The results of the 2007 general election are a serious disappointment to the party. The hopes we had of a breakthrough in Waterford and of making some advances in other constituencies did not materialise. Many reasons have been and will be advanced for this failure, the strength of Fianna Fáil assisted by Clinton, Blair, Mitchell and ye Lords and Commons of Great Britain, the greed is good factor, the devil you know is better etc but the primary cause will be found in organisation and the party's connection with the people.
If we single out Waterford constituency members, supporters and our candidate Councillor John Halligan for a hard fought campaign sustained over many years it does not lessen in anyway our recognition and regard for the great commitment and huge amount of work carried out by candidates, party members and supporters in all the other constituencies we contested. We thank most sincerely all those who voted for the party and who contributed, whether with financial support or their time and energy, to our campaign.
The defeat of well known Left candidates Joe Higgins / Clare Daly / Seamus Healy / Richard Boyd Barrett; plus the collapse of the Sinn Féin vote; the failure of the Greens to make advances; and, most importantly, the Labour Party's disastrous alliance with Fine Gael must be noted and analysed. At the same time we must recognise that substantial number of voters supported these candidates and parties. There is a Left constituency in the country which needs to be organised and most importantly united. We will return to this point later.
It should come as no surprise to us, especially us, that over 75% of voters have voted for conservative parties and policies. We are living in a very conservative, indeed on occasions, a reactionary society. When the voters then are faced with a choice of which party to vote for they naturally will choose the conservative party closest to their thinking. Remember the old ad in Britain "Which Twin is the Tory?" The answer was they were both Tories. It is interesting to look at Britain with its long history of working class struggle and of how Thatcher was able to capture a huge section of working class support not only to vote for her, but to work for and defend her policies and actions. Blair was able to carry on Thatcher's policies because, as he told Rupert Murdoch, "He was her natural heir".
Unlike Britain, Ireland has no long tradition of working class political struggle. Church and State have combined to ensure that this does not happen and on the rare occasions where and when it happens it is kept buried. Not since James Connolly has the Irish working class had a leader with the clear vision and the determination to build a working class alternative. The first Free State and then De Valera ensured there would be no space for Labour. As we well know each of these class enemies of the Irish working class were aided and abetted by many Labour leaders who played along with the reactionary dictum that "Labour Must Wait". Whether it be the trade unions or the organised Labour Party its leadership has invariably been satisfied with second place, or on some occasions, content with playing the role of class collaborator.
If previous generations had De Valera, Lemass. Lynch and Haughey with Cosgrave, Mulcahy and Costello on one side and Norton, Corish and O'Leary on the other what choice did workers have in their time or today as we look at who leads and represents workers. This brings us to the main point - which we have consistently made on the issue of class politics in Ireland North and South. Our party slogan of peace, work, democracy and class politics is as relevant today as when we first formulated it back in the '70s. An essential and continuing task of the party through our publications and activity is the raising of class consciousness.
No matter how the ruling circles may dress it up this is a capitalist society and capitalism only exists where one class can and does exploit the great majority, the working class. As we stated at our recent Ard Fheis in Waterford “Capitalism by its very nature will only survive on inequality and this society, despite the so-called Celtic Tiger, with the country supposedly awash with money, has more than enough examples of gross inequality. We seek to end inequality in all areas of life. A society that deprives any of its citizens of decent healthcare, of a first class education, of adequate housing, of a living wage, a society which seeks to impose repressive laws on its citizens, which does not take all necessary measures to protect the environment, which allows speculators and developers to continually exploit and rip-off its citizens, which is party to military aggression and the invasion of other countries by the most rapacious state in world history and where it is indirectly, but knowingly, party to kidnappings, torture and imprisonment of many innocent people such a society, which ours is now, is not a democratic or an equal society and cannot call itself a Republic in the true meaning of the word”. The recent election results do not change this reality.
In the north we have seen the coming together of two reactionary groups representing Unionism and Nationalism. After thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of citizens maimed the British and Irish governments, assisted by the United States, have succeeded in putting in place an alliance of reactionary parties in a "Power Sharing" administration designed most especially to ensure the stability and continuance of capitalism in the northern state.
The recent election has brought out some disturbing factors. Most urgent and important of these is the role of the media and its gross manipulation of the people. That we have long recognised that a media, in the control of a few individuals, is open to twisting facts and opinion polls is now beginning to be understood by many more people. In an interview with RTE's Mark Little on Friday May 25th Bertie Ahem made the point that he knew many journalists were told what to write and in order to keep their jobs and big salaries these journalists duly obliged their media masters. The RTE interviewer Little did not follow up this remark by asking the obvious question as to whom and what media Mr. Ahern was speaking about. There was a reference to Mr. Ahern’s remark in one TV programme (by John Bowman) and in one newspaper (the Irish Times) but since then a wall of silence has been thrown up so that the issue is now buried.
We are told that in this Republic we have an 'Independent Commission' whose task it is to draw up the boundaries of constituencies. It is clear from the result of the election that this 'Independent Commission' is either very careless and totally inefficient or draw your own conclusions. A new notice has appeared concerning submissions to the 'Independent Commission' for the future drawing of constituency boundaries. What we are saying is that this present 'Independent Commission' be sacked and a new body be appointed which will have firm guidelines as to their work. There must be no breaking of county borders, preference be given to four and five seat constituencies.
Another scandal which must be dealt with and quickly is the very large number of voters, tens of thousands, who were disenfranchised because of bureaucratic foul-ups which in some cases smacks of deliberate action.
In the Republic the Left and Radical Republicanism have too often been diverted from the main issues and sidelined to engage in bitter infighting. The present scenario where parties and individuals are dashing about desperately seeking places in government, in some cases any government, is itself a comment on the level and nature of political life in this state. It is an insult, in fact pretty disgusting, to the vast majority of voters who emphatically rejected the PDs to have them now, with two seats in the Dáil, in a position where they are effectively holding the country and other parties to ransom. If Mr. Ahern and the dominant elements in Fianna Fáil are concerned to have stable government over the next five years, when it is predicted that serious economic problems will occur, the answer is clear and indeed obvious.
Instead of searching the hills of Kerry or the fields of Tipperary, the streets of Summerhill or the leafy suburbs of Marino for compliant allies or further afield for smaller parties with their own demands he need look no further than Mr. Enda Kenny of Fine Gael. By doing this he would bring to an end the phoney division between the conservative forces of the so-called National Movement which took place eighty five years ago. The present make-up of the Dáil gives conservative parties and individuals over 75% of the popular vote with a total of 134 seats and a mixed opposition of 32 seats. If such a situation where to develop it would be possible within a short space of time to demonstrate the true nature of politics in Ireland and the need for radical change in society. We would also seek to have a situation in the Northern Ireland Assembly where there is also a large conservative majority which requires to be opposed on class lines. An opposition can be built in Northern Ireland which would win support to build a democratic society where every citizen is treated equally.
The key element in both states is the Unity of the Democratic and Progressive Forces. It can be built and indeed must be built over the coming period. We are under no illusions as to the difficulties we face but it is not an impossible task. It is a task in which we believe the organised Labour Movement can and must play a critical part.
To assist in this process and help strengthen and expand democracy in Ireland, its two states, we intend with the help of other like minded citizens and organisations to convene a national Convention of Democratic and Progressive organisations in the coming autumn. It will be a broad based convention and will seek to bind together in a common manifesto all organisations committed to strengthening democracy and encouraging the active - participation of all citizens and organisations to be engaged at every level of society for its betterment.