Today, March 9th 2011 saw the first sitting of the 31st Dail. The make up of that new Dail had in the region of 70 new T.D's. Amongst their number was the 5 new United Left Alliance (ULA) T.D's, Joe Higgins, Clare Daly, Richard Boyd Barrett, Joan Collins and Seamus Healy. Before taking their seats in the Dail, all of the ULA T.D's marched to parliament from the central bank with the people who had voted them in. I was one among their number.
During the march from the central bank to parliament, the group made up of activists from the Socialist Party, People Before Profit, Socialist Workers Party and the Workers and Unemployed Action Group sang and chanted the now familiar songs and slogans of the Irish Left including "when they say cut back, we say fight back" and "the workers united, will never be defeated" as well as "power to the people". The sense of struggle and solidarity that had got these 5 T.D's elected was palpable amongst the activists and the march had a sense of celebration to it.
On arrival at the gates of Leinster House, each of the new ULA T.D's gave a speech to those assembled. Each gave humble and solemn promises to respect the aspirations of the working class people in their thousands who had voted for them. Each gave a commitment to be the voice of the people both inside and outside the parliament in the upcoming struggles against the public sector job cuts, the upcoming battles against water charges and property taxes and the upcoming struggles against third level student fees.
The arrival of 5 principled left politicians into parliament signals a new dawn in Irish politics. For the first time the Irish working class have real and committed activists and campaigners representing them in parliament. For the first time in Irish political life there is a bloc of committed left politicians who can provide a real opposition to the neo-liberal economic consensus that has engulfed Irish political culture over recent history. From this, a new movement of the working class can emerge and grow as a force on the Irish political scene. The emergence of this force on the left will be well placed to provide direction and guidance to the explosion of movements which will inevitably come to the fore in the coming period.