition

Instead, we need an ambitious left which doesn’t settle for the role of mudguard for the establishment parties and which struggles for a left government with socialist policies. We need a left based on principled opposition to austerity and oppression, committed to building movements, such as the mass boycott of the water charges, and a willingness to challenge the rule of the capitalist elite.

The Anti-Austerity Alliance wants to be part of a left government that can mark a fundamental and radical shift away from a society dominated by the profits of the 1 per cent to one where the needs of the 99 per cent and the environment come first. Such a left government will have to exclude Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour as they would clearly act in a coalition to block any significant change taking place.

If it is possible after the next general election to form a government without the traditional establishment parties, the Anti-Austerity Alliance will discuss with others to see if a left programme for government can be agreed. This would have to include the reversal of the cuts implemented over the last years, abolition of austerity taxes such as water charges and property tax, investment to resolve the housing crisis and increasing the minimum wage and improving working conditions.

Implementing these policies means prioritising public services and housing over paying the bankers’ debts, shifting the burden of taxation on to the wealthy, corporations and high-income earners and challenging the straitjacket of the EU’s “Austerity Treaty”. A left government would also repeal the Eighth Amendment and challenge the oppression faced by women, Travellers, migrants and others.

Living standards

These policies are necessary in order to improve the living standards of ordinary people. Unfortunately, we have major doubts as to whether Sinn Féin would agree to such a programme.

As one of the architects of the “Fresh Start” agreement in the North, it has demonstrated that it is willing to implement austerity, agreeing to welfare cuts and 20,000 job losses, while also cutting corporation tax. In the North, they are based on one community and the party’s actions deepen sectarian division.

Its recent talk about coalition with Fianna Fáil and Labour will cause concern among those who look to Sinn Féin to bring about change. If Sinn Féin truly wanted to see an end of the rule of the establishment parties in this country, it would rule out coalition with them and instead declare for an anti-austerity government based on non-establishment forces.

In the case that no left programme for government can be agreed, but a government could be formed without the establishment parties, our TDs will vote in the Dáil to allow the formation of that alternative government. While we would not participate in a government without a left programme, we would allow that government to come to power and then vote to support measures that benefit working-class people and oppose ones that do not.

At the same time, we would seek to build a mass movement outside the Dáil to put pressure on the government to deliver on its promises and to achieve a genuine left government as soon as possible.

Paul Murphy is an Anti- Austerity Alliance TD for Dublin South West. Ruth Coppinger is an Anti-Austerity Alliance TD for Dublin West