Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday in
support of a Sinn Féin motion urging that commercial semi-State companies
remain in public ownership and be used for job creation, Cavan-Monaghan Deputy
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin described the plan to sell off these assets as
Deputy Ó Caoláin stated that the EU Treaty would tie Irish
governments into such policies for many years and he welcomed the opportunity
for the Irish people to vote against the Treaty when the Taoiseach and Tánaiste
announced the referendum, earlier in the Dáil on Tuesday.
Deputy Ó Caoláin stated:
“The commercial semi-State companies – the ESB, Bórd Gáis,
Coillte, Aer Lingus – were built up over many years by the hard work of Irish
people and have been key pillars of the Irish economy. They have provided the
essential infrastructure without which no economy can grow. Energy, natural resources,
strategic transport links – all of these are indispensable assets which should
remain in public ownership.
“The succession of Fianna Fáil-led Governments from 1997
began the process of privatisation of these assets. In the case of Eircom they
were responsible for a huge debacle which should have been a lesson to the
present Government – indeed in opposition both Fine Gael and the Labour Party
repeatedly pointed to that reckless privatisation.
“In May 2005 Sinn Féin tabled a Private Members motion opposing
the privatisation of Aer Lingus. Speaking on behalf of the Labour Party, Deputy
Róisín Shortall said: “The
experience of the privatisation fiasco in Eircom should sound alarm bells for
us all. Deputy Shortall
was also correct when she told us then:“Privatisation really is the new
religion...Privatisation puts such services and assets at long-term risk and we
should not just abandon them at the ideological whim of the Coalition
"Perhaps the Labour deputies would care to tell us now
if the same applies to the current Coalition partners?
"I have not yet heard of any events to mark the
centenary this year of the establishment of the Irish Labour Party but I wonder
how the party will square its support in Government for this fire sale of State
assets to private profiteers with its claim to be the successors of James
Connolly and Jim Larkin?
"And what of Fine Gael? We should not be surprised at
their stance as they are clearly a party of the right and have championed
privatisation almost as much as the Progressive Democrats. But Fine Gael also
claims the mantle of the past – in their case of Michael Collins. Do they
recall what Collins wrote in ‘The Path to Freedom’?
“Ireland will provide splendid opportunities for the
investment of Irish capital, and it is for the Irish people to take advantage
of these opportunities. If they do not, investors and exploiters from outside
will come in to reap the rich profits which are to be made.”
"I have to say that in the case of Coillte I find it
especially reprehensible that the Government would even consider selling the
company’s harvesting rights. Coillte is the largest land-holder in the State
and while it is not – at present – proposed to sell its land, the Government is
selling access to that land and to its resources. If ever there was a strategic
asset our forestry and forestry land are strategic - yet here we have a plan to
abandon them to private interests with very serious long-term consequences for
rural Ireland and for the whole island.
"This plan to sell off the family silver is as reckless
as it is unnecessary. There is an alternative and we in Sinn Féin have set it
out in our motion.
"The Government should retain the people’s ownership in
these companies. The full potential of the companies has yet to be realised.
Instead of proceeding with its plan for wholesale privatisation the Government
should establish a Semi-State Strategy Group with responsibility for delivering
a strategic job creation and training project.
"All annual dividends paid to the State by the
commercial semi-State could be ploughed into this jobs and training strategy,
thus making a major contribution to economic recovery.
"The path the Government is following with this
privatisation plan and with its other austerity measures is the road to deeper
recession and long-term stagnation of the Irish economy. I am glad that the
people are going to have an opportunity, as announced today by the Taoiseach
and Tánaiste, to give their verdict on the latest EU Treaty which, if ratified,
would lock this and all future Governments for many years to come into the
austerity policies that are doing so much damage to our society and to our
"The people have an opportunity to stop this futile
strategy in its tracks and we in Sinn Féin are determined to ensure that they