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Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland Richard Boyd Barrett and Ruth Coppinger have similar views, yet are members of two different parties.
# Uniting the Left
Why can't all the left-wing parties get their act together?
There are FIVE left-wing parties in the Dáil right now. Can’t they all just get along?

IT’S ONE OF the ongoing questions in Irish politics: why can’t the smaller left-wing parties unite as one force and become a real alternative to the political establishment?

There are currently five ultra left-wing parties or movements in the Dáil right including the United Left, People Before Profit, the Socialist Party, the Anti Austerity Alliance (AAA) and the Workers’ Unemployed Action Group.

While they all have links of some sort – the Socialists are practically part of AAA – the failure to band together to form one, cohesive political party has been highlighted as the main reason why no radical left alternative has emerged in Ireland in the aftermath of the crisis.

It’s an issue we discussed in detail with the People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett when he came to visit us in this week.

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Prior to the last general election, the United Left Alliance (ULA) emerged as a potential new political party. In the year or so that followed, there was much talk about the ‘imperative of uniting the left‘.

But the ULA fell apart in 2013 amid infighting over the pace of its progress and a failure to attract ordinary working class people as members.

The scale of the division became apparent in the European elections last year when there were two left-wing candidates in Dublin.

As incumbent MEP Paul Murphy attempted to hold the seat for the Socialist Party, the vote was significantly split by the candidacy of People Before Profit’s Brid Smith, and Murphy missed out.


“[It is] very regrettable that People Before Profit decided to put forward a candidate against Paul, who is an incumbent with three years of highly credible activity in the European Parliament,” Murphy’s predecessor in Europe, Joe Higgins, said at the time.

But when when it was put to Boyd Barrett that there was “arguably” a seat for the left if only one of them had run, he responded “arguably, arguably not”.

He went onto say that it was PBP’s view that the the left probably “couldn’t have won the seat” unless Higgins had run. He argued that what happened in the end was the best outcome for the left anyway:

Video: Paul Hosford /

Boyd Barrett went on to argue that his party is “the force on the left that is most actively promoting unity”.

He pointed out that People Before Profit has been the leader in the organisation of the Right2Water campaign and also took the reins of the campaign against the privatisation of Coillte lands.

He said that PBP is “actively engaged” in discussions with the Anti-Austerity Alliance with the view to forming some “sort of alliance or pact” going into the next election.

Video: Paul Hosford /

But why not a political party that could truly change the established parties? After all, Sinn Féin is gradually emerging as a left alternative in recent years.

Boyd Barrett disputes the idea that his party isn’t benefiting and that there is no coherence among the left-wing parties.

He even believes that the left is “more united” than the right-wing parties in the Dáil “who can’t agree on anything”:

Video: Paul Hosford /

WATCH: Why this TD uses military metaphors and might nationalise Dunnes

Read: Leo compares Enda to Michael Collins and smaller parties to a Monty Python sketch

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