The crucial thing is the maths. In the next Dail, a potential Government needs about 80 seats to form a majority and clearly neither FG, SF nor FF can form a Government on their own.
Converting this week’s poll figures into seats would go as follows: FG at 47, Independents and others at 42, SF at 33, FF at 31, Labour at 4 and Greens at 1.
If you combine FG and SF, you get the magic 80. Otherwise, a combination of FF and FG would come close to it, but, despite their similarity, this would be an almost impossible coalition to imagine, given the historical differences and utter resistance by the memberships of both parties.
However, there are few other feasible alternatives. FG is still saying publicly that it wishes to continue governing with the Labour Party, but given the latter’s decimation, this would be almost impossible, unless there were other elements in the coalition. And it is difficult to see SF sharing power with Labour, or vice versa. There is an equal antipathy between rival Republican parties FF and SF, of course…
Gerry Adams went on Drivetime on RTE Radio One last night with host Mary Wilson pressing the Sinn Féin President on what exactly his and his party’s ambitions are.
Mary Wilson: ““Where do you see yourself, and your party, in the last year before a General Election?”
Gerry Adams: “Well, you said should a debate necessarily involve Fianna Fail, of course it should involve Fianna Fail, it should involve all main political parties, all the political parties should have their say in these matters. I agree with Micheal Martin about two things, one is that the Taoiseach is notoriously shy about debate. He won’t do it in the Dail, he does his set pieces, he’s very well handled by his very very well paid advisors, and, secondly, when Micheal Martin says that Fine Gael and Labour are implementing Fianna Fail policy, then he’s 100% right, that’s exactly what they’re doing, and that’s why Fianna Fail has no real alternative to offer in terms of the austerity-driven, narrow view of the huge price being paid by people on hospital trolleys, children, young people being scattered throughout the world, public services being destroyed, Fianna Fail helped to bring all of that about, Sinn Fein is of course putting forward an obvious alternative, it’s pro-public service, pro-business, pro-a United Ireland view, and we think that the debate should encompass all of these opinions.”
Wilson: “And where do you see yourself, as a party now? Do you see yourself as a party for power? Do you see yourself as Adams for Taoiseach, going into the next election?”
Adams: “No, I’m not, I don’t see myself in that way at all. I think there are two phases to the next period that we’re in. We’re first of all in a period of great flux in Irish politics, a lot of people have turned away from the old two-party dominated State that we’ve had since partition. So what are the two phases, number one, Sinn Fein wants to persuade as many people as possible to give us a mandate for government and then, depending on the strength of that mandate, we want to negotiate out a programme for government which will be about a fair recovery, which will be about bringing the jobs, rebuilding public services, rebuilding the damage done in the first place by Fianna Fail and then further damaged by this Fine Gael and Labour coalition.”
Wilson: “But doesn’t the electorate, Gerry Adams, doesn’t the electorate need to know if they’re voting for a party that wants to lead government. Do you want to be Taoiseach?”
Adams: “But of course, of course we want to lead government, but, we have to be humble about this. You see, the election, Mary, is the people’s day, and some people are turned off because of all the promises that have been made, particularly in the last…”
Wilson: “People need to know what they’re voting for as well, Deputy Adams.”
Adams: “Of course, of course. That’s why the type of debate we need is one which is inclusive. What Micheal Martin was trying to do was to reinsert himself into the debate, because basically there is two main opinions here, one is the opinion of Sinn Fein for a fairer society based upon decency and equality, and then there’s the other, the view which is polarising society, which is opening up the gap, at the moment there are a number of people in jail, some of whom, I understand, are on hunger strike, we don’t have the same attitude to those in the upper echelons who created the mess that we’re all in.”
Wilson: “But in terms of another general election, what is your pitch? Because I think we heard Micheal’s Martin’s pitch this morning, it was a pitch for power.”
Adams: “Yes and we want to be in power.”
Wilson: “But I’m not sure you do, do you want to be Taoiseach?”
Adams: “Well, you see, I don’t want to… Micheal said he was preparing to be Taoiseach, and fair play to him, and i remember Eamon Gilmore we were told, it was Gilmore for Taoiseach. I’ve said clearly, Sinn Fein wants to be in government, but we want to be in government to do the business of reconstructing society of developing the egalitarian intent of the 1916 proclamation. If we get the mandate, then the party of Sinn Fein will negotiate with others who may want to be in government with us.”
Wilson: “Who will you negotiate with?”
Adams: “And then we will work out…”
Wilson: “Who will you negotiate with? The others who want to be in power with you, who are they?”
Adams: “And that’s why I say, two phases. Phase No 1, get the biggest single mandate possible for a genuine republican government, which will set about…”
Wilson: “But I don’t know, I still don’t know, Gerry Adams, I still don’t know if you want to be Taoiseach or Tanaiste.”
Adams: “But Mary, I’m avoiding that question because it’s not a matter of me being arrogant enough to think before even a vote is cast that I’m going to go about saying that I want to be Taoiseach. I want our party, the Sinn Fein party, to get the largest vote possible for change, I’ve also ben advocating a Charter for Citizens, the principles which would underpin a fair recovery, that’s where our focus is, our focus is on reaching out to those people who have, I think, seen that the conservative policies of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are not working except to the advantage of the elite. We want to defend rural Ireland, we want to move forward on the basis of using the surplus, using the wealth, to rebuild the public service, we want to continue with the work of the Good Friday agreement and move towards Irish unity.”
Wilson: “So, Gerry Adams…”
Adams: “A clear programme, so who leads us, if we get that mandate, and who we do business with, will be what the people say.”
Wilson: “So, Gerry Adams, where are you on the political spectrum? A lot of people, you know, questioning if you’re a party of the left. Syriza in Greece has been keen, you know, to associate with you, yourselves and Podemos in Spain, so, you know, are you a party of the left, are you the Irish Syriza?”
Adams: “No, we’re not the Irish Syriza, we’re the Sinn Fein party, a historic party which bases our values on the core values of the 1916 Proclamation, so were a party which has a very very firm objective of uniting people of this country, we believe in citizens’ rights.”
Wilson: “Are you a party of the left?”
Adams: “We believe that in a real republic those rights that citizens have would be in this period of our history involve the right to health services, the right to a home, the right to a clean environment to a job, the right no matter where you live on the island to be looked after and no matter about your age or any infirmity to be looked after first and foremost and society to be shaped around your entitlement to be treated properly.”
Wilson: “Okay, are you a party of the left?”
Adams: “Yes, broadly speaking we are. But, there are people in our party who might not necessarily subscribe to a socialist view of the island but who do believe in a real Republic, we haven’t got rid of partition yet, there are people in our party and in all the parties if I might say so who want to see an end to partition but our party is the only party which is going to drive with others a way forward to ending partition and you won’t get a real republic unless you get the right of partition, so it’s all about a citizen-centred, rights-based society, so I suppose what we have at the moment, complete inequality and a deep chasm between people who would have normally seen themselves as relatively well off and now they’re in dire straits and those who are in the upper echelons, the people the Taoiseach was appealing to at his party, he doesn’t even call it an Ard Fheis any more, his party conference.”
Wilson: “Based around what you’re articulating there about where your party would like to bring our country to, could you agree a deal on these issues with Fianna Fail or Fine Gael or the Labour party?”
Adams: “Well, I think, I think some of the policy difference between us and some of those other parties would be too deep and too wide for us to bridge.”
Wilson: “Which ones?”
Adams: “But I can tell you we will not do what Labour has done. We will not go in as a junior partner into a coalition led by a conservative government, that would destroy our national project, it would betray the people who would be be voting for us and it would be totally and absolutely counterproductive. Mary, you have to judge Sinn Fein on the changes that we, with others, have been able to bring about, in this part of the island, but also, particularly in the last thirty years, in the North.”
Wilson: “We have heard the other parties say a very definite no to Sinn Fein, are you saying a very definite no to sharing power to anybody.”
Adams: “Well, Ian Paisley used to say no, he used to say it quite a lot. Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fail all presided over regimes at different times, that censored republicans, that didn’t recognise our mandate. We will only go into government if there is a mandate, in the first instance, to go into government and if we can negotiate a programme for government that will fulfill the mandate. We will not tear up our mandate, we will not tear up our manifesto, and leave our principles outside the door out of a cabinet room. Let’s see what comes up in the mix, there’s a huge opportunity for people who have had their eyes opened by the last ten, or fifteen, or twenty years of bad politics, that those people seize the opportunity to make the change and vote for Sinn Fein, and what the Taoiseach should do, Mary, why doesn’t he call an election, let the people have their say. He says Paddy wants to know, well Paddy, and Patricia, should have the chance as soon as possible to vote.”
Wilson: “Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Féin, thank you.”
Anyway, I’m joining Sinn Fein now. If they’ll have me. Just as a regular punter who wants to learn and contribute with whatever strengths I might have or learn. I’d like to see a proper socialist Ireland. I’d like to be educated as to how ordinary people like me can help bring about the changes which would make every child equally cherished and make everyone have equal rights. I realised the best way to revolt is vote. And the only vote that’s gonna give anyone a chance of bringing to fruition paragraphs three and four of the Proclamation of 1916 is Sinn Fein, because no other party at the moment is going to honour that Proclamation. If they were inclined to honour it they’d just hand over and say let’s have an election. “
FreeDessie Ellis, Sinn Féin TD, spoke this morning on the Domestic Violence (Amendment) Bill 2014.
Yesterday, I stood with party colleagues and other members of the Oireachtas at the Dáil gates for a minute’s silence in memory of the men and women and children who have died at the hands of their partner or ex-partner since 1996. This was a very poignant event coming on the International Day Opposing Violence Against Women. A shocking 78 women and 10 children have been murdered in these 18 years. The event was organised by Women’s Aid who had laid out shoes along a blank sheet to mark a timeline of these needless and tragic deaths. Shoes, flat heels and sandals standing in silent memoriam of the lives stolen. These lives as the vigil so movingly stated are stolen lives. They are stolen from their families, their friends, their communities. Snuffed out by an abuser who should’ve been stopped.
One in five women experience domestic violence in their lifetime. This ranges from physical, emotional, sexual to financial abuse. From abuse, threats to kill and abuse behaviour, to stalking and harassment. By their very nature these are mostly crimes which go on behind closed doors when the curtains are drawn when the world around stops looking. But it also happens right out in the open.
We must strive to improve public awareness of the risk factors of domestic violence and to encourage everyone to make their homes, their community, their circle of friends, a place where this kind of abuse will never be accepted. Because unfortunately we have a culture today where subtly every day teaches young men to do many of the things that can lead to domestic violence. This trend in our society is called the ‘rape culture’. Its name is shocking and some dismiss this as over over the top but the symptoms are undeniable and its effects illustrated by those 78 empty womens’ shoes are too horrific to ignore. Rape culture is the tendency in modern culture to dehumanise, devalue and commodify women. It has always been there but has become much more obvious in the modern era with the partial successes of the early feminist movement and the 24-hour consumer capitalist culture which has sprung up alongside the internet.
Technology is not to blame but it is often the medium through which this culture finds its most vile expression. This tendency creates a culture which normalises the idea that women’s bodies are not wholly their own. It encourages blaming rape victims instead of rapists. It jokes about men who beat their partners and it belittles, demonises and threatens all those who challenge it. This is the culture our young men are growing up in.
It seems like every week there is a new case of a woman who has been a victim of sexual assault who has watched her abuser go free because a judge felt sympathetic to the criminal. These judges have handed down fines for which must be the vile and reprehensible crimes a person can commit. This is a slap in the face to those who sought to have their attacker prosecuted but it also says to women and girls who are victims of sexual violence: Don’t bother, the state will not punish your attacker but you will be put through the mill anyway.
As with many of our worst social issues, there are why many whose voices are not heard. This is why we have brought the bill. It’s to try to make it easier for people to flee this kind of abuse. It is crucial that we promote opposition to this kind of behaviour.
But it is also essential, that people who seek to leave, to get out can do so, can be supported, validated and protected. That is what we seek to do.
Last night on BBC One, Spotlight’s Mandy McAuley investigated the use of public money to pay the rent of constituency offices of MLAs including Arlene Foster (DUP), Ross Hussey (UUP) and Sinn Féin members Martin McGuinness, Francie Molloy, Mitchel McLaughlin and Daithí McKay.
If ye can’t beat them, rob them.
The second part of the two-part exposé continues next Tuesday.
Part one is repeated tonight on BBC Two NI at 11:20pm.