Longstanding tensions among left-wing factions blew up last week over the coming forward of various women alleging sexual harassment in Dublin branches of People Before Profit (PBP), as well as an alleged tendency within the party’s leadership to sweep allegations under the carpet.
The cascade of allegations began with housing activist Leah Daly who voiced her experiences over social media. Disclosing long-term abuse she endured from a fellow activist, as well as what she described as the failure of Paul Murphy to assist her, she alledged that the Dublin South-West TD was aiming to prioritise the abuser over herself.
Centred around the PBP-affiliated Dublin South West ‘Housing Action’ group, Daly also alleged a longstanding tendency by a fellow activist and PBP member in the group to prey on herself and various other vulnerable women.
Among the claims made were repeated incidents of sexual and verbal harassment, even going so far as the abuser supposedly reporting women to the child protection agency Tusla in order to silence them.
In addition to constant cyberstalking, Daly also reported apparent attempts by her alleged abuser to portray her as being on the political far right in the process of discrediting her.
Daly’s allegations were met with resounding support by female activists, many of whom aired similar grievances with PBP hierarchy, mishandling abuse claims, and allegedly protecting known abusers within their ranks.
When confronted with numerous claims against him, her alleged abuser is said to have threatened suicide, even feigning having cancer to attain sympathy to prevent the allegations from becoming public.
Whilst not the first abuse scandal within the party, PBP has increasingly garnered a bad reputation among the Irish Left for allegations of abuse and the protection of known abusers by its senior apparatchiks.
In February of this year, PBP took serious fire for a pre-election scandal involving their Galway candidate and long-time antifascist activist Joe Loughnane. Loughnane was suspended from the party just before the election over an alleged assault between him and another Left activist.
In the following days a stream of allegations emerged from fellow leftists in Galway, supposedly documenting a history of harassment against women, as well as inaction by PBP seniority to address the allegations levelled at Loughnane.
In the aftermath of the Loughnane fiasco, a leaked internal document from six named ex-PBP members surfaced. It described in depth the failings around dealing with Loughnane as well as the scourge of abuse within party ranks more generally.
Documenting repeated and systemic failures to deal with Loughnane, the document was disseminated widely among the wider radical left.
This is not the first leaked document alleging systemic problems within the party, earlier this year what appears to be an internal memo titled “Why I Left the SWN [Socialist Workers Network] -(and why you should too)” gave what appears to be a detailed first-hand account of a former PBP member.
Similar to the aforementioned document, the memo suggests endemic issues around dealing with abuse even going so far as to allege that a member of PBP’s national committee engaged in covering up abuse over a period of two years.
One of the larger electoral tendrils of the Trotskyist scene in Ireland, People Before Profit was formed in 2005 as an electoral front for the British Socialist Workers Party, later changing the name of its umbrella organisation to the Socialist Workers Network (SWN).
Rancour over apparent reluctance to deal with sexual harassment has been an increasing feature of online commentary directed towards PBP, emanating primarily from the Left. Leading the charge, the Stalinist-inclined Connolly Youth Movement penned an open letter to a variety of PBP TDs highlighting the poor handling of claims.
In a Facebook post, General Secretary of Connolly Youth Alex Homits expressed disgust at what he called the endemic issues of sexual malpractice and botched responses from PBP in light of new revelations of abuse. ‘This is not a new phenomenon either. “SP [Socialist Party] and SWP [PBP], and to some degree RISE, are collectively responsible for harbouring and protecting sexual predators, rapists and paedophiles”, Homits declared in a post from the 16th of September.
While many of the allegations around PBP are yet to be entirely proven, the claim that there is an embedded culture of whitewashing abuse and marginalising accusers appears consistent with recent history and evidence seen by this publication. All this rumbles while PBP foot soldiers appoint themselves as moral arbiters to progressive causes.
Ultimately these allegations and the political milieu of bitterness and infighting points to an increasingly enfeebled radical left, a fact that has and will be taken advantage of by the as of yet inchoate nationalist Right. While the prospect of a Left government under the wing of Sinn Féin may be something of an inevitability, the chances of a long-term hard-left regime taking charge of the country is fatally compromised by internal acrimony, such as witnessed with the recent spate of PBP sexual abuse allegations.
The Burkean wishes to emphasise that it has seen no evidence regarding the harbouring of paedophiles or other criminal offenders within PBP despite the accusations made by Mr Homits.