By Mark Hennessy
Originally appeared in The Irish Times, Wednesday 11 February 2015
The rise of Sinn Féin in opinion polls in Ireland and a similar surge of support for Podemos in Spain is “the best help” that can be given to the newly-elected Syriza government in Greece, a leading member of Syriza has said.
Speaking at a Sinn Féin meeting in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Stathis Kouvelakis said: “This shows that the political landscape can change dramatically; that Greece is not an anomaly; that what happened in Greece can happen elsewhere.”
Tens of thousands of Greeks have gathered at rallies throughout the country in support of the “perfectly reasonable” demands made by the Greek minister for finance Yanis Varoufakis at today’s meetings with his EU counterparts in Brussels.
Meanwhile, Waterford-based Sinn Féin senator David Cullinane said that Sinn Féin, unlike some people involved in the anti-austerity movement in Ireland, is preparing to be part of the next government.
“We are on an election footing. The very clear message that we are articulating very clearly is that we are prepared for government. We are going to stand the maximum number of candidates that we can possibly stand to take advantage of our increasing popularity.
“We have to be prepared to want to go into government, to lead an anti-austerity government in the south. There are people on the left who won’t be part of that, but we are certainly organising,” he told the meeting.
Criticising Minister for Finance Michael Noonan’s refusal to support Greek calls for a debt conference, Mr Cullinane said:
“It is crazy that a country which was forced to put into place a banking guarantee that signed us up to billions [in] debt is afraid to agree to a debt conference.
“[Ireland] has not even asked for a debt write-down. If they are not prepared to show solidarity with their own citizens, I don’t see Irish government showing solidarity with the Greeks.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin MP for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy rejected a call that Sinn Féin should take up its seats in the House of Commons after the May election in a bid to ensure that the Conservatives are denied power.
Mr Murphy said: “We stand on the mandate of not taking our seats.”