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Some party principles… August 22, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.

Here’s a little exercise I did this week, looking at the party principles of some of our larger or largish political groupings, particularly those more clearly positioned to the centre/populist/leftish end of the spectrum.

Let’s start with the Labour Party:

Core Party Principles

The four principles on which Socialism is based are Freedom, Equality, Community and Democracy.
From its first election programme in 1920 to the present day, these principles have been at the centre of the policies which the Labour Party has offered to the Irish people. These are the values which have ruled our major campaigns and our political activity whether in opposition or in Government.
The Labour Party is committed to representing the ideals of our movement in Government and ultimately we aim to be the majority party in Dail Eireann.

Freedom is a fundamental human right. No society is free unless the men and women who make up that society are free individuals. Poverty, homelessness, unemployment and ignorance are the enemies of freedom. Labour extends the same freedom to all members of society and opposes the victimisation of individuals on the basis of class, colour, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, race or ethnic origin.

Equality implies reorganising society with the specific object of creating a more equal distribution of wealth and power, and not just opportunities for individuals to become powerful or wealthy. The Labour Party sees equality not only in economic terms but also in terms of social political and economic rights. It is necessary for the individual to enjoy these rights under the law if there is to be full and true equality.

Socialism realises that men and women by necessity and by choice live in co-operation with each other. In the community or the workplace, the trade union or the social club there is a common sense of belonging and of purpose. The spirit of Community places Labour on the side of the oppressed, not only in Ireland but also in all countries of the world and in particular in the Third World.

Democracy is fundamental to the concept of giving power to people to shape their own lives. This empowering of people should cover all aspects of life, including culture, politics, justice and the workplace.

As regards how those policies are implemented, one won’t get a clear sense of that from the LP site. In fairness there are documents here on what they are doing, but I have to be honest, I quail at having to read them. They are – no doubt – a testament to its time in government but the linkage to core party principles appears unclear. And moreover it seems as if a layer of policy is simply missing. How is “Freedom” expressed in practice – or rather how do they envisage it expressed?

Consider by way of comparison the following from Fianna Fáil:

1. Fianna Fáil is a National Movement. Its aims are:-
(i) To secure in peace and agreement the unity of Ireland and its people.
(ii) To develop a distinctive national life in accordance with the diverse traditions and ideals of the Irish people as part of a broader European culture, and to restore and promote the Irish language as a living language of the people.
(iii) To guarantee religious and civil liberty, and equal rights, equal treatment and equal opportunities for all the people of Ireland.
(iv) To develop the resources and wealth of Ireland to their full potential, while making them subservient to the needs and welfare of all the people of Ireland, so as to provide the maximum sustainable employment, based on fostering a spirit of enterprise and self-reliance and on social partnership.
(v) To protect the natural environment and heritage of Ireland and to ensure a balance between town and country and between the regions, and to maintain as many families as practicable on the land.
(vi) To promote the family, and a wider sense of social responsibility, and to uphold the rule of law in the interest of the welfare and safety of the public.
(vii) To maintain the status of Ireland as a sovereign State, as a full member of the European Union and the United Nations, contributing to peace, disarmament and development on the basis of Ireland’s independent foreign policy tradition.
(viii) To reform the laws and institutions of State, to make them efficient, humane, caring and responsive to the needs of the citizen.
2. The Movement shall be organised and known as Fianna Fáil, The Republican Party, in accordance with the Rules annexed hereto.
3. Membership of Fianna Fáil is open to all persons of Irish birth, parentage, grand-parentage or persons ordinarily and legally resident in Ireland who accept the Constitution and Rules of Fianna Fáil;

For something completely different take a read of this, which demonstrates the reactive nature of FF. There’s no core principles running through it whatsoever. To term it pragmatic would be unreasonably generous.

And here’s the SF programme, which of all of them is perhaps the most comprehensive and most clearly and unashamedly left oriented. Also worth noting is the economic policy platform, the only one to mention clearly nationalisation. Of course this is the platform of a party in opposition in the South – as is that of FF.

1. Ireland United

Sinn Féin is a 32-County party striving for an end to partition on the island of Ireland and the establishment of a democratic socialist republic. The achievement of a United Ireland is within our reach and unity offers the best future for all the people of Ireland. In these harsh economic times, it is also the best way forward from a financial and social perspective.

90 years after partition, as communities divided by the border become increasingly reintegrated, there is a growing pull towards reunification.  As old allegiances change and people from loyalist backgrounds consider voting for a republican party because it best represents their social and economic interests, the potential for dialogue with those from the unionist community about their place in a united Ireland becomes possible.

Key Sinn Féin policies to bring about our goal of a united Ireland
• A referendum on Irish unity. To be held simultaneously, North and South.
• Northern representation in the Dáil. The existing 18 Westminster MPs to automatically be accorded membership of the Dáil, with consultative and speaking rights.
• Voting rights in presidential elections to be extended to citizens in the Six Counties.
• The integration of public services and infrastructure on an all Ireland basis, enabling people to access services such as health and education nearest to them, regardless of which side of the border they are on.
• Negotiate the transfer of fiscal powers from Westminster to the north.
• Coordinate economic planning on an all-Ireland basis. Harmonise taxation policy north and south.

2. Economy
Sinn Féin believes people should be put at the heart of an economy. An economy should serve society, not the other way round. We believe a successful economy redistributes wealth via the tax and welfare systems. It sees employment, education and training as a right. And it takes into account all the activity that is not currently measured by modern economies, such as housework, child rearing, caring and volunteering.
Detailed, intensive economic policy is available on the Sinn Féin website in various pre-budget submissions, alternative economic papers and job creation documents. Our position on bank bondholders (restructure banking debts) are reiterated across the Sinn Féin website.

The following are the key Sinn Féin economic policies
• Economies should be ran counter-cyclical. Governments’ should save in the good times (booms) so they can spend in the bad (recessions). We oppose moves from Europe to constitutionally limit national budgets, as this is a fiscal determinant that should be available to sovereign decision-makers.
• The tax and social welfare systems should be redistributive. Income taxes should be fair and progressive. Governments should not rely on indirect flat taxes like consumption taxes. Welfare should be protected government spending and should be based on achieving a decent living standard for recipients while offering support to assist people re-entering the workforce.
• The state should provide essential services to the economy (nationalised/state services). There should be a state bank, a state insurance company, state fuel company, state IT company (telephone/broadband etc), state health system, state transport and state schools & universities. Sinn Féin does support private enterprise as being essential to an economy, but we also recognise the hugely important part the state has to play in economic success.
• We caution against a reliance on foreign direct investment over the growth of indigenous (homegrown) industry. We’re not an ‘isolationist’ party. We recognise the importance of trade and investment. However we do dispute the reliance of the 26-County economy in particular on foreign direct investment to create jobs. The indigenous sector has at times seen its support sacrificed to appease multinational companies based here. We want to redress this imbalance.
• We support the protection of wages and income. We do not believe in a race-to-the-bottom to improve Ireland’s ‘competitiveness’. We have strong policies on workers’ rights. Workers are the heart of an economy and should be treated as such, not just as a means to a profit. We believe in absolute entitlement to join a trade union and collectively bargain. Sinn Féin policy on workers rights is based on the republican concept of equality as outlined in the 1916 Proclamation and the Democratic Programme.
• We support the establishment of a ‘high-pay’ commission, which would ensure the gap between the highest and lower earners in a society did not exceed a specific rate.

All handy though for allowing us some means of measuring the difference between rhetoric and the reality of what is actually implemented…


1. workers republic - August 22, 2013

No suprises there! A few points that stick out.
L.P.does not call for a Fair system but a ‘Fairer’ one, a tot ‘fairer’,but still grossly unfair!
The shameless,brazen ‘cheek ‘ of F.F. Their hypocritical speil about the mineral wealh being ‘subservent to the needs of the people’, when Ray Burke abolished royalities and Berty Ahern halfed corporation tax. Our minerals have been and are being looted. And mersenaries are terrorising local people at Rossmore.
S.F. Hypocracy! calling for a 32Co. vote on Unity,when they signed-up to the Unionist Veto.
They criticise the Bank bailout, but they voted for it!
They’r critical of ‘reliance on FDE,’ but are touting American Big Busimess for it incessantly.
I’m critical , very critical of the L.P. but at least they can say they voted against the Bail Out (in opposition, of course!).
At that time S.F. were wooing F.F. ,could there have been a Quinn connection?


2. Tawdy - August 22, 2013

I know that you had little or nothing to go on when compiling this but to be honest, equating the following as having any kind of principals whatsoever. Populist ff/sf and failed leftist (lab) as left of centre is expecting a most unique suspension of disbelief akin to a Disney movie!


3. WorldbyStorm - August 22, 2013

🙂 I’m not really suggesting that these are ‘principles’ in that sense, more guidelines as to how they might operate in practice. Only SF has anything with any detail at all.


eamonncork - August 22, 2013

Gilmore and Howlin made this interesting statement on the party’s concept of Freedom at the annual conference.


eamonncork - August 22, 2013

I think it’s a moving affirmation of what the LP stands for.


4. littlemicky2012 - August 23, 2013

Reading all this I am inclined to ask genuinely why all those advocating the formation of a new social democratic party here don’t just join Sinn Fein?


WorldbyStorm - August 23, 2013

That reminds me of the point a friend of mine made having attended a conference on congtemporary Irish politics a couple of years back. It was, IIRC, either just before or just after the last election and some political scientists were discussing positioning on the political spectrum in this state. An heap of attendees (who were drawn from political science, some activists and advisors etc) were very put out when it was suggested that in formal (and functional terms) SF was now well to the left of the LP.

But it’s an interesting question you raise there, no doubt about it.


LeftAtTheCross - August 23, 2013

Taking your question at face value, there’s a serious doubt over SFs commitment to any meaningful social democratic project given their participation in the NI executive and the dominance of nationalist politics over class politics. You do raise a valid question though. I think the answer is that not too many people here would necessarily give SF the benefit of those doubts. One would hope that time might prove the doubters wrong of course.


5. Justin Moran - August 23, 2013

As a shinner, I think LATC raises a good point. There are people out there who have doubts, some of which I think are more legitimate than others, about the commitment of Sinn Féin as a party to what he refers to as a ‘meaningful social democratic project’.

The party’s drift to the right ahead of the 2007 election, for example. Whether Gerry Adams and other sections of the party leadership are committed genuinely to left politics or have adopted those positions to attract electoral support. The party’s focus on independence, sovereignty and ending partition (which I don’t see as contradictory to class politics, but appreciate others do). All of these might cause a left-wing activist to think twice about joining Sinn Féin. They’re live and legitimate issues and no doubt some could add many more.

On the North, I don’t think Sinn Féin’s participation in the Northern Executive should be given a ‘blank cheque’.

But I do think from talking to left activists from the South that the limited powers of the Assembly, the political context in the North, the effect of legacy issues on class politics, the presence – however much reduced – of armed groups, the enforced coalition with parties from the hard right to the centre right are not at all well understood, and that little effort is made by many southern left-wing activists to do so.

Against this, I would argue that no political party since partition has built such a level of political support on as left-wing a platform. None has presented left and even socialist policies as credibly and as well thought-out. None today is as genuinely rooted in working class communities and has a more working class membership profile. None has ever been taken as seriously a threat by the Irish political establishment. None has delivered, not alone but largely, victories like the rejection of the Nice and Lisbon treaties.

It is not perfect, like any large organisation it has its internal contradictions and weaknesses. The party and those of us within it committed to genuinely building a socialist republic might fail

But if there is an opportunity for building a successful left-wing political party in Ireland that can deliver meaningful change, it is in Sinn Féin.


workers republic - August 24, 2013

Justin could be quite right,we might not fully apreciate the difficulties in being in coalition with a ‘hard Right’party in a puppet government subservient to a Tory Gov.,an imperialist power. Similarly we might not appreciate the difficulties of the LabourParty, a junior ‘partner’in government with a ‘hard Right’Gov.
But if thier Constitution is worth anything at all, Is That The Place To Be?
I know there are many Left leaning people in S.F. in the 26Co.s, I know some personally, but the Party is led by a Right Wing clique who have accepted neo-liberal “free market” economics or Friedmanomics as the norm,as Real Politique. Now there are enough (hopefully) left-leaning members to challenge the lurch to the Right, e.g. the strategic development zones, a clause in the Environment Bill bulldozed thro’ by Robinson and Mc Guiness to evade planning laws so that Fracking or toxic dumps or whatever else the policies of Neo-liberalism, profit before community demand. There is much more could be said,but ‘its getting late, so I’ll leave it at that. If the the grass-roots had the will—-, if!?


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