Right2Change: promising alliance or more of the same?November 5, 2015
During October, a number of organisations and individuals who had been involved in the anti-water protest movement entered discussions regarding the establishment of an alliance and voting transfer pact for general election 2016. Right2Change, an organisation stemming from the Right2Water movement, was to be the vehicle to co-ordinate an alliance of anti-austerity, left-wing and liberal groups-giving the left a coherent platform for the next general election.
However, once individual terms were discussed and common policy platforms debated, it was clear that although all groups considered themselves to be hard left, many ideological differences remained. The Right2Change movement involves a number of “pillars”, including a community pillar made of community groups, a trade union pillar and a political pillar. Groups and Independent TDs who had been involved in the water protests were asked to agree to the policy goals which would provide a basis for a left-wing government.
The results of discussions were not as fruitful as initially anticipated; Sinn Féin promptly agreed to the alliance and the voting pact, leading to the perception by some that the party was merely subscribing in attempts to maximise its appeal due to the recent dip in Sinn Féin support and would effectively hikack the project. Notable left-wing figures such as Joe Higgins, Thomas Pringle and Paul Murphy have publicly stated that they will not ask their supporters to transfer any of their votes to Sinn Féin deputies and although the AAA were involved in talks, they eventually opted not to enter into any formal alliance.
However Right2Change does receive the full support of People Before Profit, currently with two sitting TDs and a number of Councillors who are well placed to contest the general election. Prominent Independent candidates such as Mick Wallace, Clare Daly and Ruth Coppinger also have subscribed to the alliance-all of whom have large presences on a national scale.
Since the current Government has been elected, Irish politics seems to have been polarised into a simple left vs right system, with Fianna Fáil being squeezed somewhere in the middle and Labour being perceived to have jumped ship by many on the left. But this perception does not take into account the stark ideological differences between some left-leaning parties; for example, the Socialist Party never backed the Good Friday Agreement due to their belief that it promoted a sectarian political establishment. The left-wing parties of today have become synonymous with water protests, strident denouncements of service cuts and a comprehensive and unilateral loathing of the Labour Party. Nonetheless, if the beginnings of each party were examined, the differences between each left-wing party and grouping becomes alarmingly apparent. These differences have been the subject of dozens of bitter in fights and the fragmentation of many left-wing groups over the past number of decades and have led the parties to their current and numerous formats and identities.
If organisations, parties and trade unions can get over the issues and obstacles which have stymied the growth of political groupings in the past, it will mean that the first left-wing Government in the State’s history could conceivably be elected come next year. Left-leaning parties and candidates traditionally find it hard to attract transfers on polling day and an alliance of this sort could make a huge difference in an election which promises to be tightly contested.
Only time will tell if the Right2Change alliance will become as fragmented and controversial as other liberal groupings have before it, with initial signs indicating that comprehensive mutual support is unlikely to be given from all quarters.
Fennell Public Affairs