Ireland: ‘One Joe Higgins more effective than five Sinn Féin TDs’

Just one Joe Higgins is immensely more effective than all five of the Sinn Féin TDs, according to Labour leader Pat Rabbitte. Attacking Sinn Féin’s track record, Mr Rabbitte said the party works hard at getting elected but had no policies to speak off, apart from issues to do with the North. He also questioned whether the republicans posed a threat to his party.

The following article is taken from the ‘Irish Examiner’ (12/05/04) newspaper. It shows that even the right wing, social democratic Labour Party in Ireland cannot fail but to be impressed with the role of Joe Higgins, the Socialist Party (cwi) TD (member of Irish parliament) for Dublin West. Joe is nationally known as a fighter of working class people and for standing for working class unity and socialism, in the South and North of the country.
The Labour leader, Pat Rabbitte, contrasts Joe with Sinn Féins five TDs. Sinn Féin attracts support in Southern Ireland with its radical image and criticism of the Establishment. It is also now the major nationalist party in the North, where it held ministerial positions in the Assembly, before that local government body was shut down by the British government, over a year ago. Sinn Fein aims to return to local government in the North and has ambitions to increase its electoral position in the South and to join a coalition government.
Despite its rhetoric and image, however, Sinn Fein has evolved into a radical nationalist party (the main Catholic-based party in the North), that has shown it is prepared to support and carry out pro-market policies. Despite his criticisms of Sinn Féin, Rabbitte’s Labour Party has also shown that when in office it carries out anti-working class policies.
Working class people in Ireland do not need Rabbitte or any other Establishment politician to inform them about Joe’s reputation as a class fighter – they have witnessed Joe fighting for working class communities for years, including being sent to prison, along with Socialist Party Councillor Clare Daly, and other activists, during mass anti-bin charges protests, last year. However, it is noteworthy that the leader of the Labour Party feels compelled to make these comments about Joe.

’One Joe Higgins more effective than five Sinn Féin TDs’

"I don’t know. I don’t see it on the ground," he said.

"It is a myth that Sinn Féin are supposed to work harder than the rest of us," Mr Rabbitte added.

Challenging anyone to name one Sinn Féin achievement in Dáil Éireann [Irish Parliament] or at local government level, Mr Rabbitte said if he was a constituent he would rather have one Joe Higgins fighting his corner than all five Sinn Féin TDs.

"Their effectiveness in local Government is outside of the chamber rather than inside the chamber," the Labour leader said.

But Mr Rabbitte conceded that there were areas where voters were so alienated with the current Government that they might choose to vote for the most extreme option.

"I think the public have to reflect carefully on where they use their vote," he warned.

Labour’s environment spokesman Eamon Gilmore added that Sinn Féin did not put forward a single amendment to the Government’s recent Residential Tenancies Bill.

He added that the lack of action was despite constant complaints in the republican newspaper, An Phoblacht, about rights for tenants in private accommodation.

Commenting on the drafting of the Dublin City Development Plan, councillor Dermot Lacey added that Sinn Féin had tabled no amendments compared with Labour’s 82 and the Green Party’s 30

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May 2004