Are Labour prisoners in government?

The Labour Party in Ireland has sold out – or at least its parliamentary party has. They have been sucked into the gaping maw of neoliberalism in all its guises. The recent decisions made by the coalition - from the closure of army barracks to the proposed cuts in the public service to the forthcoming increase on VAT rates by 2% - these actions and the party’s complicity with paying unsecured bondholders have left Labour bereft of any credibility as a party of the Left.

One could argue that Labour are prisoners, confined by the financial mess this state finds in itself in. Others will claim that a Labour presence in Government puts a brake on the more egregious excesses of the neoliberal agenda. Of course this is all nonsense. In recent days it has been Labour Party members, including Ruairi Quinn, who have been claiming that we have lost financial sovereignty and all cheques have to be countersigned. The latter claim – made in this instance in relation to the reintroduction of student fees - is disingenuous to say the least, as the Fianna Fáil bailout fiasco was well and truly with us when Quinn made his famous promise and nothing has changed fiscally since. Mr Gilmore is now leading a frightened Labour party within a coalition made up of a majority of neoliberals, with the result that that party’s members are hiding and covering their faces with masks.

Of course their predicament is exacerbated when faced with the stark truth about the European Union as it currently exists. The European Union is in the clutches of neoliberal thinking and action and Ireland’s largest left-wing party (joke) is ineffective against this might. Many wonder about the wisdom of the Labour leadership after the last general election - some see their joining forces with Fine Gael as a pragmatic move by the party, in that they were duty bound to represent those who elected them within the new Government. Others argue that if the Labour party were ideologically to the left-of-centre such a course of action should have been examined forensically before jumping into the acid tank they now are dissolving in.

So what were Labour’s choices after the last election? Obviously they chose to go into government, thinking perhaps they could leaven some of the worst excesses of the Fine Gael party. The other choice they had was to form the opposition in the Dáil, with possible support from Sinn Féin and some independents along with the United Left Alliance. It is possible also that on some issues they might have sought and received Fianna Fáil support. They could have formed part of a staunch opposition fighting against the terrible austerity that is lashing the citizens of this State. Perhaps this united left opposition would have supported the occupy movements and helped enact other forms of protest.

What Labour has done instead is to betray the very people who elected them. Is the Labour leadership aware of the hurt they are causing the citizens of this country? One wouldn’t hold out too much hope for them in the next election if they continue on the dangerous path they are following blindly. It is time for Mr Gilmore to rethink the countersigning of cheques spin and impose some left-wing austerity on the neoliberals surrounding him.


Image top: The Labour Party.