Monday, June 8, 2009
Building an alliance for change now
Bairbre de Brún and the SF team after the result was announced
June 8th 09
Building an alliance for change now
This blog has just left the count centre in Belfast. Bairbre de Brún has been elected on the first count. Bairbre is the first republican to top the poll in a European election. That’s a significant result given that it was the DUP who made topping the poll an issue during the election campaign.
Well done Bairbre. Comhgairdheas. It’s great that a republican woman has achieved this honour for Sinn Féin.
I have no doubt that Bairbre will use this new mandate to continue to represent all citizens on the basis of equality and fairness.
Well done also to everyone else who stood for our party in local elections in the South, in the two by-elections and in the European contest. Thanks especially to everyone who voted for Sinn Féin. Tá muid fíor buíoch daoibhse.
First count results
I returned to Belfast in the early hours of this morning. The last of the local government counts in the capital saw our candidate Seamus McGrattan win a council seat by beating Maurice Ahern, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s brother, by 13 votes.
Electoral politics is a tough business!
But I’m philosophical about that. We have no complaints. Of course it would have been better if Mary Lou Mc Donald had retained our Dublin seat but sin é. Mary Lou fought a brilliant campaign. Our Dublin organisation responded magnificently. But we knew since the time the seats were reduced from four to three that we faced a huge challenge. Our transfers saw the election of Joe Higgins. So, well done to Joe.
As I post this blog Toiréasa Ferris is still in the contest for a seat in Ireland South. It’s too close for anyone to call it.
Overall our EU vote in the south is up. Kathleen Funchion and Tómas Sharkey did extremely well in Leinster and Pádraig MacLochlainn polled strongly in the North West.
The big losers are Fianna Fáil and the Greens. The Greens are almost wiped out at local government level.
The big winners are Labour and Fine Gael and independents
Sinn Féin had significant gains in Kilkenny, Cork, Limerick, Wicklow, Mayo and Donegal and other areas.
The party now has representatives in all but one of the thirty two counties.
The fact is we are still building capacity and organisation in the south. There are no short cuts.
The big story of the election is that people want change and parties with the capacity are obviously better placed to pick up votes from a wider section of the electorate.
Sinn Féin took a hit in 2007. We have now recovered from that. So, we need to keep building organisation on the foundations that have now been established in more areas as a result of our electoral successes.
The reality is that there could be a general election at any time. The government clearly has lost its moral authority to govern and the airwaves are filled with debate about the need for an alternative.
That’s not going to come from Fine Gael. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are opposite sides of the one coin on social and economic issues. Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
Enda Kenny has done a good job of building his party but those who voted for Fine Gael in the hope that a rights based, equality centred will be created are going to be disappointed.
The broad left did well. But the left is fragmented. Unity needs to be built. An alliance for change, for decency and fairness must be developed. That will take time but it doesn’t have to wait until the next election. That work must start now. In the community sector, in the voluntary sector, among campaigning groups, individual activists, everyone who wants a citizen centred society.
In local councils throughout the state parties with a commitment to equality must set aside our differences and coalesce to deliver for citizens at the receiving end of savage government policies.
Labour’s focus clearly will be to build its own organisation in preparation for a general election. Republicans will be doing the same thing. But there is no contradiction between parties building independently their structures and capacity and contesting elections as independent parties, while uniting in the common interest wherever and whenever is possible.
That’s what citizens want. It’s not enough to be against government policy. People need hope and that will come not just from rhetoric but from hard nosed policies based on core values of decency, transparency, fairness and accountability.
The people have spoken. Election day was the people's day. For the last few weeks politicians have talked the talk. Now we must walk the walk.
At the Count