Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh last night addressed the annual conference of the Bloco de Esquerda party on the unification of European parties on the left against austerity.
Sharing the stage with prominent European Left party leaders in Lisbon, Ó Clochartaigh said:
“In the last number of years the Irish people have been relatively quiet about the impact of austerity measures. However, in recent times the sleeping giant has been awoken. A couple of weeks ago one hundred thousand people marched on the streets of Dublin. This was the largest demonstration against austerity in Ireland since the crisis began.
“It was, on the face of it, a march against an unjust water tax being brought in by our government, at the behest of the troika. But in reality this move by the government was the last straw for Irish citizens sick and tired of the taxes, charges and cuts imposed by the Fine Gael and Labour government, to repay the debts of corrupt bankers.
“These protests are an expression of the anger that people feel against a Government without any sense of fairness. After six long years of spending cuts and tax hikes, of unemployment and emigration, of bank bailouts and golden handshakes – people are saying ‘no more’.
“Sinn Féin believes that a better, fairer, more equal and prosperous Ireland is possible. But that cannot be achieved on the basis of the policies our government is following.
“I am conscious that the impact of austerity on people in Portugal and Greece in particular have been probably even more cruel than in Ireland. But Irish people are suffering unnecessarily also when Irish society continues to privilege the few over the many. Poverty, homelessness, health and education inequalities, unemployment and emigration will still be the daily reality for tens of thousands of people.
“But the political landscape in Ireland is changing dramatically. We must now work together, with other GUE/NGL partners, to strengthen coordination among the forces of the European Left. We must build on our common aims and not lose sight of who the political enemy is. Their most popular tactic and our most common challenge is divide and conquer. We as parties must not be distracted or overcome by this at home, or in Europe.
“Our vision for Europe is of national democracies working together, respecting each other’s sovereignty and having self-determination. The actions of the EU since the beginning of the financial crisis have shown that it is not a force for a positive social Europe.
“Left parties across Europe must now work primarily in their own country but also at a European level to bring about real reform.”