The New Coalition

The Irish People, The voice of Irish Republicanism in America, 11 January 1995


The new government in Dublin will probably continue most of the policies set out by the previous Fianna Fail/Labour administration. It will bring a strong British/Unionist bias to future dealings on the North, but democrats there can probably deal adequately with this. The idea is growing that northerners should campaign against members of the Dublin government-in their own constituencies, if necessary . The economic future of Ireland, including that of the northeast, which has been ruined by inefficiency and bad management, depends upon stability and cooperation.

Within the new Dublin administration, however, there are sources of future tension. The most obvious is the uneasiness of the alliance between Democratic Left (once the Republican Clubs, then Official Sinn Fein, then Sinn Fein the Workers Party, then the Workers Party, finally the Democratic Left) and Fine Gael (descended from the Irish fascist movement). This alliance will probably be resented by members of both Fine Gael and Democratic Left who had been led to believe they were natural political opponents.

Prionsias de Rossa, leader of the Democratic Left, has been given the ministry responsible for social welfare. Funding for this ministry is bound to be far below what his constituents would want, and so de Rossa will probably be blamed for whatever shortcomings welfare provisions may suffer under the new government. Perhaps this is one reason why he was given this post.


Many Labour Party members do not favor a shift to the left, preferring Labour to be respectably slightly left of center, as it has been under Spring. Spring carried out a strong campaign to remove the real left-wing from the party some years ago, at much the same time as the British Labour Party was purging its left wing, and those who helped or favored him in this may not take too kindly to what they see as the introduction of somebody else's left wing through a side door, namely Democratic Left. It is doubtful, though, if Democratic Left will insist on any really radical measures in government. Their policy is more likely to be that of members of the old Workers Party, who entered bodies like the state broadcasting service, newspapers, labor unions, etc. Although they often rose to significant positions, they did not thereby introduce radical policies into the organ izations but rather accommodated themselves to what was already there.

The institutions they entered and tended to dominate did not move to the left; the Democratic Left moved to the right. Democratic Left, which is competing against the Irish Labour Party for the title of the real left in Irish politics, will find its plans for social welfare caught within the constraints of a Finance Department presided over by a Labour minister. One may eventually blame the other for failure to give the people a better deal, thereby widening the gap between the two parties.

That is to say, by the ordinary laws of political logic this new coalition will have stresses and strains which a single-party government would not have. All the parties involved will have to face the electorate sooner or later and answer or having created a coalition with individuals who should be political opponents, with far different outlooks, philosophies and ideologies. If the coalition fails, recrimination will be very severe; even if success comes, recrimination will be there in some form.


The best result would be that the people would realize that if the day of single-party government is over, then the next most sensible and logical step is for every government in the future to be a coalition not of two or three parties but of all parties. In Europe, this has happened from time to time in the form of national governments or emergency governments. In emergencies it works because it has to. Perhaps, whatever the outcome of this coalition, the Irish people may look at the possibility of fixed-term, all-party coalitions as a way out of what in some European countries is becoming a substantial crisis brought on by their party systems.

As to whether the present Dublin coalition will hold together or not, the parties in it have two great aims which could well hold them together for at least a year in spite of all the differences they may have.

These are: to have power themselves and to keep Fianna Fail out of power; and by so doing, help to destroy both republicanism and nationalism. With that political cement to bind them together, survival, but not necessarily prosperity, may be assured at least for a while.