MICHAEL WOLSEY: Too many teams and they’re all left-wingers
THE first item on an Irish political agenda is The Split, said Brendan Behan, and the Left has always done its best to prove him correct.
Of late it has excelled itself and Paul Murphy’s establishment of a new party (group is the word the TD prefers) leaves Irish socialism more divided than at any time I can recall.
And that’s saying something, for I have lived through many a schism. Republican Labour, Connolly Labour, Militant Labour, Marxist-Leninists, Leninist-Marxists, Lennon and McCartney. They all make grand entrances and usually deliver a fine soliloquy. Then they exit – stage left, of course.
How many divisions has the pope, asked Stalin, a man for whom some socialists still have a fondness.
Dunno. But not half as many as the Irish Left.
Mr Murphy’s new party (sorry, group) is called RISE and is a break-away from the Socialist Party which has contested recent elections under the banner of Solidarity, which used to be called the Anti-Austerity Alliance.
Mr Murphy says his new RISE group will still have fraternal links to the old Solidarity group which is linked to People Before Profit.
Joan Collins, a TD for Dublin South Central, used to be in People Before Profit but she is now with Independents 4 Change which used to called Independents for Equality.
So is Clare Daly, who, like Mr Murphy, used to be in the Socialist Party. So is Mick Wallace, who used to be a capitalist building contractor.
Ms Daly used to be a TD and is now an MEP. She was a founder member of the United Left Alliance.
Mr Wallace used to be a TD and is now an MEP, unlike Mr Murphy who used to be an MEP and is now a TD.
Richard Boyd Barrett, who used to be a member of the Socialist Workers Party, hasn’t left People Before Profit yet and neither have deputies Gino Kelly and Bríd Smith. Neither has Ruth Coppinger, who used to be in the Socialist Party.
True believers don’t extend fraternity any further Right than the jumble of parties I have mentioned. But a few heretics might be prepared to include the Greens and the Social Democrats.
The Social Democrats are a spin-off from the Labour Party, which incorporates Democratic Left, which used to be the Workers Party, which was previously Sinn Féin the Workers’ Party, who used to be Official Sinn Féin, who were also known as The Stickies and were once the political wing of the IRA.
Some other independents, such as John Halligan, can lay claim to left-wing credentials and there are others who will sing the Red Flag if it suits them. Bertie Ahern once claimed he was one of the few true socialists in Irish politics and that, under his leadership, Fianna Fáil had provided “the most left-wing government this country has ever seen”.
He may have been correct, since there was never much competition for that title. True believers would sooner join the Irish Management Institute than go into government.
At the launch of RISE, Mr Murphy said he did not agree with left-wing parties going into coalition with “right-wing parties” such as Fine Gael, adding, for good measure: “We don’t think Sinn Féin or the Greens represent the change we need.”
He didn’t mention Fianna Fáil but I don’t think Micheál Martin need expect a call from him any time soon.
“People on the Left, unlike people on the Right, take politics pretty seriously,” said Mr Murphy.
Maybe they do. But unless they can get their shambles of an act together they needn’t expect the voters to take them seriously at all.