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Ireland: Spectacular election result for socialists
Along with the Irish presidential election, a parliamentary by-election took place in Dublin West on 27 October which Ruth Coppinger of the Socialist Party Ireland contested.
Ruth secured 21.1% first preference votes and after transfers under the proportional representation system was only eliminated by the narrowest of margins. In fact her 9,873 votes were exactly tied, after a recount, with the Fianna Fáil candidate's vote but Ruth lost out under electoral law because her first preference votes were fractionally less.
Nevertheless, Ruth's vote surpassed Fine Gael's (the senior government coalition partner with Labour and a traditional capitalist party in Ireland) and Sinn Fein, which enjoyed media attention because of Martin McGuinness contesting the presidential election. Her vote also easily outweighed the Green Party's.
Labour's Patrick Nulty, held off the challenges from Ruth and Fianna Fáil. However, even though Fine Gael and Labour have been in power less than eight months, their combined vote slumped nearly 17%.
The Socialist Party ran a very vibrant political campaign. It succeeded in making the issue of hospital cuts and cuts to education the main local issues and provoked a major debate on the government's austerity measures and the alternative to them.
Ruth and Socialist Party TD [MP], Joe Higgins, along with staff at the hospital, had already established the Defend Blanchardstown Hospital Campaign which organised protests and debates before and during the campaign.
Ruth was also instrumental in setting up the Special Needs Assistants Parents Teachers campaign to fight against brutal and disgraceful cuts that hit children and young people with special needs.
Ruth Coppinger, Socialist Party Ireland, with the Irish Socialist Party's Joe Higgins TD
While Ruth's campaign was able to undermine Labour and begin to catch them, this time, the by-election came a bit early, before sufficient numbers of the working and middle classes had moved decisively against Labour. Many people are still hoping against hope that there will be an economic recovery and that Labour will form some protection from the worst ravages of austerity.
Ruth was the United Left Alliance candidate, as well as representing the Socialist Party, and a significant layer of ULA activists put in a lot of work and added to the campaign.
In the presidential election (a largely ceremonial post that the Socialist Party believes should be abolished), Labour's Michael D Higgins was gifted the presidency by the implosion of 'independent' Sean Gallagher's campaign.
The entrepreneur, who had recently resigned from Fianna Fáil, fumbled and stumbled and wasn't able to satisfactorily answer accusations that he solicited donations from businessmen for Fianna Fáil's coffers.
In the absence of a candidate/campaign that called for resistance to austerity or advocated a consistent left or socialist position, the Socialist Party did not call for a vote for any of the presidential candidates.
For a full analysis see www.socialistworld.net
In The Socialist 2 November 2011:
Building anti-cuts action
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party reviews