Tipping point

By Jim Gibney (for Irish News)

I was never quite sure what the phrase ‘tipping point’ meant until my experience last Friday of trying to motivate people to come out and vote for Sean Crowe in the constituency of Dublin West.

From midday, with other Sinn Fein canvassers, we had been crisscrossing a maze of streets in the Cushlawn area in the republican heartland of Tallaght knocking on doors and encouraging people to vote.

For me the response was low-key and worrying until about 7pm when Cathal King, the Sinn Fein councillor for the area arrived. It was obvious he knew this locality, its voters and their mood. I detected in him a cautious confidence which is understandable given that Sean Crewe lost his seat at the last election in 2007. I picked up a similar sense among canvassers for Peerse Doherty TD before his landslide victory last November.

To a stranger’s eye Cushlawn is an area which the Celtic Tiger passed by and if I am judging right, so has the local council. It is obvious that local people are struggling to maintain a high standard in their homes which is not reflected in those parts of the district where the council has a responsibility.

Cushlawn faces the Kilinarden Community Centre. In 1994 when Sinn Fein was banned from using the Mansion House the people of Tallaght and Killinarden allowed Sinn Fein to hold its ard fheis here and were vilified by rival politicians for doing so.

It is a working class community whose experience of living on the margins of society in good and bad times has instilled in it a sense of fair play of doing the right thing by instinct.

And doing the right thing by instinct was in this instance voting for Sean Crowe; but to this canvasser -- more used to the ways of northern voters -- it took a surge to ease my doubting Thomas moment.

In the space of twenty minutes five women all in their middle years at different addresses, with broad smiles on their faces, proudly told me, “Don’t worry son”, “You’ve two votes here and you’ve three votes here and you’ve four votes here and you’ve five votes here”. I knew then what a ‘tipping point’ meant. I knew then that Sean Crowe would regain the seat.

I am sure Fine Gael and Labour canvassers can recall their tipping point to success, and Fianna Fail, its tipping point to disaster.

The election result in the south is mould-breaking in all sorts of ways. For Gerry Adams it is a personal and political triumph to lead a team of 14 TDs into the Dail -- confirmation of the 14th TD occurred on Tuesday, the day 30 years ago that Bobby Sands began his hunger strike.

Gerry Adams carries with him the burning desire of northern nationalists and republicans to be an integral part of the Irish body politic in the south, for so long cut off from the north, with mere lip service paid to reunification. His presence in the Dail will strengthen the demand for a united Ireland.

Sinn Fein’s significant presence in both parliaments, Dublin and Belfast, breaches partition and means that within the parliamentary discourse the political,economic and social merits of all-Ireland cooperation will be frequently raised. The result could also be the start of realignment in the politics of this island on a left/right or progressive/conservative axis.

The issues facing the incoming Fine Gael-led government are precisely the same as those faced by Fianna Fail; and the policies offered up by Fine Gael to resolve the crisis are exactly the same as Fianna Fail.

There is a world of difference between the policies the Labour Party fought the election on and those of Fine Gael.

And while the leadership of the Labour Party is keen for coalition with Fine Gael its bigger parliamentary party might be more cautious, especially given the vocal opposition it will face in the Dail from Sinn Fein and other lelt-leaning TDs, if the price for coalition is more cuts to public services and billions more of taxpayers money used to bail out the banks.

Politics in the south is facing its own ‘tipping point’ and I hope it is in favour of working class communities like Cushlawn.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News