Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Building a prosperous and equal economy is at the core of Sinn Féin's vision for Ireland

9 December, 2007

Speaking today at Sinn Féin's major conference 'Engaging Modern Ireland' Sinn Féin TD and party Economic Spokesperson Arthur Morgan said building a prosperous and equal economy is at the core of Sinn Féin's vision for Ireland. It is a core part of what we are working for.

Deputy Morgan said: "We know that a vibrant economy is needed if the state is to have the resources needed to deliver our ambitious social programme.

"We appreciate that employment is central to people's identity as it is about having a place and playing a productive role within society. In this country we know well enough how unemployment destroys the social fabric, we remember clearly the devastation of emigration.

"We have seen great wealth created over the last decade in the 26 Counties. But the benefits of this prosperity have not been shared. The 'Celtic tiger' boom has more than anything else disproved the contention that a rising tide lifts all boats.

"The wealth created, and the taxes generated, have not been used to deliver quality and capacity in our public services. A large proportion of the population continues to survive on very low incomes -- in the 26 counties over 870,000 workers earn so little that they fall outside of the tax net while around 1 million people are in receipt of welfare payments of one kind or another. The lowest paid still battle for small improvements in their wages.

"For others, standards of living have improved but quality of life has deteriorated. People have greater access to consumer goods but they do not have access to an efficient and effective health service nor to affordable childcare. People earn more but they work longer hours and carry greater burdens of debt, particularly mortgage debt made worse by a series of interest rate hikes.

"More people are at work but many of them do not feel secure in their jobs. Those who entered the construction sector as manufacturing jobs haemorrhaged from regional towns are face uncertainty about their future prospects. Workers see hard fought for conditions of employment under threat as certain employers exploit the fact that agency workers do not enjoy equal rights.

"World class public services and infrastructure, the elimination of poverty and inequality, and a proliferation of vibrant creative enterprises providing sustainable jobs should have been the legacy of ten years of unequalled economic growth. Unfortunately this is not the case. We would do things differently. We are committed to managing the economy in the interest of the people of Ireland.

"Sinn Féin ministers are heading up two ministries within the Northern Executive which play a huge role in the development of the economy and have firmly put developing the economy at the centre of the business of the OFDFM. I say this only to illustrate that managing the economy is not an abstract concept for Sinn Féin, it is something with which we are already actively engaged in doing.

"Sinn Féin representatives engage on a daily basis with those who form the backbone of the economy -- with workers, entrepreneurs, retailers, hoteliers, pub and restaurant owners, the fishing and the farming community.

"Many of our members, like myself, come from a small business entrepreneurial background. We understand the concerns of those who continue to provide the vast majority of jobs in the economy. We know that they face particular pressures as the Government fails to tackle those factors that are undermining competitiveness.

"We want to ensure that they are assisted in introducing innovation and new technologies to their business. We want to work with them to build an economy that is strong, vibrant, prosperous, equal and sovereign. In the months ahead we will be engaging with people across Ireland on this issue.

"The economic climate in Ireland and internationally is less favourable than in recent years with a rise in oil prices, the declining value of the dollar and an international credit crunch and that Ireland now faces increasing competition from low wage economies in the accession states and in the middle and far east. An economy was built in the 26 Counties over recent years -- but it was built on sand -- left alone it has become flabby, as international developments in financial markets, banking and currency lead to less favourable economic circumstances the vulnerabilities in the economy have become increasingly apparent. "The government failed to intervene when it was clear that the economy was developing an unsustainable overdependence on the property and construction sector, and on domestic consumption.

"The over concentration on construction and property meant that it became more profitable to sell property than to exist as a small business. As a consequence some small businesses -- retailers and hotels in particular -- went out of business. It is unfortunate that the Government did more to bolster the property sector than it did to assist indigenous enterprises in the last 10 years.

"Ireland continues to suffer from significant infrastructure deficits and lags behind other states in terms of Research and Development capacity within enterprise. The level of engagement in upskilling and re-training by workers remains too low.

"Building the kind of economy that we want requires planning for its future including the public services, the infrastructure and the skills that will be needed. We need to decentralise power and resources to the regions to enable them to best advance their own economic potential. "Prudent management of public finances is needed to ensure that the revenue is available to provide for the improvement of capacity and key public services and to deliver improved social protections in order to ensure that the state is in the strongest possible position to meet and weather future economic challenges.

"We want economic management that delivers the best outcomes for all the people of Ireland -- that delivers economic vibrancy to rural Ireland and taps its long ignored potential. "The focus of economic management must now be on guiding the economy into a period of strong, people-centered, environmentally sustainable growth, characterised by strong employment and by better quality and better paid jobs.

"Recognising that we cannot compete on the basis of low wages, we need the identify those areas where we enjoy a competitive edge-- - We need to develop the agri-food sector which contributes twice as much in value added to the economy as other manufacturing areas -- in addition the development of this sector would assist - - in revitalising rural Ireland and thus ensure that small farmers hit by declining incomes have a future on the land. - We need to develop the tourism potential of the border regin

. "There needs to be a focus on improving competitiveness by addressing those factors which contribute to its achievement, including: - comprehensive infrastructure, - provision of healthcare and education, - investment in higher education and training, - technological readiness and - enhancing business sophistication through support for innovation, networking and clustering.

This is necessary in order to ensure that Ireland is in the strongest possible position to create new jobs and to weather future economic challenges. In addition: - We need a targeted and funded strategy to pre-emptively up-skill workers vulnerable to future jobs-losses following an assessment of sectors and geographic regions likely to experience job losses in the next five years. - We need to enhance the export potential of small and medium sized enterprises - We need to ensure that businesses with good entreprenurial ideas are facilitated in accessing finance and advice to help them grow their business and increase the numbers they employ. - Above all we need to integrate economies north and south to promote growth and end waste and inefficiency.

"I am confident that with the right vision and determination, through hands on management of the economy, prosperity can be sustained. In future we can have not only a strong, but also an equal economy -- an economy that delivers for all the people of Ireland, north and south, urban and rural and for those who have in the past been left behind." CRÍOCH

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