A year on from an historic election, where Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael could only muster 44% of the vote between them, Bríd Smith TD looks back at some of the crises the coalition government has staggered through, highlighting the hope embodied in the Debenhams struggle and the Black Lives Matter movement.
It is a year since the General Election 2020 – a year like no other.
Covid-19 changed everything. People before Profit fought the election on the slogan of Break the Cycle of FF/FG and we came out of the general election with both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil bound together with the Green Party into a grand coalition.
But this was a symbol of their weakness rather than any strength. The two civil war parties were forced together to form a government with the Greens acting as a mudguard.
But the scale of the pandemic had a severe impact on the level of class struggle with a complete halt to street mobilisations, public meetings, pickets and people power agitation. It has to be like this to curtail the spread of the virus and save lives.
Despite this, throughout the year there have been struggles that have highlighted the dire failure of our government to deal with issues of inequality and justice, in particular.
The Black Lives Matter protests spilled onto the streets during the Summer in all major cities and towns. For the first time the voices of young Irish black people were being heard and the lid blown on the level of racism and racial abuse in Irish society.
Over 1,000 workers who lost their jobs in Debenhams took immediate and decisive strike action, picketing at least 13 stores around the country and holding onto the valuable stock for over ten months in order to secure their negotiated redundancy package of two plus two weeks’ pay.
When the Government tried to rush through legislation to seal away archives on the Mother & Baby Homes, there was upheaval. TD’s and Senators were bombarded with letters of protests and appeals to stop the Bill and to do the right thing by the victims and survivors. Tens of thousands of people showed their outrage and the government were forced to backtrack.
Before Christmas the Government also tried to rush through a motion on CETA and to sign a trade deal that could endanger our environment and compromise our social services. Again the kick back and level of anger was palpable, especially given the role of the Green Party in Government. This has severely exposed and weakened the Greens in local government where they are haemorrhaging leading elected councillors.
All of the above struggles and more happened against the backdrop of three lock downs, severe restrictions on our lives, serious threat to our health and thousands of lives lost. So it was indeed a year like no other.
Socialist in the Dáil
And did it make a difference to have socialists in the Dail? History shows that it absolutely did. In all of the above listed struggles socialists and left TD’s made a huge impact and we in People Before Profit punched well above our weight.
We stood with the BLM movement and proudly spoke out on the issues raised both in Trump’s America and here at home, North and South.
We embroiled ourselves as TD’s and activists in the Debenhams dispute and gave them our wholehearted support, doing our duty on the pickets and persistently raising the injustice to these workers in Dáil Eireann, keeping their fight in the news and on the political agenda.
When the Mother & Baby Homes issue blew open we took on the Minister’s arguments in the Dáil and meticulously highlighted the cruelty against women in Irish history and the need to separate Church and State.
We mobilised student nurses and midwifes, taxi drivers, artists and actors to fight for economic supports and equality during the pandemic. We spoke up for airline workers, farmers, meat plant workers, residents of Direct Provision and Nursing Homes, all of whom were neglected by the Government in having their needs met during the pandemic.
Socialists have been at the heart of the struggles on climate change and have put People Before Profit at the heart of the ecosocialist movement, most importantly at a time when the Green Party are sowing widespread disillusionment.
The Fight Ahead
So as we learn that the FF/FG/Green government have reneged on their pre-election commitment to workers to pay the state pension in full to those age 65 and over, we know that were it not for the Covid restrictions there would be mass protests outside the Dáil to demand that change that people voted for in GE 2020.
And when we come out of this health crisis, we must emerge determined and strong to build the type of society that will bring justice and equality for all, one which will end the crazy drive for profits, over people and planet, that gave us the pandemic in the first place.
We need to fight for a left government and a future free of corporate greed and corruption.