Labour, which side are you on?

The dust is settling on #GE11.  The negotiation continues on who will form the next government.

This is a copy of the letter sent by the UNITE trade union urging Labour to forego government coalition and instead lead an opposition of the Left.  This would of course be Fianna Fáil’s worst nightmare as it would starve them of the oxygen of publicity, as Margaret Thatcher put it when imposing a ban on the voices of  Northern Irish organisations between 1988 and 1994.

There are compelling arguments for Labour to stay out of another partnership with Fine Gael, and a substantial voice within the grassroots of Labour in support of the idea.  Will it come to pass?

Dear Labour TD (by name),

Congratulations on your election to the 31st Dáil.  This election has delivered a greater number of Labour and other left wing representatives than any other in our history.

The decisions made in the coming days have the potential to transform the Irish political landscape, and to realign the political divide to one of left against right, progressive against neo liberal, socially inclusive against market driven.

In many areas the decisions which are most important can at best be influenced rather than determined by our own judgement but in this case the decision on the future of Irish politics lies solely with the Labour Party.

We appreciate it is not an easy choice.  It is tempting to move to the government side of Dail Eireann, to bring influence to bear on the policies adopted by Fine Gael and to try to bring in elements of the progressive agenda.

We would urge you though, together with your colleagues to hold your nerve, to avoid becoming a cover for austerity measures that hurt the most vulnerable and the poorest in society, and instead to lead a coalition of the left in opposition.

A cobbled together Fine Gael minority government, or even a coalition between them and their ‘soul mates’ in Fianna Fáil would not last under the strong sustained and coherent opposition that the left would bring.

Labour must lead that coalition.  Some short months ago the party stood on approval ratings of over 30 per cent.  A government of the left looked likely then and will be even more so in a few short years.

To choose coalition with Fine Gael would be to step back into the outdated alignment of civil war politics based on the colour of a shirt rather than the policies that both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael hold dear.  Fianna Fáil would lead the opposition and take on the oxygen of relevance they need to have any hope of recovery.

That would mean a chance for genuine change foregone and would be very harshly judged by the electorate in three, four or five years time.

It is difficult to choose the greater long term good of the country over short term political expediency but you have put yourself in a position now to make that genuine tough choice, and condemn the wrong choices which Fianna Fáil made and which Fine Gael will meekly follow.

Yours sincerely,

Jimmy Kelly
Regional Secretary, UNITE

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