We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.


They don't all want to hear it but a Labour-SocDems-Greens alliance might help them get into Govt

Labour MEP Aodhán Ó Ríordáin says the left have to stop trying to take each other out during elections.


LEFT PARTIES TRYING to “take each other out” during an election “doesn’t wash anymore”. 

Those were the words of newly elected Labour MEP Aodhán Ó Ríordáin who could only be described as elated as he took a hard-fought seat in the Dublin constituency on Tuesday night.

Much of his success was off the back of transfers from Green Party MEP Ciaran Cuffe in the final rounds of counting, who lost out on the day.

The effective transfers between the Greens and Labour, along with the success of Labour in holding onto its share of council seats, and the Social Democrats almost doubling its number of elected councillors speaks to a wider point. 

Is it finally time for the progressive left-wing parties to get their houses in order and combine forces?

‘Stop pretending’

Ó Ríordáin said as much this week, stating that it is time for Labour and the Social Democrats to “join forces” and “stop pretending that there’s any difference” between them. 

Ó Ríordáin and his party leader Ivana Bacik stopped short of stating there should be an amalgamation of the parties, but he told RTÉ’s Late Debate programme this week that cooperation between centre-left parties is now crucial if parties want to achieve common goals and defeat the far-right. 

“It’s time for people on the centre left – ourselves, the Social Democrats and the Greens – to realise what we can achieve together. I think the idea of being in competition with each other and trying to take each other out and take seats off each other, it doesn’t wash anymore,” he said. 

It is true to say that Labour is a lot more open to the prospect. The suggestion does not go down so well with the Social Democrats. 

It is understandable, to some degree. The SocDems have built the party on the back of the mistrust the electorate had for the Labour Party since it was in government with Fine Gael during the bitter austerity years.

That bad smell has been lingering around the Labour Party for some time now. But is it now fading? If so, is it now time for the Social Democrats to consider the perceived unpalatable move? Or do they risk isolating the supporters they have worked hard to attract.

Cairns has previously said she believes Labour’s approach to government is not “compatible” with her party. She said Labour’s previous record in government supported the privatisation of Bord Gais and penalised lone-parent families, adding:

“It’s all well and good to say: ‘Oh they think they have the same policies as us.’ They don’t have the same practices.”

Upon becoming leader of the Social Democrats, The Journal asked Holly Cairns what the difference was between the two party and Labour. Boos rang out in the room.

The question did not go down well with the grassroots, clearly. Cairns herself said trust has been broken between the people and the Labour party. 

Cairns said that day it was a “categoric no” to any future merger with Labour. But does Labour see it differently?

“Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have decided to stop pretending that there’s any difference between them, and we need to stop pretending that there’s any difference between us,” Ó Ríordáin said this week.

With 91 council seats between the the two parties, they are not shy off Sinn Féin, with 102 seats.

Throw in the Green Party’s 23 seats, and there would be 114 seats, making them a clear and considerable bloc. 

Cairns not worried about Labour coming for their voters

When asked about the success of Labour, Cairns said on the Tonight Show on Virgin Media Television this week that she wasn’t particularly concerned that Labour would come for the Soc Dem vote in a general election.

There is no doubt that there is a bright future for the Social Democrats, going by how well it did in the local elections. But if the party is realistic about its prospects of getting into government in the short-term, the party is probably going to have to at least consider the idea of joining forces with other like-minded parties. 

Bacik said there is a need for such parties to work together to “offer a real alternative to people who are looking to build an Ireland that works for all and that’s what we’re about”. 

While the Social Democrats has repeatedly stated that it has no interest in merging with the Labour Party, former Labour leader Pat Rabbitte told Newstalk last weekend that it is “inevitable” that it will happen. 

However, such a merger is probably not on the cards any time soon or before the next election. 

Power in numbers 

So what other options are there? 

While much of the focus is on the Social Democrats and Labour, the Greens have also been mentioned when it comes to the idea of a progressive left coalition. 

Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan said this week that in her view, the left needs to “get it together”, stating that doesn’t have to mean party mergers, but could mean starting the conversation about coalescing, to some degree.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean one party. That could mean just caucusing together or working together more cohesively,” she said, adding that there is a need to “carve out a space.”

If the speculation is correct, and we are heading into an autumn election, then time is short to forge that space.

One way it could be achieved is by forming an transfer pact or non-aggression pact between Social Democrats, Labour and the Greens during the election, or even being savvy with their candidate selections between all parties.

People Before Profit sought such a pact and wrote to Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats and Independent candidates on the left ahead of the local and European elections, proposing  a vote-left, transfer-left pact, but it excluded the Green Party and Labour from its plans. 

Again, hammering out such a deal would take a lot of time, effort and compromise. 

Instead, what would be a more strategic option is to join forces after the general election, when the real business of government formation begins. 

There is strength in numbers and in what seats can be delivered.

If Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are holding the cards, or even if Sinn Féin is, for the three centre-left parties to negotiate as a bloc would be to their advantage. 

It worked somewhat for independents like Shane Ross, Finian McGrath, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, Sean Canney and John Halligan previously, whereby the independent TDs joined forces to become the Independent Alliance, picked a handful of issues they wanted action on and negotiated as a team with Fine Gael who needed to make up numbers.

It is not the first time the idea of the left coming together has been floated. 

Back in 2010, the United Left Alliance, made up of a number of left-wing parties, said that it would put forward a “a real left alternative in the general election and challenge the austerity and capitalist consensus amongst all the parties in the Dáil”. 

The alliance, which fielded around 20 candidates, proved – for various reasons – unsuccessful, not least because of ideological and strategic differences. 

Despite plenty of similarities, the parties failed to cohere into a united entity and the alliance proved short-lived – eventually folding in 2013 after the Socialist Party left the grouping.

So, there is no doubt there are challenges in the coalescing of parties, but Labour believes now is the time for progressive left parties to align themselves.

All eyes will be on the likes of Social Democrats now to see if that is something they can agree to.

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel