Return to Recent Articles menu

Irish elections: triumph for Irish capitalism, reality check for Sinn Féin

17 June 2024

Taoiseach Simon Harris.

In the Irish local elections Fianna Fáil saw it's vote fall by 4% to 22.9%. Its coalition partner, Fine Gael, saw its vote decline by 2.36% to 23%. The coalition junior partner, the Green Party saw a fall of 2.1% to 3.6%. These results are regarded as a triumph for the government. The vote for Sinn Féin, up 2.32% to 11. 8%, is seen as a body blow, given they were expecting a mass increase that would sweep them into a place in a Dublin government in the next general election. There was a fragmentation of the vote outside of this, with new right-wing parties and progress by racist and anti-migrant candidates, falling short of a new movement.

The results are a triumph for the government because they have overseen a massive crisis of housing and public services, encouraged the rise of racism, and quietly bound themselves to imperialism with the faintest of timid objections to the Gaza massacre and active participation in the proxy war in Ukraine alongside NATO and European military structures.

It was believed that government policy, especially on housing, would lead to a Sinn Féin triumph and pave the way to a place in government in the coming general elections. In reality voters accepted the government line that there was no alternative to their policy. The housing policy of feeding money to developers is accepted by all. ICTU's Patricia King was part of a housing review that criticised the government, but this was a criticism based on speeding up procedure, not of political and economic policy.

Sinn Féin housing response, of a cap of €300,000 on Dublin housing, was a proposal for a mass subsidy without actually lowering house prices. They were humiliated by the then Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, who opposed this plan from the right, and the result was that people no longer trusted them.

The other big issue was the growth of anti-migrant sentiment. Attention focused on a relatively small racist element, but the new Fine Gael Taoiseach, Simon Harris, actually led the attacks on refugees in the run-up to the election, sweeping tents off the streets and moving them to camping sites in the mountains.

The outcome has been stasis in political policy and enormous confusion amongst the electorate, reflected in the growth of the far right, the very large number of independent candidates elected and in the chaotic transfer patterns.

The Sinn Féin strategy is dead in the water. The plan was to keep up momentum until they gained a place in the next Dublin coalition government. That will not happen now and they now need to adopt some real policy positions, which would inevitably lead to a shift in their support base. Alongside the Sinn Féin failure stands the failure of the reformist left. They gained votes, but their strategy was for a left government led by Sinn Féin and that option is no longer realistic.

There were also important issues that did not register: ever closer union with NATO, Irish government manoeuvring on Gaza to avoid upsetting the rest of the West. That this was the case in the local elections is probably not surprising, but in the European poll, the main result was a fall in the Fine Gael vote and a corresponding rise for the new party of the right, Independent Ireland, who gained a seat. Sinn Féin gained one seat, on a poor vote. The main result was an intervention by PbP to displace Clare Daly, who along with Mick Wallace, was the only consistent voice against the drive to global war.

The Irish government survived because there is no coherent opposition to their policies. The financial policies resonate with transnational companies. The trade union leaders are on board.  Sinn Féin trade on past republicanism while capitulating to imperialism and capitalism.

It’s time to start again.  Anti-imperialist socialist politics offering opposition to war, solidarity and unity of the working-class and oppressed need to be advanced, rather than reformist and electoralist mumbo-jumbo.

Return to top of page