News

Councillor John Lyons on an Independent Left Canvass in Darndale

By Councillor John Lyons, Independent Left

Independent Left were canvassing in Darndale today (31 July 2019). A great community but one faced with a couple of particularly difficult issues.

I’ve promised to work with people in the times ahead to ensure that the community is a safe and peaceful place for everyone living, working, struggling in the area.

Great to see the new fishing club up in the park, a positive end to the canvass.

Check out my video report.

Stand up to Racism: Isolate the Far-Right in Ireland

Racism is a tool used by the far-right to divide us

By Councillor John Lyons, Independent Left

Across most of Europe, far-right parties have a strong presence, with parties like National Rally in France (formerly the Front National), Matteo Salvini’s League in Italy, Vlaams Belang in Belgium, the anti-Islam Freedom party in Holland and Golden Dawn in Greece. In Ireland, despite several attempts to get a racist project off the ground, the far-right have so far faltered. In part, this is because historically the racist agenda in Ireland has been linked to a very conservative Catholic agenda, which is in retreat from the spirit of our recent times.

It would be a mistake, however, for the left to be complacent. It is clear that the fears of a fragile middle class and the misplaced anger of marginalised working class communities could potentially provide a constituency for an Irish far-right movement.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community offer a version of Islam that rejects terrorism and advocates the separation of mosque and state. They own a mosque on the Old Ballybrit Road, Galway and this has been a focus for racist activity for some years. Early on Monday 29 July, an incident took place that demonstrated the existence of people who would organise a far-right party here and what that would mean for Muslims and other minority groups in Ireland. The Iman’s office was broken into and wrecked, with his family photographs and books scattered onto the street. The attackers were careful to take the security equipment.

Smashed window at the Ahmadiyya mosque, Galway

Understandably, this has, according to M.A. Malik, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association of Ireland, terrified the local Muslim community.

Two years ago, on 5 June 2017, Just after eleven p.m., while many of their members were inside for prayer, the windows of the same mosque were smashed in by rocks. This attack followed a spate of anti-Muslim graffiti in the city.

The link behind these attacks was made explicit to the Iman, Ibrahim Noonan, who received an anonymous call three months ago in which two far-right groups operating in Ireland were mentioned (along with the name of Tommy Robinson).

Currently, such sinister figures are relatively isolated and after both attacks, a broad swathe of the local community rallied around the Ahmadiyya Community. Galway Anti-Racism Network is an important force for organising the support that exists for Muslims and asylum seekers. And for those wanting to donate to the mosque, there is currently a charity 5k event that you can support.

Iman Ibrahim Noonan, members of the Ahmadiyya community, Galway Anti-Racism Network and others showing support in 2017

In response to the recent attack, on my Facebook page I said:

Last November a hotel earmarked for those seeking international protection was burnt out in Moville Donegal, another in Rooskey Roscommon last January and now an attack on a mosque in Galway.
Hateful crimes each one of them, and the target in each instance were minorities – refugees and a Muslim community – often attacked by mainstream politicians and the far-right right across the world as the source of their particular society’s ills.
Nothing could be further from the truth but hate never lets facts get in the way.
We must condemn every attack, verbal and physical, we must stand with our sisters and brothers against the forces of division, hate and violence.

It was quite incredible but yet somewhat inevitable how quickly my post yesterday in support of those at the receiving end of anti-immigrant and anti-Islam attacks degenerated into a thread of nonsensical, ‘Look After Our Own First’ crap. Admittedly, it was only a handful of Facebook users but enough to distract from the main message of my original post.

To diminish or dismiss the lived realities of people facing attacks because of the colour of their skin, place of origin or religious faith is a kind of violence that can slowly corrupt a society.

The problems people face in the twenty-first century, in Ireland and elsewhere, in securing decent, affordable housing, having a job that pays well and is secure, getting their kids through school, accessing high quality health care when needed, are problems created by a capitalist economic system that benefits a tiny elite and leaves the rest of us fighting over the scraps.

Focusing your anger at austerity and the gross global inequalities in wealth and income on immigrants or Muslims lets the billionaires and millionaires, and their politician flunkies, off the hook.

We need to unite and fight for a better world for all.

Ireland and Palestine: the Destruction of Palestinian Homes Shows Why We Support the Occupied Territories Bill

By Independent Left Councillor John Lyons

Palestinian children during demonstrations against Palestinian land confiscation.

On Monday 22 July 2019, about a thousand Israeli soldiers and border police entered the village of Sur Baher and set about demolishing buildings in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Wadi al-Hummus. Two families, totalling 17 people, of whom 11 are children, lost their homes.

Ir Amim, is an Israeli NGO that believes there has been an increase in this kind of destruction of homes. Their figures are that Israel demolished 63 Palestinian homes in the first half of 2019, while the same period in 2018 witnessed 37 demolitions.

The EU did make a statement on the matter, making the point that this policy undermined the prospects for a lasting peace.

As I responded on Facebook:

For decades the state of Israel has been violating the human rights of Palestinians and consistently breaching international law as it does yet it has never faced any serious consequences for its illegal actions so its latest act of brutality was never going to be stopped by the EU “urging” Israel to halt the demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. They just went ahead and did what they do best, destroying the homes and lives of ordinary Palestinian families without fear of sanction.

These incidents help explain why Independent Left give wholehearted support to Senator Francis Black and her Occupied Territories Bill.

The bill seeks to prohibit the import and sale of goods, services and natural resources originating in illegal settlements in occupied territories. Such settlements are illegal under both international humanitarian law and domestic Irish law, and result in human rights violations on the ground. Despite this, Ireland and other EU Member States provide continued economic support through trade in settlement goods.

The legislation has been prepared with the support of Trócaire, Christian-Aid, Amnesty International and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), and applies to settlements in occupied territories where there is clear international legal consensus that they violate international law. The clearest current example is the Israeli occupation and expansion of settlements in the Palestinian ‘West Bank’, which have been repeatedly condemned as illegal by the UN, EU, the International Court of Justice and the Irish Government.

Frances Black speaking at the UN on behalf of her proposal to sanction goods, services and natural resources from the Occupied Territories in Palestine.

Stop Water Privatisation: Round Two

By John Lyons

Right2WaterIreland identify ‘excessive usage charges’ as a tool for the privatisation of water

As Right2Water have recently posted, the announcement on 17 July 2019 by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities that excessive usage charges will be imposed on households that waste water is the beginning of a new battle which will see the government attempt to reintroduce the hated water charges in a new form.

Do they really want to go there again? The people have spoken, marched, boycotted, voted, marched and then marched and boycotted some more.

The Irish establishment, the supposed elite group of middle and upper class professionals and politicians, legal minds and media folk, despised the water movement because it was a great movement of the working class, middle and low income people fighting back and winning.

So they are sore, are coming back at it and are determined not to be dictated to on this issue ever again by the “ordinary people”.

They think the sting has gone out of the issue: yes, the political class paid a price in the local and European elections in 2014 and the general election in 2016, but they now feel that they have recovered and to a certain degree they have.

The Greens did well in the recent local and European elections and they favour water charges; the Labour Party did alright for themselves and they are in favour of water charges; Fianna Fail and Fine Gael had good local and European election results and are most certainly in favour of water charges.

Meanwhile the political parties of the Left and Sinn Fein, those that fought hard opposing the water charges, performed very poorly in the recent elections.

So the establishment think that the people have fallen into a slumber, are ripe for a little bit of “water wasting” propaganda, will accept the introduction of a charge for “excessive usage” and will ultimately see as inevitable the re-introduction of water charges.

They think this is their time, an opportune moment in which to begin a new battle to introduce water charges and ultimately privatise our water.

They are mistaken. Being out of touch with working class communities, they think we will be easily deceived as to the true nature of ‘excess usage charges’. Having underestimated the insight and determination of Irish workers, they will lose this battle. And Independent Left looks forward to playing our part in ensuring this.

Tracker Scandal: Bankers Evade Jail Despite Being Thieves

By John Lyons

When you hear, ‘regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland’, think, ‘given license to do as they please.’

The final report from the Central Bank’s Tracker Mortgage Examination  makes grim reading. The tracker scandal reveals yet again the power of Irish bankers, as not one single individual banker will be held responsible for the decisions they made to rip-off their customers. And when finally forced to admit their wrong-doing, their criminal behaviour, they did their best to minimise the amount of compensation they would have to pay out.

And some consumer affairs organisations claim that the report does not go far enough: that there are still hundreds of families who have not be restored to the correct tracker rates.

Will there be any legal consequences for those individuals in the banks who made the decision to rip-off their customers? It appears not.

And the 99 families who lost their homes through no fault of their own? No amount of money can compensate them for the stress and strain they must have endured.

By the end of May, the banks had paid out €683m in compensation. Overwhelmingly the banks involved in robbing their customers are the big five, 98% of those affected were customers of AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC Bank Ireland, Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank.

We are talking about at least 40,100 customer accounts affected. And while it might seem that the banks are now contrite, effectively, they have gotten the taxpayer to recompense the victims of their cynical practices, since the State remains a significant owner of AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB. To the €64 billion bailout bill, we can add most of this one.

When you think about the stress of having a bank chase you for additional money that you never calculated on owing, when you think about the relationships that could not cope and especially when you think about the slick way in which these burdens were imposed, totally without justification, then the payouts are in fact low. This is especially the case for the 99 families whose average recompense was €194,000.

The problem for the banks, post-2008, is that they had made a mistake with tracker mortgages. For once, the deal favoured the customer. But the customer can’t be allowed to win. ‘Choice’ in the marketplace of mortgages is illusory. It is only a matter of minor variation and in all circumstances, as far as the bankers were concerned, they must be able to squeeze the mortgage holder.

So they broke their own contracts and their own rules and by bullying or by sleight of hand, forced thousands of people off their tracker mortgages.

There are so many lessons in this scandal about how Irish capitalism really works, it is hard to know where to start. But the takeaway is surely this, that when we lift the rock, we can see the insects crawling around. The report might not go far enough but it does allow us to see how the financial elite operate. it has exposed a world that we don’t normally get to see and which is one where the drive for profit is dominant, even if that means theft by people who pose as utterly respectable.

Review: Helena Sheehan: Navigating the Zeitgeist: A Story of the Cold War, the New Left, Irish Republicanism, and International Communism

https://www.amazon.com/Navigating-Zeitgeist-Republicanism-International-Communism/dp/1583677275

Everyone goes through a crisis of belief at some point in their lives. We grow up with certain views of the world presented to us and when they don’t fit experience, have to revise or abandon them. This process can be incredibly painful and in the case of Helena Sheehan, it’s hard to imagine a more total collapse and rebuilding than her journey from nun to communist. Her autobiography, therefore is an important book, not just for documenting her times and the very interesting circles she moved in but in allowing the reader to explore in some depth a crucial question for us all: how do I know my current belief system is right?

That’s a big question for anyone, but it’s especially important if you are going to devote years of your life to a particular political strategy and try to persuade others of it.

Helena Sheehan’s political trajectory, charted with complete honesty in this book, was from conservative Catholic, to the US New Left of the late 1960s, to Official Sinn Féin on her arrival in Ireland in 1972 and to the Communist Party of Ireland in 1975, which she left early in 1980. Joining the Labour Party in 1981, Helena helped found the Labour Left group and was close to Michael D. Higgins.

There’s plenty in the autobiography for those wanting to cherry pick her insights into characters like Seamus Costello, Tomás Mac Giolla, Betty Sinclair and Michael O’Riordan, but my interest is in the deeper story.

In 1965, having committed herself to the Sisters of St Joseph in Pennsylvania, Helena found herself at odds with the lifestyle of the order. In particular, watching news broadcasts on the march from Selma to Montgomery in spring 1965, she saw nuns participating and wondered why she couldn’t do the same. She taught, ‘We shall overcome’ to the kids in her class. In other words, it was waves of history (as she puts it) that tore her away and while a few years later, nuns left the order in droves, Helena was one of the first to do so.

The intellectual crisis this brought about, compounded by losing her teaching job for being too ‘controversial’ and falling out with her family, was nearly fatal:

I was alone and desperate as it was possible to be. My world was in ruins. In time, I would rebuild on new foundations. But between the collapse of one worldview and the construction of another, there was only an abyss. I often wonder where I found the strength to endure that emptiness.

Eventually, Helena found a way forward via philosophical existentialism to the radical left in Philadelphia (she was studying at Temple University) and by 1970 was deeply involved with city politics. This is a fascinating part of the book, depicting a non-stop lifestyle and a feverish intensity of revolutionary discussions and actions that has rarely been seen since. Helena was in constant discussion with Black Panthers, Students for a Democratic Society, anti-Vietnam protestors, members of the Weather Underground movement, Feminists, Gay rights activists, etc. Her background and intellectual rigour seems to have made her an extremely valuable activist, more able to connect the revolutionaries to wider audiences than many of her peers. And also to spot nonsensical posturing.

This is also the part of the book that in my view, most meets a challenge that she states in the preface, of wanting to connect the social and economic changes of her times with the experience of an individual. Her grasp of the totality of US society, allows her writing to be both wonderfully vivid at a personal level and at the same time to portray a massive systemic crisis. The same strengths are not evident in the sections on Ireland and the USSR, not because her beautiful writing style falters but because I don’t think, even now, reflecting on her life, she’s as clear about the nature of the social systems she’s writing about. These chapters lack her ability, for example, to juxtapose popular culture and sub-culture the way she does so brilliantly with the chapters on the USA.

And this brings me back to the question of belief systems. For a long time Helena was, to put it bluntly, a Stalinist, even after leaving the CPI. Since ‘Stalinist’ is an insulting term that evokes dictatorial practices and bullying, I need to state that Helena comes across as never anything but totally honest and someone who does not believe (as, alas, so many on the left seem to, even today) that there are situations where the ends justifies the means. As she quite rightly observes, ends and means are connected. Helena’s loyalty to the USSR was one of genuine intellectual conviction. Having studied Marxism of a certain type, seen its power, coherence and strength of insight, especially when compared to the anaemic philosophy she encountered while working on her PhD at TCD, Helena sincerely accepted that the USSR was socialist.

How does it happen that someone who has struggled to pick herself up from near death for having invested herself in one ideology (Catholicism) that came crashing down upon her, then adopted another that would do the same? The book stops in 1988, just before the fall of the Berlin wall, with a signal that this would be the second great intellectual crisis of her life. The cheap answer, which seems to have been thrown at her several times, is that this is just her nature, to uncritically commit to a big-picture ideology. From nun to communist is not such an extraordinary journey from this perspective.

Helena’s own rebuttal to that is that she’s acquired her second, communist, worldview after years of effort to achieve intellectual and moral clarity, whereas she stumbled into the first, unformed and driven by forces of which she was largely unconscious.

And yet.

Let’s agree that, broadly speaking, to be a socialist is a fine thing. Really, this is an inspiring book because it is about a life spent largely in causes that have improved the position of working people, of those nations resisting empires, and especially the position of women. Nevertheless, as soon as you think you have the full picture, worse, if you defer to someone else in your party you think has the full picture, you’re doomed to one day finding yourself articulating a view that no socialist should hold.

In Helena’s book, I don’t think she ever defers to someone in authority, except perhaps the dead authorities of brilliant thinkers. But I do think her model of Marxism is (at least for 1975 to 1988), ultimately, a sterile one, by which I mean the categories that Marxists use to discuss social structures (mode of production, surplus value, etc.) have been imposed on history rather than derived from it.

How do I know my current belief system is right? Because I’ve studied; I’ve fought; I’ve struggled to change the world; I’ve tested it constantly against unfolding events; I’ve had to build it up from the ruins of previous belief systems. That’s all impressive but it’s not enough. My view is that you also have to be open to the possibility that this hard-fought for model is wrong. It’s difficult, because the path to becoming a post-modernist (something that Helena despises, with good reason), begins with surrendering the primacy of your belief system.

Yet when I see a human being who clearly has great honesty and integrity fail to mention the Hungarian uprising of 1956 in her discussions of Eastern Europe; fail to support the Prague Spring or the early days of Solidarity in Poland and instead, describe her sojourns in the USSR largely in halcyon terms, I have to shake my head in dismay. Now the book only ends in 1988, so Helena’s current views might be much closer to mine on these issues (i.e. on the side of those who rose up against the rulers of Russia and the eastern block). But for me the most fascinating aspect of this candid auto-biography is that it makes you question your own understanding. Readers will ask themselves: if someone with Helena’s strengths can end up a Stalinist, then where am I heading?

It’s not easy, being ambitious and determined enough to believe the whole world can become a place of equality and freedom, yet modest enough to accept your current approach to achieving that goal could be flawed. Yet on reading this entertaining autobiography, it seems to me that’s the fast-flowing contradiction that socialists have to constantly navigate.

Superb Kilbarrack Murals Launched by Roddy Doyle

A positive welcome to Kilbarrack and Dublin Bay North

By John Lyons

Two superb artistic creations were unveiled in Kilbarrack on 10 July 2019, with Roddy Doyle on hand to add some literary flair to the launch of the two murals.

One of the murals was created by the Reach Out Project, a programme designed for 18-25 year old young adults. These individuals are likely struggling with one of a number of issues relating from a variety of psychosocial pressures. Addiction, mental health conditions and/or people just stuck in a rut are the main people who are the focus of “Reach Out” interventions.

They have created a piece of artwork with the internationally renowned graffiti artist “Solas”. This was facilitated with the support of Laura Larkin from DCC Culture Company and Iarnrod Eireann. It’s been an honour working with an Artist as brilliant as Solas and the young people in the Reach Out project have really enjoyed it: to the point that they were inspired to create and are now finishing their own separate graffiti mural, which was also unveiled on the day. Solas’s art piece celebrates Kilbarrack’s links with Roddy Doyle’s novels and the fictitious “Barrystown” which essentially represents Kilbarrack. It is also an effort to capture the struggle and spirit of those from Kilbarrack who would never give up. In particular we focus on three strong women: Brenda O’Connell, Ann Murnane and Kathleen O’Neill who represented the heartbeat of the community.

Roddy Doyle launches the new Kilbarrack mural

The second art piece completed by the young people celebrates the significant amount of successful people who have originated in the North Bay community of which Kilbarrack is a proud member. The young people felt it was important to highlight the amount of successful people in the mural, who have come from their communities. It was especially important that the mural is placed in the local rail station for a couple of reasons. The first being that the station is often the only feature some people see when commuting through Kilbarrack on the train. The second is that the train station has in the past, been a place of some antisocial activity. The mural is a positive, hope-filled artwork, strategically placed to have a maximum impact for vulnerable people who congregate around the station. But also, to educate others unfamiliar with the area. To visually show that the Kilbarrack community has a strong heritage with a proud and wonderful people residing within the area.

The Reach Out Project is part of Kilbarrack Coast Community Programme. (KCCP). In the 1990s Kilbarrack suffered from social disadvantage with high levels of unemployment and little or no history of young people going into third level education. KCCP was set up in 1997 in response to the “second heroin epidemic”, which was devastating our community. Year on year KCCP has increased the range of services and the numbers using the services e.g. our community counselling service worked with 150 people from the community last year. In 2018 the Health Services Executive conducted an evaluation of our services and concluded that we are an “exemplar Project” and that all our services are delivered to the highest standard.

Independent Left’s response to gangland killings in Coolock and Darndale

Minister Charlie Flanagan visits Coolock and does nothing for the community
Millionaire Charlie Flanagan fails the young people of Coolock and Darndale

When young people from working class communities are drawn towards crime gangs, tragedy is never far away. On 25 May, Eoin Boylan, aged 22 was shot and killed in the residential area of Clonsaugh Avenue Coolock.

In May, Hamid Sanambar (42) was shot on Kilbarron Avenue, Coolock, the home of Sean Little (22), who was shot dead on Tuesday 21 May 2019. Jordan Davis (22) was shot dead in Darndale on 22 May, while earlier in the year, in a related assassination, Zach Parker (23) was killed in Swords. The fact that these lives were wasted is tragic and clearly too there is the risk that bystanders including children and the elderly will get caught up the feud, with the murders taking place in daylight on busy streets.

Independent Left councillor John Lyons calls a fully-funded multi-agency body

In an interview with RTE’s Sean O’Rourke, Independent Left councillor highlight the neglect of support for youth initiatives in Dublin’s north east and argued for greater resources for the area and the creation of a coherent, fully-funded multi-agency body similar to the North East Inner City (NEIC), to tackle and address the many issues involved in this murder.

What have the government to offer a traumatised community and a youth culture that celebrates gangsters? In the case of the Taoiseach, nothing at all. He said that, ‘as soon as I can find a little time’, he would visit Coolock and Kilmore West. When he wants to move fast, Leo Varadkar can make room in his diary, such as to meet with Donald Trump. Clearly, this crisis of gangland feuding is not a priority for him, nor for his ministers.

Although Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan came to Coolock Garda Station in May 2019, he had nothing to announce by way of a new package of assistance for the community. A small amount of investment in sports clubs, for example, goes a long way in terms of giving young people inspiring, constructive role models. We only have to look at Katie Taylor to see that.

Instead of bringing welcome news on the community support side, Flanagan told young people to ‘drop the bling’ and that criminal gangs were ‘all losers.’ If I were a teenager being told by a landlord worth over €3m to drop the bling and stay away from criminal gangs, my fury at his privileged arrogance would have me reaching for a milkshake.

In the UK, Nigel Farage was one of many far-right politicians targeted by ‘milkshaking’ in 2019

This is why Councillor John Lyons was absolutely right to describe the visit of Flanagan (and Richard Bruton and Finian McGrath) to Coolock as a shameful public relations stunt.

John Lyons called on the government to establish a taskforce for the Coolock area to address the ongoing gangland violence, and the many economic, social and educational inequalities that give rise to such activity: ‘It is hugely disappointing that the three government ministers had nothing of note to announce. We need a task-force established that will be responsible for monitoring the work of the various government departments, state agencies and community groups that have a role to play in tackling the many problems faced by people in the area.

‘I am sure that if the recent murders in Darndale and Kilmore had occurred in Dalkey or Killiney we would have seen a much swifter and more serious response from the government; instead, it takes government ministers a full week to visit the area and when they visit, they have nothing of value to say or announce. Shameful really, and not good enough for the communities directly affected by the recent violence.

‘So I am once again inviting An Taoiseach to find “a little time” to visit the area, meet with the various stakeholders in the community with a view to establishing a task-force for the area. The communities deserve a serious response from government, a response sadly lacking to date. The government must step up.’

In the coming days Councillor John Lyons and Niamh McDonald will be working together with community groups and sports organisations to formulate a serious response to the gangland crisis, one that can make a significant impact in the life paths of young people instead of attempting to dismiss them. To paraphrase the Sex Pistols, if you treat kids as morons, you create H Bombs.

While the contempt of millionaire, landlord politicians just makes the situation worse, Independent Left seeks to create a constructive path for the energy and passion of the young people of our community.

Election Counts and Results Artane-Whitehall and Donaghmede 27 May

Election candidates from Artane-Whitehall discuss a recount
John Lyons and Niamh McDonald in discussion with the electoral officer during a recount

The second day of counting in the local elections confirmed our expectations from the first. For the Artane-Whitehall constituency, which includes Artane, Beaumont, Belcamp, Clonshaugh, Coolock, Darndale. Kilmore West, Santry and Whitehall, John Lyons retained his seat on Dublin City Council (despite a redrawn constituency). With the elimination of the independents Paul Clarke and Paddy Bourke, John pulled well clear of Fianna Fáil’s Racheal Batten, just (after a recount) 11 votes shy of a quota. Given that the top three candidates polled well ahead of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, it is clear that this is one of the most left wing of Dublin constituencies.

Artane Whitehall Count 5
The result of the fifth count for Artane-Whitehall

After his victory, Councillor John Lyons said:

I’m incredibly honoured that so many people on the Northside voted to endorse the Independent Left platform demanding action on climate change, more public and affordable housing, reform of local government, the remunicipalisation of waste services, enhanced public transport and cycling infrastructure, better community cleaning and a more affordable system of public childcare.
There is a lot more to say about what has happened over the last two days but for now, thank you to all who got involved, supported and voted for a radically different vision of Dublin, one that places people not profit at the heart of the city’s political decision-making processes.

It was an impressive result given the context of an election in which the socialist left on Dublin City Council and elsewhere struggled to hold their ground as the Greens made substantial gains (and Fianna Fáil made a slight recovery) and it testifies to the steady resistance of the community to the agenda of the government as well as an appreciation that Councillor John Lyons and his team have put their energies behind a whole range of local campaigns.

In the Donaghmede constituency, covering Ayrfield, Belmayne, Clarehall, Clongriffin, Donaghmede, Edenmore and Kilbarrack, where Niamh McDonald represented Independent Left, the election demonstrated that the constituency has challenges for socialists, with two Fianna Fail and one Fine Gael councillor elected out of the five positions. Donaghmede provides an example of the trend that was evident across the country, where the strong performance of a Green Party candidate, in this case Lawrence Hemmings, was reinforced by a steady accumulation of transfers.

Between the Social Democrat Paddy Monahan, Niamh McDonald and Solidarity’s Michael O’Brien there was a left seat in play until the very end. The transfers on the elimination of Labour’s Shane Folan make for interesting reading and decided the issue. Overwhelmingly, they went to the Green Party but also Labour voters showed a notable preference for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil over Michael O’Brien.

Donaghmede count figures 27 May
The Donaghmede final count figures show how the Green Party took a seat at the expense of the left.

Given these figures, the fact that Nimah McDonald rallied nearly 600 first preference votes for Independent Left is a real achievement and again shows there is a strong base for future campaigns and resistance to the government in the Donaghmede area. And this, of course, is the crucial point. Across the country there will be several disappointed socialist candidates tonight, whose hopes of council seats disappeared in the light of the strong Green performance. Yet the overall message of this election is a positive one.

I think it would be fair to say that the message of the election is that the country has not bought into Fine Gael’s complacent story about Ireland’s progress. While Fine Gael, Finian McGrath and the other ‘independents’ may have created hundreds of new millionaires in the last three years (especially from the landlord class), their record on housing, the environment and health especially has been disastrous and not only for working class communities. The rise of the Green vote is a slap in the face to such complacency and expresses a desire for much more radical responses to climate change especially. This feeling is likely to feed into Ireland playing it’s part in a huge international protest about the climate on 20 September (a #globalclimateaction strike that we can start building for now) and into campaigns on housing.

So there’s every chance that in the coming months there will be plenty of opportunity for socialists, whether council members or not, to participate in campaigns, local and national, and while doing so, to emphasise that for lasting change, we need to look at a transformation that is far more profound than that which is on offer from the Greens.

All the political parties, including those of the left, are now rushing (insincerely in the case of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil) to emphasise their environmental credentials. But the crucial point to be made to those who hope that the Green Party are going to offer a different approach is simple: they won’t. Whether or not the Greens have the best policies on housing, transport, climate change, etc. (and we are happy to adopt them if they do), the problem the Green Party faces is a deep-rooted acceptance of the current pro-business way in which the world is run.

In response to his own party member Saoirse McHugh saying she would resign from the Green Party if they went into coalition with Fine Gael or Fianna Fail, Ciaran Cuffe, the millionaire Green candidate for the Dublin constituency in the European elections, couldn’t even bring himself to rule out that option when asked about it today at the count centre. And he is looking distinctly uncomfortable with the question.

For Independent Left, it would have been easy to answer that question: not only would we never participate in such a coalition, but we are striving for a global change to how our planet is organised, one that abandons the race for private profit and instead makes decisions on the basis of equality, freedom and care for the needs of the many. In a word: socialism.

Election Counts Artane-Whitehall and Donaghmede 26 May

Irish election count under PR
Strong showing for the Greens in the election count of 26 May.

Counting in the local government elections has taken place throughout the day and our attention has been on two constituencies in particular: Artane-Whitehall covering Artane, Beaumont, Belcamp, Clonshaugh, Coolock, Darndale. Kilmore West, Santry and Whitehall, where Councillor John Lyons has done extremely well and is in a promising position to retain his seat; and Donaghmede, covering Ayrfield, Belmayne, Clarehall, Clongriffin, Donaghmede, Edenmore and Kilbarrack, where Niamh McDonald has put herself on the map as a credible socialist candidate for the area.

Overall, the national picture was dominated by the success of the Green Party. And as far as the Green agenda goes, in terms of their policies, this is a very positive step. Clearly, at international as well as local level, more emphasis on the environmental agenda is needed and Leo Varadkar deserves a kick from an electorate angry that Ireland’s declaration of a climate emergency (with Ireland being only the second country in the world to make such a declaration) was, he said, only ‘symbolic’ and ‘a gesture’.

The difficulty the Greens have, however, is in delivering on their policies. When I talked to a canvasser about the experience of the Fianna Fail / Green Government that was responsible for bailing out the banks and saddling the country with enormous debt, leading to the attempted water charges and the local property tax, he replied that this was before his time and that the new Green party would be different. Fair enough. And it is understandable that young people especially would want to try this reinvigorated party. Except that the Green Party has not been fundamentally renewed and listening to Eamon Ryan on RTE today, it was clear that their tactics haven’t changed. No call for mass protest e.g. for the major rally planned for 20 September. Instead, lots of talk about how the Greens are willing to work with every party to further their agenda. Which seems reasonable, except that we know what a FG/Green or an FF/Green government would be like. It would only offer such improvements as big business allows. It would not be the radical alternative to FF and FG this country needs.

Which is why it is disappointing that generally the parties to the left of Labour / Social Democrats were squeezed by the support for the Greens. Overall, Solidarity-People Before Profit will lose ground rather than make the gains they hoped for. There will be important exceptions to this pattern in the European elections, where Clare Daly is set to do well. And another important exception is provided by Councillor John Lyons in the Artane-Whitehall constituency.

Here’s the result of the first count:

First Count Local Government Election Artane Whitehall
First count 26 May Artane-Whitehall local government election.

There are six seats in the constituency and with a valid poll of 12,928, this resulted in a quota of 1,847. Patricia Roe of the Social Democrats was elected on this first count. John Lyons had a strong showing with 1,210 first preferences (9.65%). After the elimination of Éirígí’s Heaprey and the election of Sinn Féin’s Larry O’Toole, the count closed until the morning with the position looking like this:

Artane Whitehall local government election third count 26 May
Artane-Whiltehall local government election result 26 May third count.

The next step will be the elimination of Independent Paul Clarke and the transfer of his 756 votes. This will almost certainly be followed by the elimination of Independent Paddy Bourke’s 802 votes. If these 1,500 voters have a definite preference by way of their transfers, they could make a significant impact on the final results. But it is more probable they will scatter widely and with John Lyon’s voters having turned out in sufficient strength to bring him to nearly 1,400 votes at this point, the most likely scenario is that Fianna Fáil’s Seán Mahon will be pushing Edel Moran of Sinn Féin over the question of who is eliminated next. That will decide whether Racheal Batten then gets elected (with her surplus then probably helping Declan Flanagan of Fine Gael the most), or the remaining Sinn Féin votes are transferred, which probably helps John Lyons the most.

My prediction (making predictions is often foolish in these situations, but I’m carried away by election fever), the final result will be: SD/SF/FF/Independent Left/Labour/Fine Gael.

The situation in Donaghmede after count 2 is as follows:

Donaghmede election results count 2 26 May.
Donaghmede election result after count 2 26 May.

Here Niamh McDonald did extremely well for her first attempt to gain electoral support in the area, going against the trend elsewhere of very low results for new socialist candidates by gaining nearly 600 first preferences. As she put it:

I am very proud, we started with nothing and built a strong local election campaign, which is not easy with no party support or money. 
I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who gave me their precious time, money in donations, helped with my childcare and listened to me when I needed support.
It’s been a long few months but totally worth every second, meeting and listening to so many people some with very real problems, most that can be solved with a properly funded and democratic local council others have problems from systemic poverty that again could be solved.
We need councils that build public homes and maintains them. Councils that take back the responsibility of services such as waste management and keeps our communities clean 
A council that puts needs of a community first, that will tackle climate change not by putting another unfair tax on people who can least afford it.
That’s what I believe in and believe its worth fighting for….. 

It’s still possible there is a chance for Michael O’Brien of Solidarity – People Before Profit to remain a councillor via a seat in Donaghmede as although he’s a long way short of the quota on this count, he should benefit well from the transfers of Jo Tully, Solidarity – People Before Profit and Niamh McDonald. That should keep him ahead of Labour and therefore in the running and it might well turn out to be crucial whether more Labour transfers go to the Social Democrats or the Greens. We will be hoping Michael O’Brien can win that seat, of course, and join John Lyons in the council chamber as a socialist voice for the communities of Artane, Beaumont, Belcamp, Clonshaugh, Coolock, Darndale. Kilmore West, Santry, Whitehall, Ayrfield, Belmayne, Clarehall, Clongriffin, Donaghmede, Edenmore and Kilbarrack.