Home » SOAPBOX: Labour Pains As Denis Joins Sinn Féin

SOAPBOX: Labour Pains As Denis Joins Sinn Féin

by Jimmy Rhatigan

TO SOME, it may just pass as another unexpected happening in the wild, wacky and some would say, murky world of politics.

To others, it could suggest that it is the first shot in a run-up to any general election.

The transfer of Councillor Denis Hynes from the Labour Party to Sinn Féin will hardly make the sort of headlines that Jurgen Klopp would should he cross the great Merseyside divide from red Liverpool to blue Everton.

There was a time when if a public representative from Labour jumped on board a Sinn Féin ship, the bold or even brazen move would have been spoken of as political heresy.

Those were the days when people like Seamus Pattison, Tommy Martin, Joe Cody and Marie Fitzpatrick flew the Starry Plough in Kilkenny and the magnetic-like vote catcher Maurice Shortall ruled the roost in Castlecomer Electoral Area.

How things have changed.

The Labour Party still has a presence in Kilkenny City and, no doubt, there are avid supporters, albeit in small numbers.

But reality is that a party that in the past had a real love for the working man and woman is now struggling.


No disrespect, but one suspects that the consensus would be that the local party that has been kept breathing by enthusiasts Seán Ó hArgáin, Gina Doolin, Sadie Kelly and their ilk, committed Hari Kiri.

Slowly but surely, Labour lost the support of those it represented and in fairness, fought hard for.

Labour went into Government.

That was the rock on which it may have perished.

The party, founded in 1912 by James Connolly, James Larkin and William O’Brien struggled in a sea of uncertainty and harsh decisions that hit its own bailiwicks.

Voters of another time would claim the party forgot about the working people that enabled it to sit into seats of power – local trade unionists, along with Jim and Gemma Citizen who turned sour as Labour may have looked the other way.

Issues like water charges and cutting welfare money to single parents raised their ugly heads.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael continued to rule the roost in Kilkenny and Carlow.

In more recent times, both would appear to have taken their eyes off the ball, often squabbling but usually circling the wagons at any Battle of the Little Big Thorn in the side.

Sinn Féin was waiting in the wings.


A storming last General Election in which it rocked Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, meant that there were new kids on the block.

But as it turned out the party didn’t make the block, ie seats in Government, as FF, FG and Greens, with friendly Independents played a ruthless game of political bingo and came up with the numbers to keep SF off the main playing pitch.

Locally, Sinn Féin TD, aka Kathleen Funchion, with teams of followers, including battalions of youth and young families, won record numbers of hearts and minds.

Hard work was rewarded at the last General Election when the daughter of Callan topped the poll in Carlow/Kilkenny with enough votes to secure her own seat and a surplus that could have got at least one other into Kildare Street.

FG and particularly FF, along with the Greens and Labour are now struggling in the polls as SF is top of the pops.

That is the interesting scenario in which Denis Hynes, a SIPTU Trade Union official, now finds himself.

He has been a Labour Party representation for Castlecomer Electoral Area on Kilkenny County Council.

His career in trade unionism began when he was elected shop steward at Connolly’s of Goresbridge.


He is now a SIPTU official who devotes much of his time to the Kilkenny, Carlow area where his brief is in the health sector. 

He has 20 years of negotiating experience.

He is a dedicated soccer aficionado and is a volunteer in the underage game.

He will be hoping that he was well and truly on the ball when deciding to switch allegiance from Labour to Sinn Féin.

To onlookers, the switch may suggest real ambition on the part of a local public representative.

Reality is he has left a struggling team to join league leaders that could be battling for trophies, including places in Government Benches.

Denis will now wear a different jersey at council meetings.

With SF reportedly set to run two candidates, Kathleen Funchion and one other in the next election, there is a possibility that he could be in the mix.

That possibility is perhaps a slim one at this stage as SF is reportedly planning to run a party member from Carlow in the next big race.

What SF do or don’t do, and how Denis may figure in any future plans, may depend on when an election will be held.


If it were to go ahead in early 2022 or even later that year and if SF were still in a good position in the polls, then the sky just might be the limit.

But should FF awaken from their slumbers, change its way of doing business and wish Micheál Martin good luck and goodbye then things could be a bit more cantankerous for a high flying SF.

As things stand, FG could have a Herculean battle on its hands and may well have to rely on its Dublin influence to keep its TD numbers respectable.


Regardless, there are enough wealthy people in our country and enough supportive corporate entities, pharma, developers, bankers, vultures and their mates to ensure that it will continue to function if not flourish.

Jumping from county council level to dancing with wolves or swimming with sharks in the Dáil may be in Denis Hynes’s mind.

His courage may be admired. 

Regardless of what direction his pathway with his new found left wing comrades takes him, it will certainly be an experience.

Pub chit chat in the future, if we are ever again allowed to rest our elbows on the bar, could be on the prospects of a man who swapped parties.

Denis will know that the pitch he has chosen will be dotted with land mines.

The trick for him will be to avoid pitfalls.

That he has made a decision to swap horses in the Grand National of Irish politics is in itself a measure of the man’s gumption to face a challenge.

At a time when politics badly needs a lift, his temerity just may get him over the fences.

Meanwhile, his unexpected change of direction could, ironically, be the morning call that the local Labour Party so badly needs.

Wonder what the bookies’ odds would be for Denis to win a Dáil seat in the next election, provided of course that he is selected, and for a local Labour Party candidate to win back a seat Dáil seat that was for so long a chair of honour that eventually catapulted Seamus Pattison to Brussels.

A €20 bet on a winning double would ensure Kilkenny City celebrations.

That would be a fairytale finish to a story that just may be a bit sensitive at this time.

It may be crazy thinking but that would certainly suit the way Irish politics works.

And it would ease Labour pains and provide yet another fillip for Sinn Féin.

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