Vote Left, Transfer Left?

On May Day, People Before Profit released a statement encouraging people to adopt the slogan of “Vote Left, Transfer Left”, as used in the 2020 general election.

In 2020 this saw voters transferring between Sinn Féin, the Green Party, People Before Profit, Social Democrats, and independents. However, given that the Green Party subsequently went into government with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil they have been explicitly dropped from the proposal this time.

Clearly then People Before Profit have red-lines, but curiously they don’t seem to apply to Sinn Féin.

In the statement, PBP said:

It is vital therefore that parties which support neutrality, oppose the growing preparations for war and promote solidarity with Palestinian people are elected.”

People Before Profit are not unaware of the track record of Sinn Féin on these issues. Indeed, People Before Profit members have been very vocal critics of Sinn Féin’s approach to this issue in both the north and south.

Not long ago they said that Sinn Féin’s leadership is failing Palestinians”. Not to mention their critical stance towards Sinn Féin’s decision to engage with the St. Patrick’s Day theatrics with Joe Biden.

Does PBP genuinely feel that Sinn Féin is a party that promotes solidarity with Palestinians? After all, Sinn Féin is the party which dragged Palestinians from the hall when they protested a joint-event with the collaborationist Palestinian Authority.

PBP is also fully aware of Sinn Féin’s gradual abandonment of neutrality.

In 2023 Sinn Féin dropped its commitment to immediate withdrawal from PESCO and the NATO Partnership for Peace. Both of these projects see the Irish Defence Forces further entangled in the imperialist alliances.

Regarding this u-turn PBP themselves said: “What a pity then that there are reports that Sinn Féin will not call for withdrawal from Partnership for Peace”, and stated that the move was “a grave retreat from genuine neutrality”. Is this the type of commitment to neutrality that PBP is willing to support?

Of course, there are more issues at stake than international ones. These are ultimately local elections after all. The housing crisis, healthcare underfunding, and the cost of childcare all feature in PBP’s statement. Perhaps where Sinn Féin fails internationally they make up domestically?

Unfortunately not, as PBP themselves have acknowledged.

As the leading party in the north – and a member of government since 2007 – Sinn Féin have shown what they are capable of. PBP have acknowledged this, and said that Sinn Féin “has done nothing to protect working people from price hikes”, and that the party “has failed on the cost of living”.

Or perhaps PBP is willing to be flexible enough to overlook this? After all, they acknowledge that each party has “differences in approach”.

On housing too – no doubt the biggest issue facing Irish youth – we see “differences in approach”. In Belfast, Sinn Féin councillors (alongside the DUP) voted against a PBP motion to give the council the power to implement rent caps. Is this the type of “co-operation” PBP are hoping to achieve with this call to “Vote Left, Transfer Left”?

After all, former PBP councillors in the north were vocal about their treatment by Sinn Féin. Fiona Ferguson – who lost her seat in 2023 – said in 2021 that Sinn Féin and the DUP had conspired to “shut the voices of smaller parties out of full council meetings”.

Former PBP councillor Fiona Ferguson, who said in 2021 that both Sinn Féin and the DUP were forcing smaller parties out of council meetings.

PBP also include a red line in their proposal: a commitment not to support austerity budgets. What makes this all the more curious is the fact that Sinn Féin oversaw and implemented austerity measures in the north at the behest of the British government. People Before Profit is an all-Ireland party, so it is curious that they seem to draw a line under Sinn Féin’s complicity in the north.

The call for “Vote Left, Transfer Left” also comes at a time when Sinn Féin’s rhetoric shifts to the right, as seen with its talk about “open borders”; something the party received flak for from PBP candidates.

With all this in mind it is hard not to see PBP’s approach as anything but opportunistic. Their goal here is to take advantage of Sinn Féin’s popularity and the potential transfers of votes that this entails, rather than to encourage any sort of genuine left wing solidarity.

Furthermore, it sends the message that no matter how much Sinn Féin continues to sell-out, no matter how many principles it concedes, it will face no consequences from even its critics and if anything can still rely on their votes.

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