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Our hopeless Left (and Centre and Right)

What is needed is foundation of a new party of the conventional Left, modern, common-good-embracing, quality-of-life-monitoring, taxing, planning, developing, accounting, envisioning

Village is unashamedly Leftist.  Its agenda is equality of outcome, sustainability and accountability.

These are all driven by the overarching goal of treating people  as equals.

The right labours freedom to the detriment of equality, tending to fixate on the provision of choices rather than on how in practice those choices are exercised.

The non-ideological, non-visionary parties of the pragmatic centre hold little appeal for Village. Depressingly, with a signal in June that it wants to go into coalition with Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael, Sinn Féin has signalled its immediate destination is that pragmatic centre.

For fourteen years Village has tried to champion parties taking egalitarian stances but it’s been difficult.

Our left has been – and let’s be blunt – remains a disaster, a let-down.  That is not an accident.  For historical reasons most Irish people, though they have a weakness  for leftist rhetoric,  are conservative and property-fetishising with a limited sense of the common good.  Many are viscerally hostile to an agenda of treating people equally.

It is almost of the essence, of course, of the current government and its supporters that property rights are sacred. That is why it will never get to grips with the homelessness crisis.  Its respect is already tied up with those who have a home. A variation on this mentality accounts for its reluctance to challenge our over-priced professions.

The Independent Alliance is utterly incoherent of policy and membership embracing the apparently disaffected from the likes of  ex-stockbroker Mr Ross to the likes of turfcutter Michael Fitzmaurice. Its agenda was always going to unravel.

The Fine Gael-Independent coalition is supported on a ‘confidence-and-supply’ basis by Fianna Fáil.

Fianna Fáil is tainted by its reckless past and the incoherence of its platform. It believes serving the people and business in equal measure is viable. It has learnt little beyond the need to regulate the banks and, under impressive Micheál Martin to eschew hoorism of all colours.

Labour never does what its manifestos promise. Because of the elasticity of its conscience Labour has long attracted the wrong type of representatives.

Sinn Féin is evolving, and not overall in a good way.  Village has taken a coherent stance on post-Troubles Sinn Féin, making pessimistic predictions based on the nuances of its politics over the last twenty years.  Those predictions are now vindicated. Its  commitment to a Left agenda has never been convincing bearing in mind its defining preference for irredentist nationalism over ideology and its governing strategy in the North. Its performance at local-authority level is not impressive or particularly leftist. It is cultist, ambivalent about democracy and transparency, and in thrall to the Northern Army Council. As recently as late June, Mary Lou McDonald was saying she believed Gerry Adams that he was never in the IRA.

With shiny, tough-minded new leaders it could do so much better. But it has not avoided the traditional hurtle to hunger for power over principle that characterises the evolution of nearly all our parties. It is now on an uninteresting path to become Fianna Fáil in twenty years.

Village has a weakness for the Social Democrats, whose mild platform is essentially the same as Labour’s, but its progress is depressingly slow and it should never have allowed the clever but right of centre and pro-business, Stephen Donnelly to become one of its three leaders. It needs to develop fire, shininess and some new personalities.

The radical Left – Solidarity and People before Profit – offer the huge appeal of integrity and seriousness, and some zealous personalities, but its opposition to property taxes is inexcusable, and its focus on opposition to water taxes rather than a broader anti-inequality platform, including opposition to the iniquities of NAMA, corruption and the resurrection of the developer classes has sold its revolutionary ideology short.  It has blown the opportunities of the Economic Crisis and seems destined to remain peripheral. Tragically it has not digested this. No amount of campaigning can disguise its distance from power.

The Green Party’s policies are often radical, and its agenda mature, but it is not hard-minded and it achieved so little in the last government that it is difficult to be enthusiastic. Its message needs to be presented in new ways and it needs new faces.

A coalition of the parties of the left, radical left and the Greens would, as always, best promote Village’s agenda, if no doubt imperfectly.

With Sinn Féin’s flight to the respectable centre or worse, and the sidelining of Solidarity and People before Profit, Ireland seems doomed to another generation of time-serving centrist government boosting the economy but doing little for society, community, the environment or quality of life.

What is needed is foundation of a new party of the conventional Left, modern, common-good-embracing, quality-of-life-monitoring, taxing, planning, developing, accounting, envisioning.  It has rarely seemed so unlikely. The vista is bleak.