By Eoin Molloy
Negative headlines regarding Sinn Fein in the mainstream media have become a cliché at this stage. While this is no coincidence, it contrasts heavily with the completely non-judgemental coverage given to Renua Ireland, who officially formed in mid-March.
This is primarily because Sinn Fein would upset the established order in Ireland, interrupting the endless cycle of cronyism. Sinn Fein would likely break up the so-called ‘golden circle’ that has long benefitted from Ireland’s unchanging governments down through the years.
Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have battled it out for each election since the inception of the state. As these two parties have much the same stance on all of the ‘big’ issues, you could almost say that Ireland has been all but a one party state since 1922.
Now we have a chance to change that. For the first time in our history, popular support is surging to the left. We should not stop it.
We haven’t got much to lose in trying out a new party. Sinn Fein believes that ‘the most vulnerable in society should be protected, and that those who can afford to contribute the most should be asked to do so’. This is what separates a leftist party like Sinn Fein from the establishment parties.
Sinn Fein is in favour of the imposition of a 1% wealth tax on assets over one million euro, the cutting of ministers, TDs and senators’ salaries as well as the capping of public sector salaries at 100 thousand euro per annum. These measures seem infinitely fairer to the working class than those that have been implemented by government parties in the past.
Fine Gael (from whom Renua Ireland derive most of their policies) have shown a willingness to raise the cost of education and to cut the healthcare budget. They have also placed a disproportionate tax burden on low and middle income earners through PAYE, USC, PRSI, the household tax and now, the water charges.
All of these unfair taxes were imposed on the working class against a backdrop of ensuring that Ireland remains a good pace for tax-dodging multinational corporations to do business.
Ordinary citizens could be forgiven for thinking that establishment parties have the interests of big business at heart, rather than those of the embattled working class. Renua Ireland are exactly the same.
Let’s not forget that Renua Ireland’s deputy leader, Billy Timmins’ attitude towards the homeless. He infamously said that the way to combat homelessness was to make sleeping rough on the streets illegal. Therefore, it is incredibly clear that Renua Ireland will not seek to protect the most vulnerable in our society.
Their main policy goal seems to be to protect and foster an economy based on entrepreneurship, whatever that means.
This seems like a kind of ‘corporatocracy’ (where the economy and business dictates government policy, instead of being the other way around). Therefore, it is abundantly clear that Lucinda Creighton’s party will be far from radical in its policies. It is the derivative offspring of Fine Gael, and its policies reflect that.
Renua Ireland will seek to become Fine Gael’s junior partner in government, like the PDs did for Fianna Fail. They will be used as a scapegoat upon whom Fine Gael ministers can blame bad policy, much like the Labour Party at the moment.
We have witnessed the Labour Party stand by Fine Gael as they absolutely tear everything the party stands for apart. It is clear that the current crop of Labour ministers are more interested in their ministerial pensions than actually changing Ireland for the better. Renua Ireland would be more of the same.
A new departure is desperately needed in Ireland. How do we know that Sinn Fein are not self-serving careerists? There are a couple of reasons.
Firstly, Sinn Fen will only enter government if they are in the majority. This shows that they will not enter government just for the sake of power (or for ministerial pensions, for that matter).
Sinn Fein has called for 50% female representation in politics. It is also LGBTQ-friendly, actively calling for a ‘Yes’ vote in the upcoming SSM referendum. Sinn Fein’s policies are reflective of an Ireland of changing attitudes. As a party of the left, they will surely find it hard to get decent coverage in any Independent News and Media outlet, but that doesn’t seem to be deterring their supporters.
These liberal views strike a stark contrast with the dogmatic, backwards mind-set of Lucinda Creighton, who left Fine Gael over a slight relaxation of the anti-woman abortion laws. Renua Ireland will lead Ireland headlong into a 1950s time-warp.
If elected, Sinn Fein will attempt to bring about the Ireland that our ancestors fought for, the socially-responsible Ireland that was envisioned in the famous Sinn Fein document from 1919: ‘The Democratic Programme of the First Dail’. Sinn Fein has always sought to promote and guarantee ‘equal rights and equal opportunities’ to all citizens. We should give them a chance to try.
In summation, we haven’t a lot to lose from voting in Sinn Fein. Renua Ireland are essentially more of the same old party that has been letting the people of this country down for decades. Ireland needs change.
This article originally appeared NUI Galway’s Sin Newspaper.