After months of political deadlock, a new coalition government is expected to be formed in Ireland by the two centrist establishment parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, with the support of the Green party. An agreement was reached between the three rival parties late on June 15, Monday. The decision now needs to be ratified by the party legislators in 10 days.
The post of prime minister will be shared by the parties on a rotation bases. Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin is likely to be elected as the new prime minister.
Meanwhile, the unprecedented centrist alliance with the Greens has been decried by the left-wing republican party Sinn Fein and other progressive movements in Ireland as going against the popular mandate.
The general elections held on February 8 had thrown up a hung parliament, with the pro-Irish reunification Sinn Fein winning the plurality of popular votes and 37 out of the 42 seats it contested. The election was considered as a verdict against the 100-year rule by the two establishment parties in the country. The liberal-conservative Fine Gael, led by ex-prime-minister Leo Varadkar, lost 12 of its seats, while the center-right Fianna Fail, led by Micheal Martin, lost seven. On the other hand, Sinn Fein, led by Mary Louise McDonald, gained 15 seats and increased its tally to 37 from 22.
With the new coalition deal, Fianna Fail (38 seats) and Finn Gael (35 seats), along with the Green Party led by Eamon Ryan (12 seats) can secure a majority in the 160-seat Dáil Éireann – the lower house of the Irish parliament.
Responding to the development, Pearse Doherty from Sinn Fein said, “The deal between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party is not the change that people voted for. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael cannot be trusted to deliver for families and workers or to deliver on housing, healthcare, childcare, and protection of rural Ireland.”
Sinn Fein has made significant advances not only in Ireland, but also in the UK-controlled region of Northern Ireland, threatening establishment parties in both countries.
Jimmy Doran from the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) told Peoples Dispatch, “The coalition of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens is a three-party, one-policy government. We only have to look at their recent history in government over the last 10 years to see that their record has been one of promoting austerity and a direct transfer of wealth from the working class to the ruling elites.”
“On housing, they propose ‘social housing’ which gives profits to private builders and speculators instead of public housing which removes the profit element by being built by local authorities directly. They propose a cost rental model that links rents to the cost of building and maintaining the property rather than differential rents which links rent to income. They continue the practice of selling state-owned public housing to tenants, which takes assets directly from the state and transfers it into private hands. They make vague proposals on a single-tier health system when they should be planning for an all-Ireland fully funded public health service as the inevitability of the reunification of the country comes down the tracks,” Doran said.
He further criticized the establishment parties for proposing carbon taxes to tackle the environmental crisis, making the working class pay for pollution instead of the real polluters – big businesses. He called the two-year stimulus offered by the government to balance the books following the COVID-19 crisis a few crumbs from the table for softening up the working class to lower their expectations, so that they accept the austerity policies that will inevitably follow.
Doran concluded, “They say this government marks the end of the Civil War in Ireland. There was not a civil war in Ireland but there was a counter-revolution following the revolutionary period around the War of Independence. The victors, instead of following the Democratic program of the first Dáil, set about getting a bigger share of the wealth of Ireland for their class. The new coalition is a rule of three parties and one policy: capitalism.”
The Trade Union Left Forum in Ireland has also called the new coalition a three-party, one policy government.