Ireland: Higgins warns Socialist Party that FF could win third term

A return to power by Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats at the next election "could not be ruled out", according to Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins.

The Socialist Party held it’s annual conference last weekend. Below we reproduce a report from the Irish Times. A full report to follow.

Higgins warns Socialist Party that FF could win third term

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He told his party’s annual conference in Navan that the current coalition could be returned to power "in some form" with the help of Independents.

The Dublin West TD said there was no fundamental economic difference between the "alternative rainbow coalition" of Fine Gael/Labour/Green Party and Fianna Fáil/PDs.

In the "debacle over the nursing homes crisis", the Opposition were correct about the Ministers being at the key meeting at which the issue was discussed but "Labour and Fine Gael have been implicated for 30 years in that, so their moral authority is weakened".

Mr Higgins predicted an increased representation for the Socialist Party in the Dáil with Clare Daly a strong contender in Dublin North, and increased recognition of the party’s three other councillors – Mick Barry in Cork, Mick Murphy in Tallaght and Clare Coppinger in Mulhuddart.

He said that Fianna Fáil had not changed its "neo-liberal" approach but was trying to implement it now at a slower place with part-privatisation of Aer Lingus.

Cllr Daly, a Swords-based Aer Lingus worker, said that "workers need to transform their trade unions into campaigning organisations to challenge the right wing, neo-liberal agenda".

She called for the "construction of a new mass political force on the left, based on working people and youth, to challenge both political blocks now vying to be in government".

One amendment called for the building of an alternative "banner to Labour/Sinn Féin/Greens" and said the Socialist Party had earned the political authority to play a leading role in building a new party for workers.

But Mr Higgins rejected the move and said that "conditions are not there yet for a new political movement. It will have many false starts and instead of being a positive it will be a negative."

He said afterwards that he was not the party’s leader – "the only people who elected me leader are the media" – but the party was headed by a national committee.

He told some 100 delegates at the three-day conference of the urgent need for changes in legislation on work permits, to remove the "inordinate power over migrant workers which the present work-permit system gives to bosses and also to allow powers to trade unions and the Labour inspectorate to verify levels of wages and conditions of all workers".

The party’s annual accounts showed an income of €232,669 and expenditure of €191,532. Subscriptions of €75,251 included €6,348 from Mr Higgins and €400 a month from each of the party’s four councillors. Mr Higgins said he maintains a salary equivalent to the average industrial wage of €29,000 before tax. He is precluded by law from donating more than the €6,348 directly to the party and he contributes funds to ongoing campaigns.

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March 2005