EU funds being misused - Ní Riada
Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has said the onus is on the Irish Government to deliver European funds for people.
The Ireland South MEP was speaking after voting against extending the European Fund for Strategic Investments until 2020.
Ms Ní Riada, who sits on the EU Budgets Committee, said that while the EFSI had the potential to be a positive initiative she could not in good conscience support extending it in its present form.
“I could not and will not support the extension of the EFSI in its current guise,” she said.
“While I welcome any investment in Ireland it is clear that the implementation of the EFSI is not working for ordinary people,is not creating employment and is not accessible to SMEs.
“At the outset of introducing the EFSI, I argued that unless it was used properly the scheme was in danger of becoming nothing more than a publicly funded and guaranteed loan scheme for private industry.
“Whilst I was successful through my work on the Budgets Committee in having a social element added to the construction of the EFSI, it simply has not been delivered on.
“The specific positive legislation which I submitted on finance for cooperatives and social enterprise needs to be promoted at local level if it is to have an impact. That is not happening and that is a direct consequence of the Irish Government's attitude to the fund.
“Out of the €251bn currently spent through EFSI, social infrastructure only accounts for 4% of that spending.
“Following the deep economic crisis initiated by the private sector, specifically in banking, and the deep recession instigated by the intervention of the Troika, it is shameful to say the least that the European project is now prioritising the rebuilding of the Private Sector through public guarantees with public funds.
“From an Irish context, of course I welcome investment to create jobs. However, jobs are just part of the overall prosperity and quality of life increases that this fund was designed to promote. They mean little without a massive investment in social and public services.
“Let there be no confusion as to how this fund can be used. EFSI can deliver real social and affordable housing through housing agencies as they do in other Member States. The fact that it is not being used for this, as we face into the greatest homeless crisis in a generation, is nothing short of a national scandal.
“Last week, in my home county of Cork, a woman died on the street, huddled under blankets in a shop doorway. This is not an administrative disagreement about funding allocations, those are the very real life and death consequences of the Government's refusal to properly implement funds like EFSI.
“It can deliver first class health services as other countries have used it to do. It can be used to invest in education and public infrastructure.
“In order for this to happen, responsibility falls on the current Irish Government. They must begin putting the interests of the people over further enriching the wealthy.
“This means prioritising social projects that will take citizens off their sheets of cardboards in doorways, our elderly off hospital trolleys and our children out of overcrowded classrooms.
“When the government tells you there is no money for things like schools and hospitals and housing, they are lying. There is a huge amount of European funding available for these projects if the Government is willing to use it for them. "Until a fair percentage of these funds are used to tackle these issues I and my party cannot, in good conscience, support extending EFSI or any other similar schemes.”