SF vote pact: Transfers part of voting deal, says union (Right2Change)

Source: Fliuch Oct 28, 2015

McDonald says it will be ‘unforgivable’ if left-wing groups do not grasp opportunity

 Mary Lou McDonald: Denied move was an act of “desperation” by Sinn Féin. Photograph: The Irish Times

Mary Lou McDonald: Denied move was an act of “desperation” by Sinn Féin. Photograph: The Irish Times

Fiach Kelly, Mary Minihan

A union leader behind the policy principles that form the basis for a left-wing voting pact has urged parties and TDs not to take an a la carte approach on who they will transfer to in a general election.

John Douglas of Mandate encouraged all those who signed up to the Right2Change movement to transfer to other affiliates of the group, formed from the anti-water charge protests.

His comments came after Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said it would be “unforgivable” if left-wing groups did not grasp the “opportunity” of the broad policy platform and transfer pact.

Sinn Féin on Tuesday confirmed it would sign up to the pact, but other left-wing groups will not return the favour by asking their supporters to transfer to Gerry Adams’s party. Ms McDonald denied the move was an act of “desperation” on behalf of the party, which has dropped back to support levels of about 16 per cent in recent polls.

However, Mr Douglas said the chance of the left winning extra Dáil seats depended on transfers. “If we can get the left together in terms of transfers, we should be able to win seats,” said Mr Douglas, one of a number of union leaders behind Right2Change. “That’s the crux of the matter. It is not an a la carte.”

Mixed views

There were mixed views across the left on the Sinn Féin move. Independent TD Thomas Pringle said he would be discussing whether to back Right2Change with his local team but expressed concern that Sinn Féin could be using it to “maximise its vote”.

Mr Pringle said it could also be difficult for an Independent like him to advocate transfers.

Wexford TD Mick Wallace also said he was supporting the Right2Change, as is Dublin Fingal’s Clare Daly. Dublin South Central TD Joan Collins said she was positive about the proposals and believes those who subscribe to them should transfer to each other.

Others who are understood to be in discussions with the group are the Workers’ Party, the Communist Party and the Social Democrats. Catherine Murphy of the Social Democrats said the newly formed party would make its position known by the end of the week.

Weak commitment

People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett said he saw no difficulty with transferring to other Right2Change affiliates.

The Socialist Party has yet to finalise its position but is unlikely to ask its voters to transfer to Sinn Féin. Paul Murphy, its Dublin South-West deputy, has already said he will not do so.

Outgoing Dublin West Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins claimed many in Sinn Féin favoured coalition with Fianna Fáil and accused it of having a “weak commitment to really fighting against austerity”.

“In the North not only have they implemented austerity measures in the Executive which have hit working-class communities, they, with other parties, have continued to play a role that stokes up rather than overcomes the sectarian divisions in the community.”

Tánaiste Joan Burton said the disagreements showed the political marriage between Sinn Féin and left-wing parties and Independents was over before it began. “I saw that some of the groups are going to transfer and others are not going to have anything to do with some of the groups that they’re now in an alliance with today,” she said.

Right2Change has said parties have until Friday to decide whether they will align themselves with the movement.

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We have to say, this is a difficult one to call. Why? Because many Irish people don’t actually understand what the transfer system is or how it works or even how the sheet of paper with all the candidates on it works.

Basically: When you go to your polling station and pick up your voting sheets you’ll be presented with a range of candidates that you’re expected to put numbers beside. Many people think they have to fill in all the boxes with numbers…

But that’s not the case. You only need to put numbers beside people you actually want to vote for – your

voting paper isn’t a popularity contest in the sense that you have to mark every single person from one to ten (or one to twenty etc).

If you put numbers beside people you don’t want in government you are actually giving them a vote in a roundabout way because once the transfer system kicks in and surplus votes are doled out a person that no one voted for could end up in the Dail.

The simple thing to do is to only put numbers beside people you really really want to see in government and leave the rest blank.

We would urge people to vote for independents and parties that promote constitutional change to our way of democracy, changes that give more power to the people, not to parties.

We’d also like to point out that some political parties and groups are actually the same group behind the scenes who have deliberately separated to gain more votes overall.

Fliuch.