FG/FF coalition heralds 'dream era' for Irish left - Alan Kelly

Labour leader Alan Kelly says Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael entering government together is "a dream come true" for the left.
FG/FF coalition heralds 'dream era' for Irish left - Alan Kelly

Labour leader Alan Kelly says Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael entering government together is "a dream come true" for the left.

The newly installed head of the Labour Party has wasted no time making sure his party's voice has been heard in the Dáil since it, albeit sparingly, reconvened.

His party rejected the offer of government formation from the two civil war parties two weeks ago, citing concerns over lack of taxation on high earners to fight the oncoming recession, but Kelly ruffled feathers days later when he said publicly that had his party won as many seats as the Greens: "Ireland would have a government by now".

"There is a time when there is a government needed so if we hit you know 12 or 14 or 16 seats, I'd say the pressure on us to go in and to do the right thing would be there, but we've only six seats," he said.

"We don't form a majority, the three parties that received the most votes should form a government, and Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael excluding Sinn Féin is not realistic either, if talks with the Greens break down, one of them is going to have to go to Sinn Féin."

The grand coalition of the two civil war parties has already become mired in controversy over reports of unrest, distrust, and a very public row last week over contingency planning for a snap-election should formation talks break down.

Many have speculated that this unhappy marriage may spell the end of an era in Irish politics, paving the way for more smaller, more progressive parties to fill the void for a more electorally fluid Irish electorate and Kelly is one of them.

"I dreamed of the day when a left-right divide happened in Irish politics," he said.

"I mean, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, going into government for me, it's just an ideal scenario. The two and a half party system has gone, conformity as to how people vote is gone, there's fluidity in people's electoral or in their voting intentions.

"I don't see any difference between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, I never have.

The way our politics was because those two parties, by and large, had 60, 70, 80% of vote and the Labour Party often had to go to take the edge off, and we always lost electorally for doing so.

"In fact, it's ironic in the current setting how they're trying to create some distinction between them.

"If they do get into bed together, it'll be demonstrated that divide simply has never really been real.

"I think those two going into government will certainly drive people to looking at sensible alternatives on the left."

The Labour Party, whose downward trajectory since entering government with Fine Gael in 2011 has been well documented, will find it's voice again says Kelly, who says he wants to take voters from "all parties" in any future elections, and has put ending the end of the two tier health system, and equality in education and childcare as top priorities as he plans the next few years on the opposition benches.

"I question if some other parties who say they are left wing, actually are, but we are very, very clear of our position in Irish politics," he said.

"People have become more left wing orientated and as a result of Covid. I do believe that people's thinking of what's important to them, has changed totally.

"Money is no longer the other primary focus, health, and family and community are, and basics in life being accessible.

"As a country, we may have issues coming as a result of COVID, so we need to change everything, and prepare for a different type of world.

"That means that the way in which people will look towards politics is going to change too, and, the Labour Party has to position itself to be able to embrace that."

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