Sinn Fein emerges as the only Honest and Economically Literate Irish Party

By William K. Black

I was never one of the Irish-Americans who felt that Sinn Fein and the IRA were romantic groups.  Yes, some of the songs of resistance are stirring, but there is nothing romantic about the IRA’s violence for many decades.  Sinn Fein’s artful ambiguity about its support for peace v. the armed struggle caused me to distrust the Party’s leaders.

When we have visited Ireland recently to learn about and discuss the Irish crisis we have met with representatives from Fine Gael, the Greens, and Sinn Fein.  We weren’t avoiding Fianna Fail and the Labour Party.  Fine Gael is the dominant party running Ireland in coalition with the Labour Party.  The Greens were justly crushed in the last election because the Irish were disgusted with its leaders’ opportunism at the expense of the nation when they served as lackeys of Fianna Fail to keep that Party in power long after the Irish had decided they needed a new government.  Fianna Fail was the dominant Party whose policies were so criminogenic that they produced the housing and banking crisis, made the insane national guarantees of virtually all liabilities of Ireland’s massively insolvent banks, embraced slashing working class wages, and praised austerity during the Great Recession.  That guarantee created Ireland’s fiscal and sovereign debt crises.  Sinn Fein had long been a marginalized party, but its popularity began to grow as no other party offered a serious alternative to Fianna Fail’s disastrous policies.

Ireland is an unusual European nation in which parties do not generally reflect class or even policy divisions.  Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are the products of a schism that was not based on general philosophical differences about public policy.  Their policies tend to be indistinguishable.  From an American perspective, it was remarkable, therefore, to see that the Irish were so enraged at Fianna Fail and its policies that they smashed it at the polls – and promptly replaced it with Fine Gael – its fraternal twin, whereupon virtually nothing changed.

The Labour Party also seems curious from our perspective because it is even more neo-liberal than Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.  It does not represent the interests of laborers, at least as European labor parties normally see those interests.

The remarkable transformation, which has created the only serious alternative to neo-liberalism and the only major change in a major party’s traditional platform, is Sinn Fein.  Sinn Fein has successfully become a normal party rather than a single-issue party of the continuing revolution and eventual union.  The philosophical position it has embraced is that neo-liberalism is bad economics, bad for children, bad for families, bad for the 99%, bad political philosophy, and bad for democracy, bad for the environment, and bad for humanity.  Austerity and the assault on working class wages are the worst examples of neo-liberal thought imposed on the euro zone under the Berlin Consensus.

Sinn Fein is now the only significant Irish party with a sensible economic philosophy and policies.  The other major parties have championed the suicidal and vicious economic policies of austerity plus the war on working class wages.  The Irish government employs the nastiest form of austerity – Pro-austerian greed; anti-need (PAGAN).  They raise taxes on the working class, seek to reduce taxes on the wealthy (the “greed” component), and cut public services for the needy.

Austerity has made recessions worse throughout the euro zone, including Ireland, but Ireland’s ruling coalition demands more of the same and have terrified a majority of the Irish people (if polls are accurate) into continuing choose suicide and increasing inequality.  But the Irish electorate is fractured and the only place an Irish voter can go if he or she opposes suicidal austerity and attacks on the working class is to vote for Sinn Fein.  As a result, the same polls show that Sinn Fein may become the second largest Irish party.  Berlin’s insane economic policies and Sinn Fein’s willingness to change and reject the long-discredited neo-liberal nostrums have combined to make Sinn Fein a normal and far stronger party.  It is the only major Irish party with an economically literate policy for an Irish recovery and an inclusive Ireland in which equality increases.

8 responses to “Sinn Fein emerges as the only Honest and Economically Literate Irish Party

  1. The Dork of Cork

    Its not surprising really , Its very ironic for Ireland but the European republican movement has its modern origins in Cromwells revolution and the various cabinet wars of that time.
    This was a alliance of the people and the banks against the King and his money power.
    What the Sinners fail to realise is that the bankers have junked the republician thingy many years ago – so these parties appear to be adrift from the mainstream.
    Essentially the Banks have become the King and he is called the ECB.
    Maybe we need a real King again….. Henry the 1rst comes to mind – that would stir things up a bit.

  2. The Dork of Cork

    PS….speaking of Kings & Queens – looking at a Stormont debate Yesterday…
    Martin McGuiness seemed open to meeting lizie and all, there is something monetary in this dance me thinks.

    The Scotland Independence thingy is also hotting up, Hmmm I wonder ?
    With a possibly fiscally Independent Scotland ….. where would that leave Ireland ?
    Also I imagine McGuinness had heavy meetings with the BoE as someone somewhere cleaned Sinn Feins funds.
    If we vote No are we going back into the Sterling zone (also I don’t think we will vote no as people don’t understand
    the Euro and its “stability”)

  3. John McDonough

    I’ve been thinking that what MMT needs is a country willing to give it a go. Ireland was one of my picks and your blog makes it even more likely. The conference in Rimini may have convinced some Italians, but not any Italian parties so that’s not likely yet. But Greece, Spain, when they throw out the conservatives, and others are still viable candidates. Is there a concerted effort by MMT gurus to get these and other countries interested in MMT? Cuba? Ecuador?

  4. Unfortunately Mr Black doesn’t have a very deep knowledge of the Irish situation. There are very few people who wold have chosen the menu of policy options currently available to an Irish government. Nobody thinks it is just that we are forced to pay the huge bank debts – including unsecured bonds – essentially to save european banks, and even less that we should pay high interest rates on the loans we were given to pay these bondholders. However, we have a choice of defaulting on these debts and facing the problem of balancing our budget in a very short space of time resulting in huge cuts in welfare, pensions etc and massive tax increases. Or we can do what we are doing, which is to dance to the tune that Germany calls, since they are – through europe- our only source of funding. So we face cuts and austerity until there is a change of policy in europe. It’s not much of a choice.
    Sinn Fein’s option of playing hardball with europe is a policy that might have had a value two or three years ago. Now we don’t have such a good hand to play. Europe is in a better position to play hardball with us. What Sinn Fein are advocating is threatening europe by holding a hand grenade and threatening to pull the pin and see what happens. Sure it would cause a mess for europe, but there wouldn’t be much left of Ireland. Sinn Fein means ourselves alone. Not a good idea just now.

  5. Georg R. Baumann

    Bill, as of now 6PM the voter turnout in the referendum on the “Bank Debt Treaty”, camouflaged as “Fiscal Compact Treaty” is below 25%. Perhaps this goes into the history books as the referendum with the lowest turnout. Fascinating!

    Dork, you again! 😉

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  7. The Dork of Cork

    @Georg
    Yes…… Dork Talk – the Irish have spoken.
    They wish to be Bitch slapped into eternity.
    People don’t seem to understand.
    Ireland was never truely sovergin…………Independence was always a illusion and not even a good one.
    Crotty the guy who gave us these referendums said this – The European integration experiment has been a disaster.
    But this country likes that sort of stuff.

  8. Georg R. Baumann

    @Dork,
    To date, I was not aware that the term borderline / narcissistic personality disorder can apply to an entire Nation.