From Socialist Voice, October 2006

Changing the sentinel for big business

The departure of Mary Harney as leader of the Progressive Democrats in September was met with joy in many working-class communities suffering under current Government policies.
     But the election of Michael McDowell was warmly greeted by the establishment media and economic pundits across the board—the banks, big business, and all the economic correspondents—while most working people on the other hand viewed his appointment as being near as dammit to electing Hitler and can only see more of the same failed policies and the further enrichment of an already bloated minority.
     Over the last ten years Bertie Ahern and Fianna Fáil have successfully hidden behind Harney and the PDs, using them as a cover for wholesale privatisation and the selling of public property. At its own grass-roots level Fianna Fáil is able to blame the PDs for the effect of Government policies while presenting itself as the moderating influence, despite the fact that it is itself the largest party by far in the current Government. The political and economic establishment is delighted to have the PDs in government, to ensure the ruthless implementing of their economic policies and their interests.
     Harney has only stood aside as leader of the PDs and as Tánaiste, retaining her role as Minister for Health. As minister she has been a Trojan horse in the interests of private medicine and the big pharmaceutical corporations. Examples of this have included handing over state land for the building of private hospitals and her refusal to bring a case against global pharmaceutical corporations in support of Irish haemophiliacs.
     She is no loss to Irish democracy, and Irish workers can breathe a sigh of relief that one is gone, with a good few more to follow. The elevation of McDowell, however, is a development that everyone should be concerned about. Our civil liberties will come under further attack. His approach to immigrants will only increase racism and racist ideas within our society.
     McDowell’s role will be to lead the attack on Fine Gael from the right, gathering its more right-wing elements to the PDs, using the fear of an alternative coalition Government led by Fine Gael that would include the Labour Party and Green Party as not being in the interests of big business. If you want more privatisation, more private medicine, more tax cuts for the wealthy, then keep this coalition in power—that will be his mantra.
     McDowell will be calling for “small government” for ordinary people, in the form of fewer public services, but bigger government in the interests of big business: more privatisation, more tax cuts.
     He will be arguing to Fine Gael voters that they will be held hostage to some sort of “left” political programme. The PDs will also be leading the anti-republican charge in order to minimise Sinn Féin’s voice in the Dáil. The fewer alternative voices in the Dáil the better as far as he is concerned.
     We can only wait and watch as the PDs attempt to get more high-profile parachute candidates to stand on their ticket.

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