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Re-shuffle will not create one job for the unemployed – Ó Caoláin

23 March, 2010 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD


Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Sinn Féin Dáil Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the cabinet re-shuffle announced by An Taoiseach will not create one job for the unemployed. Deputy Ó Caoláin said described the re-shuffle as a sham and said the Government should “be shuffling out of office with their heads held down in shame.”

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“We are being asked to vote for a sham today when An Taoiseach Brian Cowen asks us to endorse this reshuffled Cabinet. We will not endorse this charade of a Government which instead should be shuffling out of office with their heads held down in shame.

“The focus today is on jobs for the boys and girls in Fianna Fáil and the Green Party as Cabinet ministers and junior ministers. But looking on at this game of musical chairs are over 432,000 unemployed people in this State. And there are further thousands of others looking on from overseas where they have been forced to emigrate by the policies of this Government.

“One in four young people in Ireland is now unemployed. Unemployment among young people in the 26 Counties increased by 150% in a year to 85,000 at the start of 2010. Nationally the toll continues to rise towards half a million. If the figures for those who have emigrated as a result of the recession were taken into account, the half million figure would likely be exceeded.

“And what have unemployed young people got from the Government in response to their plight, from the Government that seeks our endorsement today? They have got a two-fingered Fianna Fáil/Green salute from a Coalition that cut dole payments for the young in Budget 2010.” ENDS

Full text of Deputy Ó Caoláin’s contribution follows:

Fianna Fáil/Green Cabinet Reshuffle 23/3/10
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, Sinn Féin Dáil Leader.

We are being asked to vote for a sham today when An Taoiseach Brian Cowen asks us to endorse this reshuffled Cabinet. We will not endorse this charade of a Government which instead should be shuffling out of office with their heads held down in shame.

The focus today is on jobs for the boys and girls in Fianna Fáil and the Green Party as Cabinet ministers and junior ministers. But looking on at this game of musical chairs are over 432,000 unemployed people in this State. And there are further thousands of others looking on from overseas where they have been forced to emigrate by the policies of this Government.

One in four young people in Ireland is now unemployed. Unemployment among young people in the 26 Counties increased by 150% in a year to 85,000 at the start of 2010. Nationally the toll continues to rise towards half a million. If the figures for those who have emigrated as a result of the recession were taken into account, the half million figure would likely be exceeded.

And what have unemployed young people got from the Government in response to their plight, from the Government that seeks our endorsement today? They have got a two-fingered Fianna Fáil/Green salute from a Coalition that cut dole payments for the young in Budget 2010.

The Taoiseach should ask those young people whether they care a damn what faces sit around the Cabinet table or who was elevated and who was disappointed in the divvying out of the junior ministries.

If this Cabinet reshuffle were accompanied by fundamental changes in Government policies I would welcome it. But there is no such change and the reshuffled Fianna Fáil/Green Cabinet is set on the same course to further disaster that they have steered since June 2007.

There will clearly be no change in health policy. Minister Harney is staying on, prolonging her tenure in that office where she has made an inequitable health service even more inequitable and where she has promoted for-profit privatisation and ruthless centralisation.

We know only too well the results of the disastrous health policies pursued by Fianna Fáil-led Government since 1997. The debacle in Tallaght Hospital that was addressed here before the St. Patrick’s Day recess was not simply the result of some glitch in that one hospital. It was an extreme example of the systemic failures in our health services. At the root of those failures is the two-tier, public-private, apartheid nature of the health system. That inequity breeds inefficiency. It leads to waste, which is compounded by under-resourcing. On top of all this, in Budget 2010 and Budget 2009, the Fianna Fáil/Green Government has imposed cuts that affect public patients worst of all.

The Tallaght Hospital debacle perfectly illustrates the Pontius Pilate attitude of this Government. The Minister for Health & Children was told about the unread x-rays last December but apparently did not trouble herself to ask how many were involved or to keep on top of the situation to ensure that it was being addressed. We only have an inquiry now because a whistle-blower went to the media and the whole affair was exposed to public view. How long otherwise would it have taken the affected patients to be informed? Why was it not the Minister that made the situation public, in order to ensure openness, transparecny and accountability? That is a question for [both the outgoing and the incoming] Minister to answer.
This reshuffle signals no change in the policy of savage cuts to public services – a policy futile in its claimed intent to aid economic recovery and punitive in its effects on the people. To take just one example in education, I could point to a letter I received last week from a school in my constituency where a special class has been suppressed, two teaching posts cut, and children with a multiplicity of special needs put back into mainstream classes from which they had previously been removed as a result of assessment by a Department of Education psychologist.

This reshuffle will preserve the economic approach of the Fianna Fáil/Green Government which is fundamentaly flawed. The slash-and-burn policy will not lead to recovery but to deeper recession. And just as this policy penalises citizens today, NAMA will penalize them in the future. The golden circle of politicians, bankers, property speculators and the corporate elite who profited most from the Celtic Tiger and who caused the recession are now protecting themselves at the cost of billions to future generations of Irish people.

The Fianna Fáil/Green cuts to public services and to public service pay have led to chaos in public administration in this State. This is the result of the Government’s slash and burn strategy and its deliberate scuppering of the negotaitons with the public service unions last December. Whatever may be said about the tactics of some of the public service unions – and the situation at the Passport Office is uppermost in people’s minds today – the truth is that those ultimately responsible are sitting on the Government benches. And that includes the Fianna Fáil backbenchers who staged a sham revolt last December as part of the strategy to colllapse the talks.
Where was the backbench revolt when the Government made across-the-board cuts to social welfare payments? Where were the resignations from the Green Party then?
In contrast we in Sinn Féin have highlighted the heartlessness of a Government that could take €8.50 per week out of the pockets of people who are caring for elderly or disabled relatives in their homes. We have opposed the plans of a Government that wants to fatally damage our health services by taking a further 1,100 acute hospital beds out of the system in 2010. We have stood against a Government that trumpets its commitment to education but that condemns children to learn in pre-fabs and takes support away from children with special needs.
This Government has left behind it a trail of destruction of Irish jobs, including flagship Irish companies. They have allowed valuable employment to die and skills to be squandered in SR Technics, Aer Lingus, Waterford Glass, the sugar industry and a myriad of small and medium sized enterprises throughout the length and breadth of the country. The lights are going out for the last time every evening on once thriving businesses and the ‘for sale’ and ‘to let’ signs are going up but gathering dust on premises in every town and village.

The Government has no strategy to keep young people in Ireland and use their skills to rebuild the economy. It hopes that emigration will hide the true extent of unemployment. The Government’s decision to cut youth dole payments was made in order to encourage young people to leave.

I could use all my time condemning the policies of this reshufled Cabinet and they richly deserve it. But it is just as important to say that there are real alternatives, there is another way forward.

The fact is that there are many measures that the Government could be implementing to tackle youth unemployment. Sinn Féin presented such solutions last week and we are determined to campaign for their implementation.
The young unemployed must be given the opportunity to work and to use their skills and education. Investing in tackling youth unemployment now will pay dividends well into the future. Sinn Féin advocates taking revenue from the pension reserve fund on a once off basis and implementing the revenue raising proposals set out in our Budget 2010 pre budget submission in order to fund our job creation proposals.

Our proposals include:
· A youth jobs fund to create 20,000 new jobs at a cost of €500 million;
· An individual plan for the long term prospects of every person under 25 who is on the live register;
· 2,000 places on a ‘One More Language Scheme’ to give the young unemployed a chance to learn an extra foreign language at a cost of €20million;
· 5,000 free ECDL advanced places at a cost of €25 million;
· 10,000 new CE places at a cost of €168 million;
· 1,000 places on conversion courses at third level to help graduates convert their skills to potential growth sectors at a cost of €15 million;
· 8 measures to treble the number of under 25’s who are self employed including a national entrepreneurship programme, access to credit and greater support for high potential start ups;
· Create a publicly owned green tech firm for Ireland and initiate a major drive to attract FDI in renewable energy at a cost of €100 million;
· Make Ireland a digital media leader through support for skills, infrastructure and entrepreneurship;
· A ‘National Development Scheme’ to employ people directly on public works projects employing 2,000 workers at a cost of approx €100 million;
· Lift the suspension on the early farm retirement scheme to make farming an option for younger people.

It is possible to beat youth unemployment with imaginative thinking and a political commitment. This has been completely absent from the Government’s approach to the jobs crisis and we are most assuredly not going to get such an approach from this clapped-out administration.
This sham reshuffle comes at a time when there is intense debate on the future of Ireland. Much of that debate has been partitionist in nature. Commentators speak of ‘renewing the republic’ or ‘re-imagining Ireland’ but it is an Ireland that stops at Dundalk and Monaghan and Letterkenny and a republic that encompasses only 26 Counties.

Republicans have a vital and unique contribution to make to the debate by pointing out that for real transformation in Irish politics, in the Irish economy and in Irish society national reunification is essential.

We re-imagine Ireland as it ought to be – an island Republic with a place for all who live here, a democracy based on human rights and citizenship, an economy based on shared wealth. For that vision to become a reality we need a complete political clearout in this State. Neither of the two conservative parties – Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael – can provide the new politics that we need. And this rehashed Cabinet certainly cannot provide it. The first step is to get them out. We oppose the motion.

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