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A Breath Of Fresh Air Amidst The Stench Of Corruption
THE SOCIALIST Party in Ireland is the only party putting politics into an election where the main parties are doing their best to avoid it.
The Socialist Party is standing in five seats in this election - four in Dublin and one in Cork. The party is optimistic of seeing Joe Higgins re-elected as TD (MP) for Dublin West and hopeful that he will be joined in the Dail (parliament) by Socialist Party councillor Clare Daly in Dublin North after the election on Friday 17 May.
The governing party Fianna Fail (FF) - led by Bertie Ahern, which is in coalition with the Progressive Democrats (PDs), a small right-wing party - is trying to bury its trail of sleaze and corruption as "events of the past".
All the main parties are viewed cynically. For working-class people there is nothing on offer from parties which offer such empty slogans as: "Lots done, lots more to do" (Fianna Fail) and "Vision with Purpose" (Fine Gael, FG) - the other main capitalist party.
One of the main items that has dominated the news in the last week has not been the election but a brutal attack on 400 anti-capitalist protesters by the Gardai (police) which also saw reporters and media workers injured.
The attack and subsequent outrage at the Gardai's behaviour provoked another youthful demonstration of 2,000-3,000 outside a police headquarters a few days later.
The only breath of fresh air amidst the stench of corruption lingering over the election has been the Socialist Party; the Irish section of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI).
Its manifesto explains how the fruits of ten years of economic growth have been siphoned away from the working class and into the pockets of big business and corrupt establishment politicians: "You gave the establishment the 'Celtic Tiger' [ie the booming economy]," it says. "They gave you corruption; health crisis; bin tax; traffic chaos; housing crisis".
The outgoing Taoiseach (prime minister) Bertie Ahern hopes the boom will give his FF party an outright majority rather than being in coalition. Opinion polls show FF on 49%.
But the opinion polls do not express the real anger of voters with the establishment politicians. That is why, despite an economic boom, there is growing support for an alternative.
Such a mood in 1997 saw Socialist Party councillor Joe Higgins, elected as a TD for Dublin West, a position he has solidly consolidated by leading a successful campaign which saw the hated water charges abolished.
Joe is currently leading a campaign against the even more hated bin tax: a double form of taxation where people have to pay for the amount of rubbish they have collected by the council. During the election the anti-bin tax campaign has organised debates attended by up to 200 people.
Similarly, Clare Daly is making a big impact in Dublin North, a constituency that is dominated by the city airport.
Clare is an Aer Lingus shop steward and has campaigned against threatened privatisation and job cuts. The first thing you see after leaving the airport is one of Clare's campaign posters. The Socialist Party's, huge billboards have been an exciting feature of the campaign.
If a FF-Labour coalition results from the election this could accelerate disenchanted working-class voters moving to the left and the Socialist Party on a bigger scale than has happened already.
Only the Socialist Party is putting forward a programme which offers these working-class people a way forward as the stripes of the Celtic Tiger rapidly fade.
In The Socialist 17 May 2002: