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Sale of strategic state assets an act of treachery – Ó Snodaigh

20 September, 2011 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has anyone who recklessly disposes of strategic state assets is acting treacherously.

Speaking in the Dáil this evening on a Sinn Féin motion opposing the sale of the public stake in the ESB Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Public control of strategic assets is about much more than our economic recovery in the short term. It’s about our very survival as an island nation into the future.

“As the European financial crisis deepens it is becoming an increasingly hostile and merciless place for small outlying members. The larger members are seeking to protect their own interests first a foremost. We are witnessing unilateral moves by the likes of France and Germany – at our expense these continental players are acting to protect their own banks which recklessly lent to Irish ones during boom times. Likewise, Finland’s insistence that Greece honour it’s debt to them over and above its debt to Ireland and others is another example.

“As an island nation we are different to other European nations. We have no international land borders. We have no choice but to be more self-reliant than others. We must now protect and indeed bolster our capacity to be self-reliant should the need arise.

“International commercial espionage is on the increase. We are losing Foreign Direct Investment not only to India but to our European neighbours also. During such times of crisis, economic or otherwise, our transport – sea, air, rail and road – communications and energy infrastructure are our last line of defence. Their privatization whether in part or in whole exposes us to attack in the increasingly competitive and cut-throat global environment.

“Our free market competitors can be savage and merciless in their actions. We must defend and hold what we have in terms of strategic assets. Anyone who recklessly disposes of our strategic infrastructure is acting treacherously and against the interests of the Irish people North and South.

“In terms of energy Bord na Móna, Bord Gáis and the ESB are profitable and of undeniable strategic importance. Even a partial sale would be the first step towards full privatization. The privatization of critical infrastructure both in Ireland and abroad has been an unmitigated disaster for the public. At home, Eircom was quickly asset stripped and in just a few short years post privatization Ireland plummeted down the league table of investment in broadband roll-out with very real, negative and lasting consequences for the Irish economy. In Britain, Royal Mail had to be bought back so bad was the experience of privatization and the privatization of British Rail literally cost lives so poor was the consequent maintenance of the railway lines.

“Critical infrastructure when in public hands can be deployed strategically to grow the economy. And because under a public owner the bottom line is not necessarily profit it can also be used to serve a diversity of public interests. As Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on social protection I actively opposed this government’s recent decision to cut pensioners’ fuel and energy allowances. This government made a decision to achieve savings by cutting fuel allowances under the Household Benefits Package rather than securing a bulk purchaser discount from the energy provider.

“We need to start insisting that our public services serve the public. We need to cut waste and the outrageous pay and conditions at the top. And we need to extract the very best for the public. These assets are only non-strategic if like the current government you fail to use them strategically.” ENDS

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