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Ó Caoláin says plan to sell off State assets “monstrous”

28 February, 2012 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD


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 “monstrous”.

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 partners.”

"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 economy.

"The people have an opportunity to stop this futile strategy in its tracks and we in Sinn Féin are determined to ensure that they do so."

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