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Andrew Lynch: Why the Greek voters have just done Ireland a huge favour

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Leader of Syriza left-wing party Alexis Tsipras speaks to his supporters outside Athens University Headquarters

Leader of Syriza left-wing party Alexis Tsipras speaks to his supporters outside Athens University Headquarters

Leader of Syriza left-wing party Alexis Tsipras speaks to his supporters outside Athens University Headquarters

The voters of Greece have just done Ireland a huge favour.

By electing their very own version of Sinn Fein, they have allowed us to see how a hard left-wing and anti-austerity government works in practice.

Gerry Adams may be ecstatic at the result, but he should be careful what he wishes for – because from now on events in Athens will reflect either well or badly on his own party too.

By any standards, the Greek election represents a political earthquake. Just a few years ago, Syriza was a ragbag group of ex-Trotskyists with less than 5pc of the vote.

On Sunday their charismatic motorbike-riding leader Alexis Tsipras swept to power, falling short of an overall majority by just one seat.

The parallels with Sinn Fein are impossible to miss. Last May Tsipras (left) visited Ireland and campaigned for the Shinners in our European elections.

In his victory speech on Sunday night, he even predicted that Sinn Fein would lead the next Irish government – while Adams and Mary Lou McDonald love-bombed him with adoring tweets from the other side of Europe.

austerity

Tsipras’ meteoric rise is based on one big promise. Just like Sinn Fein, the new Greek PM claims that austerity is a massive con-job on “working people” and needs to be completely reversed.

He has pledged to take on the EU establishment, starting with an international conference that will supposedly write down 50pc of Greece’s debt to the Troika who also bailed out Ireland.

If Tsipras can actually pull that off, it could have major political consequences for us. Sinn Fein would fight the upcoming general election as a Celtic version of Syriza, portraying the ‘establishment’ parties as lily-livered lapdogs by comparison. After all, Gerry Adams did once say that his EU policy was, “Tell them to bugger off”.

The nightmare scenario for Sinn Fein is that Tsipras falls flat on his face and takes them down with him.

When Finance Minister Michael Noonan tried to burn some bondholders back in 2011, the European Central Bank warned him that “a bomb will go off in Dublin”.

That bomb may soon be exploded in Athens instead – and it says something about the sheer desperation of Greek people that they are prepared to take such an awesome risk.

Meanwhile, the Irish Government seems to be completely confused. While Enda Kenny says he will not support an EU debt conference, Joan Burton and Michael Noonan both claim that the idea is worth considering.

canary

Fine Gael and Labour have based their re-election strategy on being the poster boys of Europe – but they cannot afford to look too grovelling if a write down on our crippling loans is really on the cards.

When miners were scared of poisonous gases, they would send a canary down the mine first. Greece is about to become that canary.

From a selfish point of view, this is good news – because it will give Irish voters some valuable information before we go to the polls.

In his spare time, Alexis Tsipras is a keen poker player. Sinn Fein must hope that he holds good cards in the political game that lies ahead – because their own stake is almost as high as anyone’s.


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