Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan has described today’s cabinet meeting as a farce. Deputy Morgan said for months now the Government has been telling us what it’s not going to do in the budget but it has not told anyone what will be included and now they are going on holidays.
He warned the Government against heeding the recommendations of the ESRI to advance on the €7.5 billion programme of cuts over the next 3 years saying the ESRI has subscribed to the deflationary economics that can only depress the economy further.
He said, “The Government’s budgetary process seems to be process of elimination. For months now they have been announcing measures which they are not going to take but they have yet to tell anyone what measures they will take. They have reduced the whole process to a guessing game and now they are heading off on holidays.
“This Government has lost both the moral authority and the public support to govern. It hasn’t one shred of credibility on the economy and yet it is planning to cut another €3billion from the budget. Based on the Government’s record it will be the least well off who will once again suffer the brunt of the cuts while multi-millionaires get off scot free.
“The ESRI has recommended that the Government sticks to its programme of rigid cuts of €7.5billion between now and 2014. That would be a mistake. The ESRI has subscribed to the deflationary economics that can only depress the economy even further. The implications of such cuts are that economic activity will be reduced, there will be no job creation throughout that term and emigration will continue to surge.
“The people of this state are suffering hardship and pain everyday as a result of this Government’s decisions. The longer they stay in power the worse it gets.
“Now is the time for action. There’s no use getting angry without getting active. We need to see the power of the people in this state concentrated on removing this Government from office.
“That means getting out on the streets and protesting but it also means getting involved in politics. For too long we have left politics to the gombeen men and women. It is time to take politics back for the people.
“Sinn Féin would deliver a different budget. We would deliver a budget that would meet the Government’s targets without inflicting massive pain on those who can’t afford it and without savaging public services. And we would produce a stimulus package to increase economic activity and create jobs.
“We would do this by overhauling the taxation system to ensure everybody pays according to their ability to pay and getting rid of unjust tax loopholes, by targeting cutbacks at those who can most afford them such as politicians and hospital consultants and by increasing borrowing for infrastructure that has the potential to grow our economy.” ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on victims issues Francie Molloy has said that it is important that money is found in order to keep the ‘Justice for the Forgotten’ group operational. The group comprises of victims families and survivors of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
Mr Molloy said:
“The ‘Justice for the Forgotten’ group have had their funding from the Irish Government removed and face being wound down by the end of the month. In the context of the Irish government bail out for the banks the sum of 145,000 Euro is miniscule.
“Also the legislation in the north recognises victims and survivors regardless of which jurisdiction in which they reside. This group provides a valuable service to those victims and survivors of conflict who now live in the south. Victims regardless of were they reside are entitled to support.
“Sinn Féin have been in regular contact with the group and they have met with the Deputy First Minister as we sought to ensure the support to all victims and survivors. To date the First Minister has refused to even meet with the group
“Efforts to secure money from victims funding streams in the six counties were blocked by the DUP. This was disgraceful and the DUP need to explain publicly why they are so opposed to a group set up to campaign for the truth around UVF bombings. A group that provides support to those injured or bereaved from throughout Ireland
“There is an obligation on all groups under the Good Friday Agreement to recognise and assist victims of the conflict.
“Time is now short to keep the Dublin office up and running. What is required now is for the Irish government and the DUP to recognise the work being undertaken by this group and urgently reassess the decision block funding.” ENDS
The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Workers Rights, Martin Ferris TD, has rejected a call from IBEC for the Minimum Wage to be frozen. He was responding to a claim by Brendan McGinty that this was an essential element to allowing businesses to recover.
Deputy Ferris said: “IBEC’s call for the Minimum Wage to be frozen is only the latest in a series of moves to undermine the living standards of low paid workers. We have already seen cuts in the wages of low paid public servants and the Government had indicated a number of months ago that it would introduce legislative changes to allow companies to opt out of agreed minimum rates on the basis of an ‘inability to pay’ clause.
“This is not acceptable and merely seeks to put the onus for the economic crisis on those least able to afford any further cuts in their wages and living standards. The Minimum Wage as it stands is already at a low level and one wonders how IBEC imagine people would be able to survive if they were forced to live on even less than that. There is also a huge level of hypocrisy on both the part of the employers organisations and the Government. While they are happy to advocate and implement wage cuts, they are also content to basically allow the state to subsidise low paying employers through the Family Income Supplement.
“My party and I am certain the trade union movement will be vigoursly opposing any moves to freeze the Minimum Wage and other agreed minimum rates wherever that attempt is made, including through changes to existing labour legislation.”
Speaking today after it was revealed that a string of lenders are going to hike interest rates by around 0.5% on mortgages within weeks, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Finance Arthur Morgan has said that these planned increases are another assault on ordinary people who have already paid a heavy price for bailing out the banks.
Deputy Morgan also reiterated Sinn Féin’s call for a State bank to ensure low cost services to Irish households.
Deputy Morgan said:
“Moves by EBS to increase its mortgage interest rates last week have set a precedent for other financial institutions in this State. Today’s news that four other lenders are set to increase their interest rates next month is another assault on the ordinary people of this State who have already paid a heavy price for bailing out the banking sector.
“Ireland’s credit rating has been downgraded once more because of the Governments bank bailouts, we have a budget deficit originating in correcting this morally corrupt banking sector and the burden of NAMA will be a generational debt for the citizens of this State. The banks of this State are systemically rotten and their profit-driven motivations have, and are continuing to cripple the Irish economy.
“The reality of today’s revelations of further interest increases is the equivalent to having to work one extra month a year to pay the increase. For citizens who have bailed out this very banking sector and who are facing another crippling budget because of the hole left in the public finances because of bank recapitalisations, this is a callous and cruel move by the banks.
“Sinn Féin has been vocal in calling for a state bank and the need for nationalisation of AIB and Bank of Ireland could never be more essential than today. We need a bank that will offer low cost services to Irish households, funding new homes, lowering the costs of paying for existing ones. In return for the recapitalisation of these banks, ordinary taxpayers have been dealt a series of blows to their personal finances.
“It is truly illogical that the banks can seek public money to rescue them but their profit motivation overrides the public interest. We need nationalisation and a State Bank to make sure that individuals and businesses have access to credit at fair rates and we need to make sure the state continues to have its own bank well into the future.” ENDS
Reacting to the news that a man was stabbed to death in Tempo and a woman was seriously injured, Sinn Féin councillor for the area Pat Cox said:
"There is a deep sense of shock in the area. Nobody expects a thing like this to happen in a small, quiet village like Tempo. At the minute, people are trying to come to terms with the shocking news that someone was killed here."
Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh South Tyrone, Michelle Gildernew said:
"I am deeply saddened to learn of this brutal murder. The news comes as a great shock to all of us and my thoughts at this time are with the injured woman who remains in hospital and the family of the deceased man. Never, in all my years as an elected representative, did I ever expect something like this to happen in Tempo and I know that the community as a whole are shocked by this incident."
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan has called for the creation of an open and transparent budgetary process which is inclusive of all parties. Deputy Morgan was speaking today in advance of the Government Cabinet meeting to discuss how to cut €3billion from the budget.
He said economic analysis has been dominated by failings of Government policy and it is now times for full public disclosure on the budgetary process.
Deputy Morgan said:
“The Government are creating a black hole in the public finances with bank bailouts and are trying to fill it in by making unjust and socially crippling cuts to ordinary people. Economic analysis has been dominated by the failings of Government policy, especially in respect of the banking sector, and now it is time for full public disclosure on the budgetary process.
“I am calling on the Government here today to create an open and transparent budgetary process, inclusive of all parties. There has been a manifest failure on the Government’s behalf in terms of the economy and it is now time for the Government to create a dialogue with the opposition and others to create a budget that is right for the people of this State.
“While billions of euro is being pumped mercilessly into the banks at the drop of a hat, citizens across this State have been told to gear up for another crippling austerity budget that will obliterate what is left of our public services. This will not lead to economic recovery.
“Policy making needs to take place at the heart of key public bodies and budgetary deliberations need to be open to all sides of the Oireachtas. There needs to be discourse and exchanges of ideas between all parties in advance of the Budget and the Government needs to make sure that each stage of the process is transparent.
“It is imperative that the Government and the Minister for Finance create a working engagement with opposition parties on the Budget. The Government has no credibility in terms of the economy and yesterday’s credit rating downgrade is proof. Only an open, transparent and consultative budgetary process can be credible and it is the only chance of Budget 2011 delivering economic recovery.” ENDS
Bairbre de Brún MEP has welcomed the EU funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Summer Games in Gaza and said she hopes this will be a prelude to full and adequate funding for all the UNRWA operations in the area.
Ms de Brún said
“The UNRWA Summer Games play a hugely important role in helping young people in Gaza to develop their full potential and in improving the lives, for even a short time, of those who are still under siege.
“I hope the importance of these activities for young people can be supported and respected by all. Through recreation, they provide valuable opportunities for building self-esteem and practical skills as well a providing enjoyment and a welcome relief from the enormous day-to day pressures these young people face.
“UNRWA activities are facing huge funding problems at present and recent discussions in the European parliament have shown the urgent need to ensure that the basic services that UNRWA provides can be maintained at a level that inspires confidence in the local population rather than diminishes it. This is not solely the responsibility of the EU but we must play our part.
“In recent times UNRWA have had to cut back on their basic services, programmes and projects although the level of need is extremely high.
“I hope that this very welcome EU funding for the UNRWA Summer Games in Gaza will be a prelude to full and adequate funding of all UNRWA operations in the area,” ENDS
Commenting after the British Government released a summary of the responses to their consultation on the Eames/Bradley Report, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Victims issues Francie Molloy said:
“It is hardly a surprise that there has been a variety of responses to the Eames/Bradley proposals. However there is a concern that today’s exercise by the NIO is about using the lack of consensus as an excuse to park this issue.
“The reality is that you will not get a consensus on dealing with the past amongst political parties, primarily because the future is still contested. To seek such a consensus and elevate it to the status of a precondition to dealing with the past is at best naive.
“What we are clearly saying, and we have been saying this consistently for years, what is required is an international truth recovery mechanism which examines the causes and consequences of the conflict and which is independent of the state, combatant groups, political parties, civic society and economic interests. That is the only way to ensure maximum confidence and maximum participation.” ENDS
Sinn Fein Dublin City Council group leader Councillor Larry O’Toole has slammed the massive waste of money that has been incurred already and is still to come because of the Poolbeg Incinerator.
O’Toole said questions had to answered about the cost surrounding the incinerator when in every other area of public spending cuts are being made.
Speaking today Councillor O’Toole said:
“From the very start of this project, Sinn Féin has been the only party to oppose the incinerator on Dublin City Council, with Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour all variously supporting incineration as a method of waste disposal. Our approach was based on environmental concerns but the financial implications of the project came into it. We had discovered in 2008 for example that the DCC manager had already spent €20 million on public relations relating to the incinerator in the ten years since it was announced.
“We know now that as delays continue on the project, Ireland could be facing fines of up to €500,000 a day because we are not complying with EU landfill directives. There are many questions to be answered by the parties who supported this project which is now an albatross around the neck of DCC and Irish taxpayers’.
“First and foremost, we should be told if Coventa, the American company behind the project that has actually been fined in the US for breaching environmental laws, has a ‘comfort letter’. This letter would mean they would receive a significant pay-off were the incinerator not to go ahead. Whether they get a pay-off, or John Gormley continues to delay the project, it all boils down to multiple of millions of taxpayers’ money been blown at a time when every other area of public spending is being cut.
“Sinn Fein was correct to oppose this project from its inception and again we have shown political judgement far exceeding other political parties. It's time for them to ‘fess up to their monumental mistake of supporting incineration and start coming up with a plan as to how we extricate ourselves both practically and financially from this mess.” ENDS
Speaking at the MacGill Summer School in Co. Donegal today Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty called for a radical overhaul of the current electoral system. He said “Our electoral system and the Oireachtas are not fit for a modern democracy. The electoral system has given us an Oireachtas that is largely male, middle class and middle aged. It is not surprising that it is so unrepresentative.”
Senator Doherty said:
“There is widespread public belief that the political system has failed us. Public disillusionment with politics has grown as the role of the government and the establishment parties in bringing about the economic crisis has become more apparent. It has been exacerbated by revelations of corruption, outrageous expenses claims and a dull and ineffectual Oireachtas.
“Many people have no engagement whatsoever with our electoral system – they are not on the electoral register and they do not vote. Those most estranged from our electoral system and from politics come from the most disadvantaged communities in the state.
“Any reform of our political system must have as one of its first objectives to increase the participation of citizens, particularly those who currently do not participate, in the political process at all levels from voting to holding office.
“Our electoral system and the Oireachtas are not fit for a modern democracy. The electoral system has given us an Oireachtas that is largely male, middle class and middle aged. It is not surprising that it is so unrepresentative.
“If we are serious about addressing the warped political culture in this state that will require a radical shift that seeks an end to cronyism and an end to the privileged position enjoyed by an elite in this state.
“As someone who is currently in the process of taking a judicial review against the Government over the failure to hold a by-election in a constituency where there has been a vacancy for over 13 months, I am acutely aware of some of the flaws in the electoral system.
“There should be no requirement to go to the courts on such an issue – a time limit for the holding of by elections should be set down in law.”
In relation to the Seanad, Senator Doherty said:
“As a member of the Seanad I have to say that the current Seanad serves no useful purpose and should be abolished. As it is currently constituted is not a democratic institution and merely reproduces the existing balance of power in the Dáil and acts as a rubber stamp for the Government.
While there is a case to be made for a system with two houses of parliament for this to make sense they have to have two clear, separate defined roles.
The current Seanad is an affront to democracy, giving votes to people based on their educational attainment, giving multiple votes to members of local authority and ensuring a government majority through 11 Taoiseach nominees.
We could have a Seanad elected by a list system which seeks to represent civic society and minorities (a type of civic forum) or one that is more structured like the United States senate where each of the 32 countieswould have one representative directly elected, regardless of the population size, while representatives would continue to be elected to the Dáil based on the basis that they represent a set number of electors.” ENDS
Among Senator Doherty’s proposals to overhaul the current electoral system are:
- the abolition of the current Seanad,
- the reduction of the voting age to 16,
- the introduction of larger multi-seat constituencies and the introduction of voting rights for Irish citizens living abroad.
- The holding of Elections at weekends
- A time limit for the holding of by elections should be set down in law.”
- Establishment of an independent Electoral Commission
- A new constitution to accompany electoral reform.
- Dáil to play a stronger role in holding the government to account
- An end to the situation where positions on state boards are doled out as rewards to supporters of whatever party happens to be in government. There also needs to be a cull of quangos and unelected bodies to cut back on waste and improve transparency and efficiency in decision-making.
- New rules that prevent people making moves like this straight from government to the heart of those bodies trying to wield influence over government policies.
- A major transformation of local government is also required including an increase in councilors’ powers to include appropriate local control over the provision of services including greater local control over budgets and financing of local government.
Sinn Fein Vice President Marylou McDonald has called on the Labour party and Eamon Gilmore to explain their commitment to cutting public services. McDonald made her call following an interview with Eamon Gilmore on RTÉ this morning where he reiterated his party's support of government economic policy, which will inflict €3 billion in cuts in this year's budget.
“The first words out of Eamon Gilmore's mouth this morning concerning the economy were that he agrees and his party agrees wholeheartedly with the Government’s economic 'plan' which would see €3 billion cut from the state's budget in December.
“Sinn Fein and in fact the Congress of Trade Unions, do not agree with the Government’s strategy. We do not believe the Government’s deficit reduction timeline is either viable or will be achieved. In fact, we have seen from yet another credit downgrading today that if anything the international credit ratings agencies are punishing us as a result of the government's ill thought out plan.
“The 2013 deadline to bring the deficit to within 3% will not be met and the harsh cuts regime being pursued by government and supported by Labour is actually contracting the economy, not expanding it. The Labour party seems content to join the government in ignoring the elephant in the room – the billions and billions in debt being incurred to bail out the banks while ordinary people are being told to tighten their belts and sacrifice their public services.
“Basically, the Labour Party does not know what it is talking about on the economy. They led the charge in the auction politics of 2007 and joined their right-wing counterparts in ridiculing my party for highlighting the need to stabilise taxes and curtail the property bubble. They are still religiously following the government line and attempting populist politics at the same time.
“I am calling on the Labour party to come out and explain their commitment to cuts in the next budget. They should outline what these cuts will be. Already their Dublin council members have told us that they will be implementing the harshest budget that this city has ever seen come December, with €35 million in cuts. People have a lot to fear if the Labour Party manages to get its hands on this state’s purse strings.” ENDS
Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris has said that the location of a Global Pharmaceutical Centre of Excellence would be a monumental achievement for Tralee and Kerry. Deputy Ferris, who attended a meeting on the project in Tralee last week, said it would transform the economic landscape of the entire region for generations to come. However he urged caution saying that the planning for the project was at a delicate stage and that a lot more work would have to be done before it was delivered.
Deputy Ferris, who has been working for several months with other elected representatives to help bring this centre to Kerry, said: “If this project comes to fruition, which is what everyone is working towards, it would represent a monumental achievement for Tralee, Kerry and indeed Ireland. The fact that Tralee has been earmarked as the possible location of this centre of excellence proves what some of us have been saying for many years: that Tralee and Kerry has an awful lot to offer to potential investors.
“I would urge people to remain cautious because this is at a delicate stage and nothing is delivered on yet. A lot of work has already gone into it, but a lot more will have to be done before we can be sure this will come off.
“The actual scale of the project is very ambitious. There would be 4380 graduates; 116 leading Academic Professors and 321 Corporate Management Executives.
“This centre would have the potential to become the largest single place of employment on the entire island of Ireland. The cost of investment is in the region €4.5 billion, and would employ people from various specialties from Science, Pharmaceutical, Engineering and IT graduates; nurses, doctors, secretarial and admin staff; solicitors, accountants, web and graphic designers; carpenters, electricians and plumbers.
“This would be the largest research and development centre in the world and it would undoubtedly transform the economic landscape of the town and county for generations to come. The positive knock-on effect for businesses, retailers and tourism providers in North and South Kerry, and indeed further afield, would be absolutely massive.
“It is my understanding that the Centre would have a 10 year cycle for research and development and, depending on the success of the project, another 10 cycle after that. I hope that everyone locally from a political and commercial point of view and the government’s agencies will throw their entire weight to behind ensuring that this project is delivered for Kerry and indeed the entire South-west. ENDS
I am very pleased to have been given the opportunity to deliver this year’s John Hume Lecture. When I was in Liverpool this week for the awarding of the City of Culture title to Derry I was very pleased to see John and Pat Hume celebrating in Derry’s Guildhall, an announcement of immense cultural and economic significance for the North-West and our entire island. I have no doubt that those passionate about arts and culture in Ireland will rally to the cause for 2013.
And whilst the past week brought a great result for Derry, we who are from Derry are deeply sensitive to the fact that the Buncrana area of Inis Eoin, a place very close to my heart, was plunged into unbearable grief and sadness, with the deaths of eight people, seven of them young men, with their lives before them and the eight man in his sixties.
On this occasion here in County Donegal I want to extend sympathy to the families and the people of Inis Eoin who suffered this appalling tragedy at around this time last Sunday. Suaimhneas síoraí dóibh uile.
John Hume, like Gerry Adams, myself and others in the Sinn Féin leadership, took huge political risks and faced, at times, vilification in order to make a beginning to the Irish Peace Process.
For that enormous contribution John Hume has quite rightly been honoured and he continues to be recognised fittingly in this Annual Lecture. I am happy to join the list of speakers who have given the lecture and to acknowledge again John Hume’s pivotal role in helping to initiate and to build the Peace Process and all that has flowed from it.
The fundamental premise for that was that the status quo was not an option; and that a process of change was required.
The Peace Process moved us from the tragedy of conflict to an era of dialogue, negotiation and a new political dispensation. As a result, the political landscape in the North has been utterly transformed in recent years. The demilitarisation of society, the existence of fully functioning all-Ireland political institutions and the transfer of powers on policing and justice from Britain to the North are all evidence that the Peace Process is delivering and that politics is working. This is a work in progress.
However, there remain small groups and individuals who cannot grasp the political realities of Ireland in 2010; that is, that change has happened, that it is ongoing, that it is unstoppable and that the status quo they hanker back to is unacceptable. They can be found in the unrepresentative militarist factions who continue to carry out armed actions and the criminal elements who operate under the cover of bogus patriots. This was graphically illustrated last week in Ardoyne, where it is widely believed that many of those who sat on the road wearing t-shirts describing themselves as, residents not dissidents, told those anxious for a riot, many of them children, to do so only after they had left the road. Regrettably the Orange Order also appear rooted to the past and unwilling to join with the rest of us in making necessary compromises in the interests of peace and progress. They continue to refuse to talk to nationalists and hold the rest of society to ransom, over a tiny number of contentious parades out of thousands of Loyal Order marches each summer.
The sectarianism played out on the streets of Belfast in recent days needs to be tackled. I have long argued that the Orange Order themselves could transform relationships by taking a bold initiative, by thinking of the greater good and by stepping forward and making their contribution to a new and better future. By dealing with the issue of contentious parades in a generous fashion the Orange Order has the potential to build a new relationship with their Catholic neighbours. My door remains open to them always.
These issues are the legacies of an island emerging from four decades of conflict and point to the fact that Ireland needs a process of National Reconciliation. The recent publication of the report of the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday, the reaction of the new British Prime Minister David Cameron and the exoneration of the 14 people murdered on the streets of my home city that day has the potential to be a defining moment in such a process.
Republicans caused much hurt during the conflict. I have acknowledged that and as a republican leader I accept my responsibilities both for the past, for building a new future and importantly for ensuring that the truth about the past is told – for the victims and survivors but also to ensure that mistakes are not repeated in the future.
I repeat here tonight a call for the establishment of an independent international truth recovery process – one which is victim-centred and which can generate the confidence necessary for full participation.
I along with other republican leaders have made it clear that we will participate in such a process. We now need the same commitment from the British Government and from unionist leaders. We need to go beyond simply telling the stories of the past 40 years. We need to examine the root causes of the conflict as well as the consequences.
Within civic society across the island we have much to share and to learn from. One of the effects of partition has been the separate development of communities whether on religious grounds in the North or between the communities North and South. Yet we all share common problems that do not recognise any border.
I believe that greater cooperation within civic society can bring about innovation, create change and promote best practice. In particular we need to jointly address the issues of community regeneration, sustainable economic growth, environmental protection, sectarianism, racism, road safety, child protection and social inclusion. Again I would ask what more can civic society do to deepen our understanding and our actions in addressing these issues.
While highlighting areas for additional activity I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to those in civic society who have and continue to be vital to social cohesion in Ireland. In some cases they are the very threads that hold our society together.
I am thinking of the community sector, the trade union movement, the GAA and other sporting bodies, the credit union movement, and ordinary grassroots activists across this island.
The recent cycle of economic growth and recession demonstrates the interdependent nature of the economy North and South. The establishment of the Northern committee of NAMA, dealing with 5 Billion Euro worth of loans, demonstrates the level of our interdependence.
For too long the economy of the border counties has been the victim of the changing tides of cross border trade. This level of volatility and instability undermines the economy of the community living along the Border. We need to develop joint processes that will create the stability vital to sustainable development.
On a national level there is no advantage to having two competing economic development agencies vying with each other for Foreign Direct Investment. It is counter-productive. It confuses investors and drives down value as we compete to provide the cheapest option.
As one US investor recently said in relation to the North — “It is hard to get excited about a market place and labour pool of 1.5 million people, but when you look at 6 million people then it gets interesting.”
So we need to plan our economy on an all-Ireland basis. The plan must identify how to use our assets, our people, our universities and our reputation to grow the economy in a sustainable and beneficial way.
We do not have the luxury of a long time to ponder this. We are in the middle of the greatest economic challenge to our nation and we need to act quickly and strategically. The decisions we arrive at will have implications for generations to come. Let’s not repeat the past. Let’s not circle the wagons. Let’s look at how we grow the economy and how we can deliver for all.
We are told that statistically the recession is over but anyone who believes that has to be living in cloud cuckoo land.
We have close to half a million people unemployed in Ireland, some 450,000 of them in this State. Emigration from our country is now being measured once again in the tens of thousands per year. Nowhere is it worse than here in County Donegal which, even during the Celtic Tiger years, did not enjoy the benefits of the economic upturn to the extent of other parts of the state.
Businesses of all sizes are closing. Families are struggling with massive mortgage debt. People dependent on social welfare are being pushed further into poverty. Our public services are subject to cuts that are challenging their ability to meet basic needs in health and education.
And alongside that we have the spectacle of the bankers walking away with super huge golden handshakes.
Over 70 percent of the population live in debt on a week-to-week, year-by-year basis
The top five percent of the population held 40 percent of the state’s wealth whilst those on the lowest ten percent household income group struggle to get by on less than €158 a week.
The vast majority of people see and understand clearly where the responsibility for all of this lies.
There is a myth that everyone in Ireland was having a wild party during the Celtic Tiger years. This is untrue. It is also insulting to the vast majority of people. It is important to point this out because if we forget what happened in the very recent past we are liable to repeat the same mistakes. There were alternative roads to follow, roads that we now need to travel.
The question we have to ask now is not just what to do next but how well equipped are the people of Ireland to address the huge problems we face.
The growing gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have noughts’, the rewarding of private greed at the expense of the public good, the failure to think strategically and in the long term interests of the citizens needs to end.
As always, partition complicates matters. In the North we are tied to the British Exchequer and our Executive and Assembly are denied fiscal autonomy. We do not have revenue-raising powers and are dependent on a block grant from London which is based on Barnett– a population statistic based formula rather than need and which takes no account of the legacy of partition and decades of underfunding by the British government.
In the 6 Counties Catholics remain twice as likely as Protestants to be unemployed.
100,000 children in relative poverty and 44,000 children living in severe poverty
Of the 20 areas in the north suffering highest levels of deprivation 17 are nationalist.
We are now faced with a massive reduction in the block grant to the North. In this situation we in the Executive and Assembly must battle to protect public services from cuts. It is a huge challenge.
The current situation emphasises, as never before, the need for the Executive and the Assembly to have fiscal autonomy and for the economy in the North to be more closely integrated with the rest of Ireland.
The effects of recession are worsened and our ability to respond effectively is hampered by the existence of two currencies, two different tax and social welfare regimes, two sets of public services and all the inefficiency and duplication that entails.
I need not tell people in County Donegal, the neighbouring County to my native County of Derry, about the disruptive effect of Partition on the Border Counties themselves. Greater cross-border co-operation and integration is an economic necessity.
My party has continually raised the issue of duplication of administration in an island the size of ours. We cannot sustain such duplication. We have two Health systems, two education systems, two Arts councils, two sports councils, three bodies with responsibility for tourism, and as I already highlighted two competing economic development agencies.
We have patients and families in the North having to travel to England for treatment that is available in Dublin. We have patients in Letterkenny travelling to Dublin when the same services are available in Derry.
The Border has a negative impact on all communities who live along it.
Two currencies, two tax systems and a myriad of issues which affect citizens' everyday existence — things like wages, pensions, benefits, terms and conditions — all of these are daily 'bugbears' for people living in this region, and especially for those who have to cross the invisible border to work in the "other jurisdiction".
These are only examples of duplication of administration and while they have a cost implication the lack of co-ordination also impacts on the quality of service.
To get the best out of our public spending, we need to end this duplication and competition and develop and deliver co-ordinated services on an all-Ireland basis.
The North-South Ministerial Council and the All-Ireland bodies are doing good work in this regard but much, much more needs to be done.
Both in terms of democratic governance in Ireland North, South, East and West and in terms of the economy of the island, I believe that we need to be bold in our thinking and to aim high.
The theme ‘Reforming the Republic’ for me does not mean tinkering with two partitioned political and economic systems on our small island!
The Irish Republicanism I believe in holds that a national republic has yet to be achieved. It holds that it is futile to speak of ‘renewing the republic’ or ‘reforming the republic’ without addressing the need to end partition and to bring together all the people of Ireland. And to achieve this through purely peaceful and democratic means is I believe a flag we can all rally to.
We need a national debate on the desirability of Irish unity and on how it can be brought about. That debate must, of necessity, involve unionists. I reject the view that to even speak of unity is ‘damaging’ or ‘backward looking’ or a threat to the institutions established under the Good Friday Agreement and the St. Andrew’s Agreement.
The Good Friday Agreement provides an agreed mechanism for bringing about the reunification of Ireland. Unity is not an issue of the past. It is a live issue of the present and, I firmly believe, the direction in which we are all ultimately heading. How best and how soon to reach that goal is the question we need to address.
A start could be made next year by granting to Irish citizens in the Six Counties the right to vote in the Presidential Election. The current Uachtarán na hÉireann is a native of Belfast but if she had still lived there at the time of her election she would not have been able to vote for herself.
Provision should be made for such voting rights, not only for citizens in the North, but also for Irish citizens living abroad. Voting rights are granted by many states to their citizens living abroad, within a reasonable period from their leaving the home country. At a time of renewed mass emigration it would be a real recognition of the importance and value of our recent exiles if such rights were granted. Patrick MacGuill was, after all, one of our exiles forced out by poverty.
We need a re-built the Irish economy, an all-Ireland economy. We need strategies for saving and creating jobs; reforming the tax system to ensure the wealthy are paying their fair share; eradicating waste in public spending, such as exorbitant executive salaries; drawing up a realistic debt repayment structure on the basis of a growing economy, that will grow if it is invested in; and fully regulating a new finance system with necessary secure measures like stronger capital requirements for banks and the supervision of credit rating agencies.
All of this should be done with the aim of building an economy to serve the people. This would provide the basis for a transformed, equitable and efficient health service, education with access for all, decent and affordable housing, sound social welfare support for everyone who needs it and security for our older citizens.
A political system in which careerism for personal gain has for some come before commitment to public service must look seriously at itself to ensure our island economy is run not on the basis of individual greed but the good of all.
We need to renew our commitment to public service and to the common good. When we as a people have achieved great things in the past we have done so because individuals put the nation before themselves. That is the spirit of the 1916 Proclamation of the Republic and the Democratic Programme of the first Dáil Éireann.
For me, renewing the Republic, means applying the principles of those documents to our own time. It means unity, equality and lasting peace for all the people who share this island. It means building an Ireland of Equals.
This 30th Patrick MacGuill Summer School gathers as we enter the decade which marks the centenary of a number of defining events in Irish history including the Great Lockout of 1913, the Easter Rising, the Battle of the Somme, the Ulster Covenant and the Partition of Ireland. Nobody should be afraid of commemorating or debating these landmarks in our history.
It is right to recognise the heroism of those who stood for the vision of the Irish republic articulated on Easter Sunday 1916. A republic that pledged:
‘religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally’
The Proclamation remains a living testimony to the vision and commitment of the leaders of 1916.
And it continues to represent a charter for change for Irish Republicans. It spells out the unfinished business and what is required to complete it.
To build the united independent Ireland of Equals it invites us once again to bring together all strands of Irish nationalism, republicanism and the labour movement.
It challenges us to become persuaders, to reach out the hand of friendship to all who share this island with us, particularly unionists, to build new alliances, to devise and develop new strategies and shared positions and to build and broaden support for this objective.
It is also right to recognise in the period ahead the sacrifice of those Irishmen who fought in the First World War. While some may question the value of their actions no one can set aside the scale of the loss or doubt the personal tragedy.
Republicans have no wish to erase the memory of their bravery or their part in Irish history. Many working class Irishmen fought in the British Army at that time because of the unrelenting poverty that they and their families experienced. Their motivation and their experience were articulated by Tom Kettle, an Irish National Volunteer, who shortly before his death at the Somme in September 1916 wrote these lines to his daughter:
Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
Died not for Flag, nor King, nor Emperor,
But for a dream, born in a herdsman's shed,
And for the Secret Scripture of the poor.
Among the courageous Irishmen who gave their lives in that war also were those who fully believed in their actions and the choices they took. Their sacrifice and their loss are no less worthy of remembrance.
The experiences of republicans, nationalists, unionists and all others form part of our collective memory. They are part of who we are as a community, as a nation.
While we must remember these events we also must critically engage with our past. The past one hundred years, while a fraction of the life of the nation, was taken up by partition, divergence, exclusion and conflict.
These failures must be consigned to the past. I believe that Ireland is now set on a course towards unity, convergence, inclusion, and lasting peace.
This is not a bland aspiration. In this way we will deliver equality, prosperity and reconciliation for all our people in all their diversity. In this way we will build a nation of which our children can be proud and a republic worthy of the name.
Speaking today after credit agency Moodys downgraded Ireland's government bond ratings, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Finance Arthur Morgan said that this was an indictment of the inadequacy of Government policy concerning the banks. Deputy Morgan also said that the effect of this downgrade would be crippling for the whole economy as the higher cost of borrowing would lead to a further restriction in credit for SMEs and households.
Deputy Morgan said:
“The cost of borrowing will increase for the Irish Government as a result of their unfettered allegiance to an ailing banking system and especially the zombie Anglo Irish bank. Once more, the inadequacy of Government policy concerning the banks has been revealed.
“The consequences for the wider Irish economy of this downgrade will be crippling- the increase in the cost of borrowing for the Government will manifest across the whole economy. Access to credit will become further restricted to SMEs and households as the ripple effect takes hold.
“The Government’s home grown crisis, which has produced weak banking and property sectors, is once more curbing economic growth. The ratings agency attributed the Government's gradual but significant loss of financial strength for the downgrade. Propping up zombie banks comes at a high cost to the ordinary people of this State.
“This Government will be paying a higher price for borrowing on the international markets, borrowing that is being done to plug the massive hole in the public finance left from pumping billions of euro in the banks and to keep Anglo on life-support.
“The Minister needs to wake up and realise that the Government are prolonging our crisis. Today’s reaction by Moodys to the Governments banking policy is an indictment that their approach is failing as international confidence is falling dramatically. It is time the Government reordered their priorities and placed less emphasis on redundant banks like Anglo Irish and more on domestic recovery through job creation.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Councillor Seán Crowe has called on management at St. James’ Hospital to clarify its position regarding the workers who are to move there from St. Lukes.
Councillor Crowe was speaking this evening after getting word that management at St. James’ are trying to introduce a proposal to outsource the work. He said this would be a clear breach of the Croke Park Agreement.
Councillor Crowe said:
“Workers at St. Luke’s have already had to deal with the devastating news that they are to be moved to St. James’ and now we are hearing that management there are considering outsourcing their jobs.
“This would be an outrageous proposal and a clear breach of the Croke Park Agreement if management at St. James’ attempt to push it through.
“I am calling on them to clarify their position on this issue. They need to confirm that those workers who are due to move from St. Luke’s will not have their jobs outsourced to a private firm.” ENDS
Reacting to the reports of the Public Accounts Committee in relation to the bank guarantee scheme that revealed that the Government based its €400 billion bank guarantee scheme on the belief that €500 billion in assets was held by the banks, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Finance Arthur Morgan has said that the false truths that were provided by the banks in relation to their assets have exposed the taxpayer to a litany of debt. Deputy Morgan also said that given that this was a home-grown crisis it was not feasible that the banks would absorb these losses.
Deputy Morgan said:
“The information supplied by the banking system in the run-up to the guarantee was falsified and the banks dramatically over-estimated the value of their assets. The mis-information and inaccuracy of forecasts surrounding these assets tainted the considerations of officials in the run-up to the guarantee. The result of these false truths is that the taxpayer has been exposed to a litany of debt of generations to come.
“A document produced by the Department of Finance revealed that there was ‘significant capacity within the institutions to absorb any losses’ from the property market. Lest we forget that this was a home-grown crisis, spurred on by the Government over-dependence on the property market and the willingness of banks to lend to developers without substantive guarantees, the artificial nature of the interconnected property and banking sectors was never going to be able to absorb the losses once the bubble burst.
“Indeed, the analysis provided by Merrill Lynch on options available to Government was admittedly ‘based only on information from and conversations with the three main institutions’.
“The harsh reality was that the Department of Finance, because of false truths supplied by the corrupt banks, produced a document based on wishful thinking, which has now left the people of this State liable for billions of euro worth of losses incurred by the banks and developers of this State.
“The privileged position of the banking sector in Ireland was upheld by this Government and their officials, to the detriment of the ordinary people of this State. The Government took on a bank guarantee scheme, making citizens liable, on the pretence of banking reports on the assets, which were grossly over-exaggerated.” ENDS
Commenting on the decision of the HSE not to discipline or censure any management figures in the wake of the HIQA report on foster care, Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said:
“It beggars belief that no action is to be taken by the HSE against management in the two Dublin areas where HIQA found massive management failures that endangered children. HSE managers are to remain unaccountable. That is totally unacceptable.
“The HIQA report clearly exposes neglect by managers, in contrast to the efforts of social workers who brought concerns to the attention of management but were not listened to. HIQA has identified the ‘lack of recognition at senior management level that child care regulations exist to safeguard and protect vulnerable children’.
“Questions must also be answered about the HSE agreement with IMPACT dating from 2001 which effectively allowed a situation to continue where Children First guidelines were not implemented.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan has called for progressive countries and political parties around the world to begin to work for the abolition of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which he described as a discredited and disreputable organisation. Morgan said the continuous flow of statements about Ireland was unwelcome and unhelpful and any statements made by the group referencing this state should be ignored.
Deputy Morgan said:
“The IMF’s record in predicting economic developments is woeful, but furthermore, their interference in sovereign state’s economic decision making under the guise of ‘expertise’ is ludicrous given the transparency now surrounding their ideological bias for capitalism. They have called it wrong repeatedly, and nothing has changed.
“The IMF has made continuous interfering comments regarding this state in recent times but they were only a taster in advance of a report on Ireland which will call for more cuts to public spending and what it calls ‘radical fiscal reform plans’. There is nothing radical, or workable, about contracting an economy to the point of depression. At the back of the Government’s and the IMF’s policies for Ireland is an agenda to restrict public and social transfers, and increase privatisation. These policies are designed to keep the wealthy comfortable while the ordinary worker is squeezed.
“It has been repeated ad nauseum how badly the IMF got not just the economic analysis for Ireland wrong, but also every other country’s. Anywhere they have dipped their incompetent fingers, they have left social deprivation in their wake. They are a discredited and disreputable organisation and I am calling for progressive countries and political parties to begin working for the abolition of this organisation once and for all. Their comments on Ireland are unwelcome and unhelpful.”
Reacting to the announcement today that Bank of Ireland is to cut 750 jobs, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Worker’s Rights Martin Ferris has condemned the cost-cutting exercise of Bank of Ireland that is exploiting frontline and lower paid workers.
Deputy Ferris said “Today’s announcement by Bank of Ireland to cut 750 jobs is another blow to the people of this State and further testament to the unfettered greed and self-interest of banks.
“This announcement of job cuts is the crux of its biggest cost-cutting exercise since the Government injected €3.5 billion of taxpayer’s money into the bank last year. Cost-cutting exercises in these profit-driven institutions continue to exploit frontline and lower paid workers, while simultaneously neglecting to reduce some of the extravagant salaries of their directors.
“The taxpayer has provided the banking system of this State with the crutch it needed, but in return the banking sector treat workers and people as expendable.”
Sinn Féin group leader on Dublin City Council Larry O’Toole has demanded that the Labour party come clean with the citizens of the city about their plans for Dublin amenities in the next Council budget. O’Toole made his call following recent announcements by Labour councillor Killian Forde in a Dublin newspaper where he said the next budget would be the harshest ever for the city.
Cllr. O’Toole said:
“Killian Forde said in a recent newspaper article that the Dublin City Council Budget this year would be the harshest ever for Dublin citizens, entailing cuts of €35 million. The Labour party, along with Fine Gael, is in control of DCC currently, so it is they will be formulating the budget.
“I am demanding that the Labour party come clean with Dublin residents as to where they intend to levy those cuts. Will they close swimming pools and librarys? Or will it be playgrounds and skate parks? The Labour party showed their disdain for Dublin residents when they took the bin charge waiver from the poorest residents of the city. We all know what they are capable of now.
“The Labour party, with its partner Fine Gael, is implementing at council level the same failed policy approach of cuts that it pursues at a national level. They have showed a slavish following of Government economic policy and a complete lack of imagination of how to handle Budget deficits.
“Sinn Féin will challenge the dangerous plan they have for Dublin and we will work to ensure they are not allowed run this city into the ground.” ENDS