The Irish General Election of 8 February 2020


27/02/2020 by socialistfight

By Gerry Downing

From left: Micheál Martin FF, Leo Varadkar FG and Mary Lou McDonald SF

The outcome of the election for the 160-seat 33rd Dáil Éireann was: Seats Fianna Fail, 38, Sinn Féin 37, Fine Gael 35, Greens 12, Labour 6, Social Democrats 6, Solidarity-People before Profit 5, Independents/Others 2. Ireland has a single transferrable vote system with multi-seat constituencies (3, 4 or 5 seaters)

Share of Popular Vote: Sinn Féin 24.5%, Fianna Fáil 22.2%, Fine Gael 20.9%, Green 7.1%, Labour 4.4%, Social Democrats 2.9%, Solidarity/People Before Profit 2.6%, Aontú 1.9%, Independents/others 13.5%. This was the lowest ever total for the aggerate vote of FF+FG which came to only 43.1%, The two opponents in the Civil War faced off in a general election first in 1927 but FF created a huge shock when they won by 72 seats to 57 in the 157-seat Dáil. FG was founded in late 1933 whilst the politics of the Civil War of 1922-23 was very much alive. The atrocities committed by the William T Cosgrave’s Cumann na nGaedheal government in that war were far worse than the Black and Tans inflicted on the IRA and their civilian supporters in the Tan War of 1919-22. And the same charges were levelled against Éamon de Valera, who led the new government, as are now levelled against Sinn Féin; extremism and support for terrorism. Although Cosgrave charged them as reds then and now Sinn Féin are equally falsely charged as fascists by some.

We would suggest that the fiasco over the FG Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan’s proposal to commemorate the RIC dead in the Tan War, 1919-1922, contributed in a large measure to the rise of Sinn Féin today. The RIC then included the Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries, Lloyd George’s murderous terrorist thugs. The proposal caused almost universal outrage in Ireland. Leo Varadkar was forced into a humiliating retreat and cancelled (postponed!) the event, scheduled for 17 January at Dublin Castle, the home of British rule in Ireland for centuries. Naturally, those seen as republicans profited, as Fianna Fail profited in 1932 but now Sinn Fein gets the votes as the party seen to have opposed British imperialism recently, whatever their more recent orientation.

Sinn Féin got 13.8% in the general election of 2016 and slumped to 9.5% in the EU and local government elections in May 2019, losing half its seats on local authorities and two of its three EU seats.[1] In the general election on 26 February 2016 Fine Gael lost 26 seats, the Labour Party, (with its many trade union affiliations), lost 30 seats (down to 7 seats), Fianna Fáil gained 23 seats, Sinn Féin gained nine, and Anti-Austerity Alliance–People Before Profit took 6 seats. The Green Party were up to two TDs (12 now, 6 in 2007 when in government, 0 in 2016 as a result). At 24.5% this time around Sinn Fein would have won at least another half a dozen to 10 more seats if it had stood more candidates. And those seats would have come from the left, the Solidarity/People Before Profit, Social Democrats, left independents and maybe some Greens, most of whom were elected on Sinn Féin surpluses and second preferences. Next time around almost all these seats will go to Sinn Féin. [2]

An Sionnach Fiponn, April 2018, Ruth Dudley Edwards, The Author Of Her Own Brexit Misfortune
Speaking of right-wing politics, Britain’s leading apologist for its colonial misadventures in Ireland, the novelist Ruth Dudley Edwards, has taken to the pages of the pro-union Belfast Telegraph newspaper to launch yet another broadside on Sinn Féin.
Communist to Capitalist – Eoghan Harris fights the pesky RTE provos
Is this the same Eoghan Harris that used to run the secret Ned Stapleton Cumann of the Worker’s Party in RTE? Is this the same Eoghan Harris who told RTE reporters he was tasked with training in 1987? He is a true blue unionist at heart, as he was a Stalinist at heart. It is because he is a bully at heart, who likes to taunt the weak and to suck up to the powerful. Harris will agree with anyone who will denigrate Ireland’s long struggle for democracy and independence.

The Cork Unionist woman Ruth Dudley Edwards writing in the Belfast Telegraph and the ex-Stick (Official IRA/Sinn Féin) renegade-turned-Unionist Eoghan Harris in the Sunday Independent went apoplectic over Sinn Féin’s vote. They compared the vote to the Nazi’s vote in 1932, which brought Hitler to power. At least they understood that it was chiefly the Black and Tans fiasco that won that vote. The big difference between 2016 and now was national perceptions. That proposal enraged the whole nationalist community in the country, and many who had forgotten they were nationalists. And only Sinn Féin were popularly pushing for a referendum on both sides of the border for a united Ireland, with FF more opposed than FG.

The Anti-Austerity Alliance–People Before Profit group consists of British Socialist Workers Party affiliates and the now-split-three-ways Socialist Party of England Wales (SPEW) affiliates. All groups have a strong pro-imperialist stance on British imperialism, the SPEW fragments more pro-imperialist and syndicalist than the SWP, although there is little to choose between them on many issues. Historically the Labour party abandoned the anti-imperialism of James Connolly and took no part on the Civil War, the bureaucrats feared promoting revolution, thereby endangering their careers and freedom not to mention their lives.

These far left groups constantly complain about the failure of Ireland to produce a left-right divide as imperialist countries do. Why is the politics of a century-old conflict still reflected in the political formations running the country? And outrageously now that there is an obvious sharp swing to the left why has it passed them by? The cynical pro imperialism of Ireland’s far left allowed Sinn Fein to out-left them on the Black and Tans celebration and thence on all social questions. The more the likes of Owen Harris and Ruth Dudley Edwards attacked them in the press, the Irish Independent and the Belfast Telegraph, and FG in the Dáil (“remove that Easter Lilly”, the poppy-wearing Flanagan demanded of a Sinn Fein TD in the Dáil) on past support for the armed struggle and alleged continued existence of the IRA the more their votes increased. Although, like FF in 1932, their essential orientation is to capitulate to British imperialism – more royal hand shaking coming up. In the next election the pro imperialist left will be wiped out by the bogus anti-imperialist Sinn Fein on the basis of Bloody Sunday, in 30 January 1972 and the hunger strikes in 1981, past glories iconised but now disowned.

As Paddy Healy says:

“the failure of Trade Union Leaders to stand up to the very right wing First Free State Government in the twenties created a vacancy for Fianna Fáil founder, de Valera, to sweep to power in 1932. Labour … in government with Fine Gael since 2011, participated in vicious attacks on peoples living standards … Unlike imperialist European countries, Ireland with its history as a colony, (always had) a traditional left leaning nationalist party. Working class nationalist communities in the 6-counties have adopted SF as their representatives for decades. In this election, whole working class communities in the 26-counties adopted Sinn Féin as a vehicle to punish the two main capitalist parties for their oppressive austerity policies. Many on middle incomes also voted for Sinn Féin.” [3]

Of course Sinn Féin’s vote reflected the anger of the youth at the fact that the age of austerity and recession was deemed over by the government but there was no benefit to them and vast sections of the poor and oppressed, reaching into big sections of those better-off workers who see themselves as middle class. Ireland’s GDP improvement and balance of payments success was a result of its low corporate tax and tax avoidance for multinationals. Varadkar said during the campaign that he had bought his first home at twenty four. This simply disgusted his audience who have no hope of that today. And the health service is in total chaos with record numbers on trolleys on top of that severe housing crisis with its ever-growing homelessness and deaths of the rough sleepers in the streets.

Dublin Lock-out 1913. Strikers demand WillIam Martin Murphy must go. Infamously his Independent news demanded and secured the execution of James Connolly in 1916. The class struggle and the national question can not be seperated, in the colonial world then and the semi-colonian one toiday.

In the next election, which may be quite soon, the pro imperialist left will be wiped out. The bogus anti-imperialism of Sinn Féin is the same as Fianna Fail’s in 1932. The initial hopes sparked by Republican prisoner releases then were soon dashed as De Valera turned on his former comrades, not spurning the noose of the British hangman. We can expect a repeat from Sinn Féin if it sweeps to office soon. But the combative Irish working class will push its bureaucratic mis-leaders aside and when the class struggle revives internationally. They will engage in that struggle against Irish capitalism and British imperialism at the same time, in the Connolly tradition. Then the Labour party under new leaders will begin to readopt the anti-imperialism and revolutionary socialism of James Connolly, so treacherously abandoned by his successors, Loyalist conciliator Thomas Johnson, pacifist reformist Social Democrat William X. O’Brien and his bitter enemy syndicalist and later Stalinist Jim Larkin, the hero of the 1913 Lockout. [4] O’Brien’s bitter feud with Larkin may have been behind his attempts to get asylum for Leon Trotsky in 1930, which W. T. Cosgrave rejected. And we are sure the best of the Irish Republicans and Socialists will fight to democratise the trade unions and the Labour party, stand with them and lead them.


[1] Paddy Healy’s Blog, Why Did Sinn Féin Surge to be The Most Popular Party in Ireland in General Election 2020?

[2] The Irish Labour Party has seven Trade Unions affiliated to the Party, Munster & District Graphical Society

Fórsa (Municipal Employees Division), National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), General, Municipal and Boilermakers’ Union (GMB), Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU, Ireland’s biggest trade union), Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFWAU) and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA)

[3] Paddy Healy’s Blog, opus cit.

[4] Socialist Fight, Gerry Downing, July 2013, The Dublin Lockout of 1913 and its significance for today’s revolutionaries,

One thought on “The Irish General Election of 8 February 2020

  1. Gerry says: “Then the Labour party under new leaders will begin to readopt the anti-imperialism and revolutionary socialism of James Connolly, so treacherously abandoned by his successors…” etc.
    This is a crazy approach to politics. To say that a died-in-the-wool reformist, social-democratic outfit, Labour, will change its spots and become anti-imperialist is surely total misleadership.
    When, in all world history, has a rotten corrupt reformist pro-imperialist movement ever “improved” to get to genuine anti-imperialism? And why would anyone suggest it could, especially as the global capitalist economic “over-production” crisis, trade war and turn to fascism by monopoly-capitalism worsens daily??
    Lenin’s understanding of social-democracy (proven correct by 1914-18 war experience) is that, under the impact of war crisis, these traitors to the working class will ALWAYS defend imperialism’s warmongering and the capitalist system.
    Also utterly wrong, is to describe Sinn Fein as ” bogus anti-imperialists”. It is typical of Trotskyist philosophical defeatism and anti-communism that it wants to write off as a “defeat” the shattering political victory of the Sinn Fein/IRA movement in grinding away the resistance of British imperialist intransigence and “die-hard” fascist Orange colonialism to get to the Good Friday Agreement’s new power-sharing dispensation for the Occupied Zone of Ireland. The GFA is the concession to decades of struggle by the Irish national liberation movement that sees the erosion of the Partition border and allows for Irish reunification in the future.
    That Irish nationalist struggle drew in huge proletarian support in the OZ, and is now seeing the SF movement strike great election blows to the dirty, corrupt bourgeois political control in the Republic.
    SF’s petty-bourgeois left-nationalist programme will not be able to prevent capitalist collapse in Ireland, but their fight clears the way for future socialist revolutionary breakthroughs in the whole of Ireland, and by smashing London’s control of Ireland their fight has crushed the English working class’s anti-Irish racism (as Marx hoped).
    Furthermore, when push came to shove, Boris Johnson threw the DUP under the bus, and the Brexit-forced EU border controls are far more in the Irish Sea, and there certainly won’t be a hard north-south land border. In general, Irish reunification is closer than ever.
    The movement that needs to supersede Sinn Fein at some point in the future is Leninist revolutionary struggle for socialist revolution in Ireland and the rest of the Isles of the North Atlantic.


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