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How did SF and the Left fail to harness housing crisis anger into votes? Good question, says Mary Lou

Housing was one of the number one issues raised on the doorsteps during the campaign trail, said McDonald.

Image: Sam Boal

HOW DID SINN FÉIN and other Left-wing parties fail to harness the anger around housing and translate it into votes?

That was a question posed to Mary Lou McDonald yesterday after it became apparent that her party had not retained a number of its seats in the local elections. 

“That is a really good question and to be honest, I don’t have an answer to that, but I think that is something we are going to have to reflect on very carefully,” she said. 

Although it appears that climate change issue has become the main talking point from these local elections, housing was one of main issues raised on the doorsteps during the campaign trail, McDonald said. 

Only a couple of weeks ago, thousands gathered in Dublin city centre for a protest on the housing crisis.

The Raise the Roof rally, organised as a protest against the housing crisis and homelessness, saw political parties, trade union and community groups march on the streets.

“Everywhere we went in the course of the campaign we heard very personal stories about the inability to have the security of a home and multiple generations of people living under one roof, we heard people with disability, people with caring responsibilities and how badly they feel let down, but you are right to say that that didn’t translate into a surge, that didn’t result in a bounce for us or by my reckoning for anyone else,” said McDonald.

Of course, Green Party members argue they are not all about climate change, and have strong policies around affordable housing and housing-to-rent policies.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Solidarity-People Before Profit’s Paul Murphy admitted it has been a “difficult election for the Left”.

He put it down to a low voter turnout in working class areas, and a higher turnout in more well-off districts.

A Sinn Féin TD agreed, stating that their party voters just didn’t turn up, not accepting a theory that Sinn Féin voters had moved their vote to the Green Party.

Murphy said the water charges movement that was the fuel behind the Left vote in 2014 wasn’t available this time around, explaining there isn’t the same level of activism around housing as there was with water charges. 

The catchy slogan of ‘want green, vote green’ might have also played well with voters, said Murphy, adding that people might assume their environmental policies are the strongest among political parties.

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However, he said socialist policies are just as strong on climate action. 

He added that it is a positive thing that the electorate are recognising climate change as an issue, stating that if the locals turn out to be a reflection of the results in the general election, the “real test” for the Green Party is that they don’t “do what they did the last time and agree to enter into a “destructive” government. 

“That will be their real test,” said Murphy.

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