‘…Sinn Fein Is Not Going To Transform The Lives Of The Majority Of Ordinary People….’

Ed Moloney probes the hollowness of Sinn Fein's claims to be a radical party. Ed Moloney is a well known Irish journalist living in New York. He was the project director for Boston College’s oral history project. He blogs at The Broken Elbow.

Three weeks ago Pearse Doherty, Sinn Fein rising star and rival for the party’s leadership should Gerry Adams ever step down – and don’t hold your breath on that one – penned an article for the Irish edition of The Sunday Times which seemed designed to calm nerves abroad, in the offices of Goldman Sachs for example as well as the European Central Bank, about what could or would happen should SF ever take power in the 26 Counties.

Would Sinn Fein set up a metaphorical guillotine in St Stephens Green to chop into tiny pieces all those promissory notes signed by previous Irish governments committing the Irish taxpayer to years or even decades of impoverishment so that speculators and bankers will get their interest-laden loans repaid?

Or will SF make the right noises to get elected and then perform a majestic U-turn once bums settle into the back seats of the ministerial Mercs or those oh-so comfortable Meelano office chairs in Government Buildings?

I am indebted to a friend, who shall remain nameless, for the following analysis of Pearse Doherty’s thoughts which came not from him but from someone on the same analytical wavelength. His friend, nay comrade, put into words very adroitly what anyone who has observed this party for any length of time instinctively knows.

Here are his thoughts:

Once the froth evaporates, here’s what SF finance spokesperson and possible future leader, Pearse Doherty, says to the Sunday Times of March 8, which he knows is read by the people with money, who want to know the real intentions of SF. What’s notable is the declaration never to repudiate private bondholders debt, only renegotiate debt to public institutions. So the private speculators, and the existing arrangements for privatising the profit but socialising the losses, (know as the Wall Street solution) are safe. The last paragraph is the logical sequel to the earlier promise to leave the wealth of the speculators untouched: ‘….there are a lot of things we would like to do for individuals who are struggling out there, but we simply can’t do it. We can’t increase tax revenue… because it would be unfair on people and would hurt industry, it would hurt the economy and business.

A dig at the left, similar to what comes from Labour, is part of the dampening of expectations. There might be a few tweaks, but the substance of the status quo would remain untouched. Nor could it be, with no change in the balance of taxation, no wealth tax or implementation of the actual 12.5% rate of corporation tax on the profits of multinationals – as against the 2.5% they pay on average. Instead SF will move to reduce corporation tax in the North, mirroring a development strategy based on tax breaks to attract multinational inward investment and in effect an all island race to the bottom.

This is also expressed in the way SF relates to political struggles. With the household tax they would not call for non payment, and the same now with the water charge. Why not? Would calling for non payment effect SF popularity or poll ratings? If anything, it would possibly improve them. But it would make SF an unsafe bet for big business, multinationals and the rich minority of Irish society that is doing well at present. For if you champion mass action and breaking the rules on one issue, what’s to stop that spreading? SF is looking to be a safe pair of hands on policy and in politics.

How should the left relate to SF? I’m in favour of joint action to defend the rights and living standards of working class people, but without illusions. By their own declaration, SF is not going to transform the lives of the majority of ordinary people, even if they were the biggest group in a coalition government.

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