Dublin West: Ruth Coppinger (Solidarity-People Before Profit) (17 Days To Election)

Ruth Coppinger is a sitting TD in Dublin West, representing the party/electoral alliance/broad left union that is Solidarity-People Before Profit. First elected to local council in 2003 as a member of the Socialist Party, Coppinger ran unsuccessfully in the 2011 Dublin West by-election, before finding success down the same avenue in 2014, replacing Patrick Nulty. In 2016 she was re-elected, at that time under the Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit banner.

(As far as I am aware, Coppinger is still a member of the Socialist Party, which makes up the greatest part of the Solidarity grouping, which is part of the Solidarity-PBP group which contests elections and forms a “parliamentary group” in the Dail. They don’t make this easy, do they?).

In the last general election, I spoke quite harshly on the then AAA-PBP entity. Aside from my criticism that much of their economic policy lacked complexity and solidity, I also posited that the hard-left was too prone to splintering and was a sub-section of Irish politics whose refusal to contemplate compromise made it unlikely to ever be part of a government. As I recall I also questioned their apparent policy of running a candidate in every constituency, most of them no-hopers, when they should have been focusing only on possible wins.

I feel like my opinions towards the left have changed a lot in the last three+ years. A period of time like that, filled with news headlines of Trump, Brexit, right-wing nationalism, racism, austerity politics and a degradation of public services, will probably do that I suppose. I realise, as I contemplate the choice ahead of me in Dublin West, that  I appear to having some sort of reverse political maturity: instead of the typical way of becoming more conservative as I get older, I appear to be going in the opposite direction.

It’s because of this that I look more favourably on the likes of Coppinger than I previously did. In the past I expressed no time or patience for their brand of constant protesting and little engagement with the powers that be. But now I see the purpose. In a Dail that continues to be dominated by the failing policies of its two larger parties, where Sinn Fein carry the sort of baggage that makes one queasy, and where the other smaller parties seem less inclined to compromise and more to total surrender, Solidarity-PBP stand-out in a good way.

We need voices like Coppinger’s in the Dail. Voices that will be a substitute for the truly vulnerable in society, be they the working class, the unemployed, the homeless or the immigrant. We need someone like her who refuses to be bullied in debates, and who gives outstanding performances in Oireachtas committees, asking hard questions and not backing down in the face of FG/FF stonewalling. We need someone like her who were the loudest in their support for repeal of the 8th amendment, and for the rights and equality of women generally. We need someone of obvious principal and genuineness. We, simply put, need someone like Coppinger, a voice for socialist progression in a chamber that has come top be so dominated by the centre that any move away from there seems radical.

Yes, Solidarity-PBP have their issues. The constant factionalism, most recently seen with Paul Murphy’s quasi-split and the formation of RISE, is tiresome to see, especially when the differences seem so trivial in comparison to the larger parties and their unity. Yes, their approach to elections is at times asinine: see Dublin Central, where Solidarity-PBP are running two candidates, or Dublin South-West where Paul Murphy has hard-left competition, or any number of constituencies where they run candidates, a drain on resources, that have no chance of winning. Yes, there are elements of the hard-left in Irish politics, like Clare Daly and her conspiracy theories or Mick Wallace and his tax dodging that are very frustrating to see.

But would we be better off without those voices? Those pestering, questioning, spot-light shining voices? The ones who are unequivocally standing for politics that benefits the majority of the people, even if there remains a degree of fantasy to some of the economic bedrock? I no longer think so. In a Dail where Leo Varadkar and Jack Chambers will have seats for decades to come, probably, we need to get the opposition in to face them down.

As for Coppinger’s chances, well, that’s complicated. Coppinger, and Joe Higgins before her in the constituency, have consistently polled quite well, and she was comfortable enough in taking the second seat here in 2016. But the performance of Solidarity-PBP in the locals is a cause for serious concern. In Coppinger’s heartland, Mulhuddert and Ongar, their numbers are way down. While one has to take into account boundary changes, to go from over four candidates and 3’000 FPV in Mulhuddert in 2014, to one candidate and 536 votes in Blanchardstown/Mulhuddart in 2019 is a scary drop. Coppinger’s elder brother Eugene was one of several sitting Solidarity Councillors in DCC/Fingal who lost their seats, and that was only a few months ago.

Coppinger finds herself in a battle with three other candidates – Joan Burton, Roderic O’Gorman and Paul Donnelly – for a seat. Her advantage is the fact that she, with Burton, is an incumbent, which carries name recognition and media attention other candidates, like Donnelly, won’t get. Her disadvantage is that all four are drawing voters from the left or centre-left, which will inevitably bring things down to a scrabble for transfers. Coppinger was very transfer friendly in 2014, not as much in 2016. Unfortunately, with Varadkar and Chambers nailed on to retain, Burton having weathered a storm unlikely to repeat itself back in 2016 and O’Gorman’s impressing locally- 3’000 FPV in his area alone – it looks like Coppinger may well be one of the two to miss out.

Solidarity-PBP are likely to have a not so great day nationally at any rate, with the very real possibility of losing three or more of their scant seats. But the hard-left, whatever about its splits and tribulations, never quits. The Dail will be worse off without her, I don’t doubt, though losing her seat will hardly be the conclusion of her political career. 

Victory for Coppinger is an against-the-odds retention of her seat, defeat is losing it. A very bad day would be to end up behind Paul Donnelly. I’m pulling for her. You should be too.

Next up, Fine Gael.

This entry was posted in General Election 2020, Ireland, Politics and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Dublin West: Ruth Coppinger (Solidarity-People Before Profit) (17 Days To Election)

  1. Pingback: Who I’m Voting For In Dublin West (2 Days To Election) | Never Felt Better

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