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The 32-county People Before Profit and why it's anti-austerity and pro-Brexit

The party has two representatives in Stormont.

Renewable Heat Initiative allegations Gerry Carroll says People Before Profit is happy an election has been called so the electorate can have their say on the 'cash for ash' scandal. Source: David Young/PA Wir

SINN FÉIN USED to trumpet it as one of their unique selling points, while Fianna Fáil regularly threatened to do it without following through, but another party has managed to get a political foothold on both sides of the border.

People Before Profit (PBP) secured their first two Stormont seats in May of last year and in next month’s election it will run seven candidates.

In different ways on either side of the border, the party’s growth represents a movement away from tribalism towards a more common left-right divide.

While this has been gradual, Northern Ireland’s  ‘cash for ash’ scandal and other recent controversies have hastened this process, so says People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll.

He argues that there’s a growing anger and distrust about the governance of the six counties.

“The way the general public sees Stormont is more of a racket than an Assembly. That’s been kinda bubbling for a while,” Carroll argues.

People’s lives weren’t getting any better, they were getting materially worse. They’re waiting longer to get operations on the NHS, they’re waiting longer on trolleys, their schools are underfunded, teachers nurses are competing for a decent wage.

PastedImage-32004 Source: Twitter/GerryCarollPBP

PBP ran its first candidate in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections ten years ago and has grown its base on issues that echo their colleagues in the Republic.

Namely, the anti-water charge movement, opposition to austerity and the support of neutrality and Palestine.

Carroll was first elected to Belfast City Council in 2014 and two years later gained an Assembly seat after topping the poll in the Sinn Féin dominated six-seater in Belfast West.

Veteran socialist campaigner Eamonn McCann was also elected for the party in Derry after taking the last seat in the Foyle constituency.

To create the required power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, members have to designate as ‘nationalist’ or ‘unionist’ when signing the register as an MLA on the first day the Assembly meets after an election.

Both Carroll and McCann did not sign the register as either, instead recording themselves as ‘socialist’.

The 32-county People Before Profit is against partition but Carroll says it does not let the issue define them as a party:

“We’re against partition because we believe it divides workers north and south, we’re against division and we’re against borders.”

 

For us, fundamentally the main divide in society is class, so if you’re a working-class Protestant on the Shankill or a working-class Catholic on the Falls Road, or you’re a migrant living in Belfast, you know you’re not the one availing of the RHI scheme.

Brexit

People Before Profit supported the Leave side in the EU referendum and it’s pro-Brexit stance led to criticism from Sinn Féin among others.

Carroll questioned the need for the referendum, saying that it was a power struggle within the Conservative Party that went too far. Once it was called though, the party had a decision to make.

“We made a decision to say that the EU does not operate in the interests of working people anywhere, and the strongest example of that is Greece,” he says, adding that the priority now is to make sure Brexit works for working people.

“What we need is a Brexit that is not shaped by Theresa May, we need one that is shaped by working class people in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. And one that is shaped by the trade union movement. ”

Read: Poll support for left-wing parties ‘shows the huge impatience for Repeal referendum’ >

Read: People aren’t happy about a proposed change to this Dublin Bus route >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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