A Radical New Left has emerged across the island of Ireland in the form of a protest movement against establishment parties.
In Northern Ireland, that protest takes the form of the Alliance Party, which for years was seen as a ‘wine and cheese supper brigade’ for people who wanted to opt out of serious political debate.
Brexit changed all that image. Against the overall UK result, Northern Ireland voted Remain while the total UK poll was for Leave.
Likewise, when the RHI scandal blew up, resulting in the collapse of the DUP-Sinn Fein led power-sharing Executive at Stormont, three years of political stalemate ensued.
Alliance branded itself as a twin-track movement - if you are unionist and you are a Remainer, then vote Alliance and stop Brexit! If you are fed up with the establishment DUP-Sinn Fein political foot-dragging over Stormont, then vote Alliance and get things moving again!
The result of this clever spin doctoring was to give Alliance three successive election ‘bounces’ - increased representation on Northern Ireland’s councils; snatching the once rock-solid safe Ulster Unionist European seat, and then pulling the carpet from under the feet of the DUP and taking North Down in the Westminster General Election.
In the South, ironically, the party of protest against the establishment Fine Gael and Fianna Fail partnership was Sinn Fein. The ‘Shinners’ are still hopeful they can form a Broad Left coalition government in the Dail.
But what of Alliance north of the border? What should its tactics and strategy be now? Unionists and loyalists like to make jokes, jibes and allegations about Alliance, that following the Belfast City Hall flag dispute the centrist party is an integral part of the so-called ‘Pan Nationalist Front’.
But trying to compare Alliance and Sinn Fein policies has not been a vote winner with the Unionist parties, especially among soft pro-Union Remainers.
But instead of Alliance joining the ranks of the so-called ‘Pan Nationalist Front' in terms of Irish unity, Alliance should clearly show its Left-wing credentials and become an integral member of Sinn Fein’s Broad Left partnership.
Just as the Hard Left Momentum organisation - like its fore runner in Militant Tendency - came to have a major influence in the British Labour Party, then the similar Red Alliance pressure group needs to make its presence felt within Alliance generally.
Trevor Lunn is a well-respected and hard-working politician, but he represents ‘Old Alliance’. His generation of Alliance politician maintained the political foundation of the party during an era when being ‘moderate’ or ‘middle of the road’ was not popular.
But Alliance has recognised that a generation of new, Hard Left-leaning young voter base has emerged for whom the loyalist and republican ceasefires of 1994 and even the 1998 Good Friday Agreement are merely dates in history books.
If Alliance is to shake off its ‘we are just merely a protest party’ image, then Hard Left politics are the answer - especially in the face of a Boris Johnston-led Westminster Government, which has a huge Thatcherite-style working Commons majority.
In building a new socialist alternative to the BoJo establishment which is a truly non-sectarian movement, then the grassroots pressure group of Red Alliance must be the way forward.
The SDLP is overtly nationalist; Sinn Fein - whilst having a clear Marxist economic agenda - has its political strings too tightly pulled by the Provisional IRA’s army council, no matter how much the Sinn Fein spin doctors scream about the IRA being ‘off the stage’.
So what remains of the Left in Northern Ireland? The Workers’ Party has all but disappeared and is historically too much aligned to the Official IRA. The Irish Republican Socialist Party is also closely linked to the terrorist INLA.
The Communist Party of Ireland has also all but vanished, and the main revolutionary voice of the Left - People Before Profit (PBP) boasts an unworkable Trotskyite agenda.
Critics of Southern Sinn Fein in the Dail maintain Mary Lou McDonald will not be able to chalk up the numbers, even with support from the Greens, Social Democrats and the Solidarity People Before Profit to break through the 80 TD mark needed to have even a water-thin majority in Leinster House.
The Hard Left in Northern Ireland has only a few ways forward. Firstly, depending on who wins the British Labour Party leadership, it could hope that a new Labour leader will give the green light politically for the party to formally contest elections in the Province.
Or, the Left would relaunch the former post-partition Communist Party of Northern Ireland as a breakaway from the Communist Party of Ireland.
But all of these movements, while workable on paper, are still fringe movements in practice.
Just as Unionism requires a Vanguard-style grassroots movement to bring about any hope of Unionist unity, so too, will the peace generation of the Left have to develop the grassroots Red Alliance pressure group as part of a mainstream party structure.
Alliance has representation at local council level, the Assembly - even in the Stormont Executive - Westminster, and even before 31 January, had an MEP in leader Naomi Long.
Assemblyman Lunn and his generation have had their day and they must be praised, respected and lauded for their achievements. But the new generation of Hard Left Alliance activists must now have their day - hence the vital importance of Red Alliance in developing the Broad Left coalition in Northern Ireland.
Political direction in 2020 Irish politics is now from the bottom up; not the leadership down. Red Alliance is that vehicle whereby fireside chats become genuine political policies in which Red Alliance can influence overall party policy from within by getting involved in Alliance constituency associations, branches and events.
As yet, the Red Alliance pressure group may only have a handful of activists, sympathisers and voters connected to the Alliance Party and does not have the clout on a scale of the old Ulster Monday Club which once dominated the Ulster Unionist Party, or the staunchly pro-Brexit ERG within the Tory Party, but at least its up and running - and that’s a comprehensive start!