Several hundred people took to the streets of Dublin last weekend to object to a Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael coalition plan to remain in power. Many expressed concern that Ireland’s two right-wing parties are attempting to form the next government under the cloak of the coronavirus.
Organised by left-wing People Before Profit, the demonstration started outside the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square before moving down to the Spire on O’Connell street with dozens of people carrying posters.
Solidarity People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith, who led the speeches before the protest began, described negotiations between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to form the next government as “shameful”.
Ms Smith said: “This election was all about delivering change on the key issues of housing, health, childcare, cost of living, farmers, students.
“We think that change will not be represented by these two conservative forces who have allowed this country to become a tax haven for the wealthy and who don’t deliver the basic public services that are needed.
“Real change is driven from below. If we have a stitch-up they will fail again.”
Asked to comment on Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald’s decision not to take part in Saturday’s protest, Ms Smith noted there were many Sinn Féin voters present in Saturday’s crowd.
“My understanding is that Sinn Féin’s position was that they thought it was too soon. They’re not against mobilisation, they just think it’s too soon.”
Paul Murphy of the Rise political party said “establishment parties” were attempting to stymie the change that was voted for on February 8th. He also encouraged Sinn Féin to participate in future protests and called for “a left government or at least an alternative government that excludes both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael”.
Fine Gael has rejected calls for a ‘national government’ involving Sinn Féin and left-wing groups to tackle the coronavirus. The Green Party, whose support is key for a return of a right-wing government, had called for a government of national unity, but Fine Gael bizarrely ruled that out with a warning about Sinn Féin damaging “national security”.
‘The reasons why Sinn Féin should not participate in Government are even more valid in an emergency, particularly when it comes to national security, the Garda, the defence forces and the justice system,” a spokesperson for Leo Varadkar said.
“We have a government in place which is devoting its efforts to the unfolding Covid19 situation.”
But Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald warned Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael could use the coronavirus outbreak “as cover” to go into government together.
Speaking on Newstalk radio, Deputy McDonald says a new government is needed - but it must be reflective of the election results.
She said: “For Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to go back into government together for the next number of years I think would run exactly against the grain of what the people told us.
“It may be in their minds to cobble together an arrangement - they may even use the fact that we’re in a public health emergency as cover for them to go back into government together.”