Sinn Féin - On Your Side

The long wait for a job creation strategy continues – Ó Caoláin

3 February, 2009 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon on the economic crisis Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said the primary goal of the Government's economic recovery plan must be to safeguard the livelihoods of low and middle income workers and deliver a job creation strategy. He said Sinn Féin is not opposed to taxation and other measures to address the ailing public finances but stressed that low and middle income earners cannot carry the substantial burden.

Full text of Deputy Ó Caoláin's contribution follows:

"We are addressing the economic crisis once again in extraordinary circumstances. The breakdown of the talks with the trade union movement leadership in the early hours of this morning raises major questions about the intent of the Government in those negotiations and about their competence as negotiators. Why was the detail of the public service pension levy only tabled at the last minute? Was this a game of brinkmanship that the Government lost? Did it take the ICTU for granted? Or was it simply ham-fisted negotiation tactics?

"The result is an even greater mess that further undermines confidence in the economy and in the ability of this Government to plan and implement a strategy for recovery.

"The Taoiseach's decision to start discussions on the pension levy at the eleventh hour would seem to indicate that he was never fully committed to getting across-the-board agreement from the unions and the employers. In contrast to the unions it was very noticeable that the representatives of IBEC were pleased with what has taken place and seemed to have few complaints about what they had seen of Government plans. An ominous sign indeed for ordinary workers.

"Sinn Féin is not opposed to taxation and other measures to redress the country's ailing public finances. However we agree with the trade union movement that low to middle income earners cannot carry the substantial burden.

"Proposing a 3.8% pension levy for those on the lowest public service incomes whilst the CEO of the ESB continues to earn an annual salary of €534,998 and senior bank executives who have undermined the country's banking system and exposed Irish taxpayers to astronomical liabilities keep their jobs and a massive income is simply outrageous.

"The Taoiseach has told us of "immediate legislation" to put this new levy in place. Where is the immediate legislation to bring the swindling bank bosses to book? Where is the immediate legislation to give relief to mortgage holders facing untenable debt and the repossession of their homes?

"Sinn Féin believes the primary goal of the Government's economic recovery plan must be to safeguard the livelihoods of low and middle income workers and deliver a job creation strategy. Sinn Féin last October in its pre-Budget submission found almost €2 billion in saving for the exchequer yet the Government is still flailing in the dark.

"Confidence is crucial in steering us out of economic turmoil. But thanks to the Government's lack of strategy, confidence is ebbing away at both national and international level. We have to remember that it was the Taoiseach who was Minister for Finance at the time when private housing construction rose at an untenable rate. It was on the Taoiseach's watch that much of the irresponsible and reckless lending practices of the banks took place and it is now the Taoiseach who is responsible for the last six months which has seen the Government make one u-turn after another in their response to this economic crisis.

"What makes the Government's proposals even more difficult to swallow is that while money is being cut out of incomes of Irish workers, the Government continues to pour billions into the banks with almost no strings attached. We have also seen the nationalisation of Anglo-Irish which was simply a bail out of their property developer friends and which leaves the tax payer to pick up the bill for ever-increasing toxic debts.

"We recognise our public finance deficit. Sinn Féin has identified a key source of wastage of public spending in the private companies who are operating on the back of our public services. Yesterday the Minister for Health was once again opening another private for-profit health clinic in County Kildare which was substantively paid for by taxpayers' money. She has had the brass neck to be calling on everyone to share the pain of public spending cutbacks to finance her friends in the private health care industry. And it is this hypocritical approach to our public deficit which has led to the collapse in the partnership talks and has resulted in the Government imposing cutbacks in health and education and public transport and other vital public services.

"With the Government's almost complete obsession on cutting back on public spending, not a single thing has been done for our workers or our small and medium sized firms in the last six months.

"In the past four weeks we've seen Dell announce 1,900 job losses with a further related 4,000 jobs to go. 400 workers have been made redundant in Dundalk and only last Monday it was announced that 750 workers in Ulster Bank will join the growing queues at our social welfare offices.

"We have a crisis with Waterford Crystal that the Government has done almost done nothing about and our SMEs are still being strangled by the credit drought due to the Government's failure to put pressure on the banks.

"There is still a crisis developing with our mortgages and despite calls from economists and examples of a number of other countries launching initiatives to help struggling mortgage holders, the Government has yet to come up with a single concrete proposal.

"We are willing to provide the Government with ideas to tackle the deficit in our finances if the Government is willing to listen.

"But it is not simply a question of balancing the books, it also about producing proposals to get the economy moving again and thereby raising additional revenue. There is a need for a job creation strategy and there is a need for the state to now take a real role in our telecommunications infrastructure and our gas resources, given the failure of private companies to enhance our economy in those areas.

"The real front line in this economic crisis is not here in the Dáil or in partnership talks. It is in the workplace where workers face cuts in income if they are lucky and redundancy if they are not. I take this opportunity to send solidarity to the workers occupying Waterford Crystal and to support their demand that this flagship Irish industry be saved by direct Government intervention." ENDS

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