Padraig Mac Lochlainn TD - jobs and growth against austerity - Ard Fheis 2012
We are living in an age of austerity. But everywhere I go people ask me, but what does austerity mean. And my answer is, austerity is your mother, father or friend lying in a hospital trolley because there is not enough staff or beds to cater for them; austerity is a child being forced into a bigger class next year because the school has lost a teacher; austerity is having to decide whether to buy food for your children or to pay the mortgage at the end of the month. And the list goes on. Austerity is what people are living every single day in communities across the country.
A few months ago I spoke with a young man from my hometown of Buncrana. Both he and his brother, like so many thousands of our young people are now living and working in Australia. He told me of his love for his hometown and his country and his anger and frustration that he couldn’t earn a living here at home. His father had just the day before left his only two sons, this young man and his brother to the bus for the airport and the young man told me that for the first time in all of his life he saw his father cry.
It has been four years since Fianna Fail ran our economy into the ground. We have had five austerity budgets. A total of €24 billion has wrenched from the domestic economy in tax hikes and cuts to vital health, education and community services. And where has this policy of austerity got us?The economy is now officially back in recession.
The domestic economy has never been out of recession. Unemployment continues to scar our communities. 440,000 people languish on the live register while 115,000 people are in serious mortgage distress and 1,500 people are emigrating every week. Austerity simply isn’t working.
And yet the Fine Gael Labour government have committed to pulling a further €8.6 billion from the domestic economy over the next three years. What is our country going to look like after all of this austerity? What kind of future are we creating for ourselves and our children?
Last week I was struck by two stories in the newspaper that offered a disturbing answer to this question. The first was news of a 7-year-old child collapsing in a school in Cork, later to be diagnosed with severe malnutrition. The second was the news that once again that the Government has approved to breach the pay caps allowing massive salaries to political advisors, this time in the President’s office.
Is this the kind of place we want to live in? Are we going to accept a society which allows lavish lifestyles for those in power while letting children starve? Are we going to accept an economy that continues to bail out toxic banks rather than investing in getting people back to work?
My answer to this question and Sinn Féin’s answer to this question is an unequivocal unambiguous no. It is time for us to stand up for Ireland. To demand a better future. Fifteen months ago people voted for change. They rejected the corrupt Fianna Fail government that destroyed our economy and handed our economic sovereignty to the EU and IMF.
Fine Gael and Labour swept into office promising a democratic revolution. They told us they would renegotiate the Troika deal, invest in jobs and take radical measures to tackle the mortgage crisis. Fifteen months on and the hopes of the vast majority of people in the state have been dashed by a litany of broken promises. Disappointment is turning into a quiet but determined anger.
Right across the country there are signs of people, in their tens of thousands demanding a better future. The good people of Ballyhea, Co Cork, are protesting week after week demanding that taxpayer’s money be invested in people not bondholders.
They are demanding a better future. The brave workers of VitaCortex, La Senza, Lagan Brick and GAME all took a stand not just for themselves but for the rights of all workers. They are demanding a better future. The hundreds of thousands of ordinary decent people who have refused to pay the unjust Fine Gael and Labour Household Charge. They are all demanding a better future.
And Sinn Féin, in Leinster House and the Assembly, in council chambers and communities across the country are demanding a better future. Sinn Féin has a vision for the future of our great country. A vision based on the core republican values of equality, liberty and solidarity. It is these core values that motivated the men and women of 1916 to take a stand for Ireland. These same values inspired Pearse and Connolly to envision an Ireland which would treat all of the children of the nation equally. But these values have been abandoned by the parties in power today.
They have turned their back on that vision of a better Ireland and in doing so brought great shame on themselves. How relevant are the words of Padraig Pearse when one hundred years ago this year he penned Mise Eire. Sine mé ná an Chailleach Bhéarra, Mór mo ghlóir, Mé a rug Cú Chulainn cróga, Mór mo náir, Mo chlann féin a dhíol a máthair.
But Sinn Féin remains true to that vision. We passionately believe there is a better way. While there are no quick fixes or easy answers to our economic crisis there are choices. Unfortunately the Government is making all the wrong ones. Sinn Féin has a roadmap to get us to a prosperous and equal Ireland. We have produced a detailed, costed, and credible plan. Of course we want to reduce the deficit. Of course we want to reduce the debt.
But we want to do this in a way that creates jobs and grows the domestic economy. Our route to recovery stands in marked contrast to Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour who all believe you can cut your way out of a recession. You can’t. You cannot starve yourself out of a famine.
Only through a Government led investment programme can we get people off the dole, back into work and back paying taxes. Only through a progressive reform of the tax system can we generate sufficient revenue to build the education and health services that we deserve.
Good economic management is not simply a matter of balancing the books. Sinn Féin wants an economy that serves a higher purpose; that serves all of the people; that gives every person who lives in Ireland the chance to live a bigger and better life.
That young man from Buncrana was failed by this government and the last. He and all the young people like him deserve better. They deserve to have a future here with their friends and family. Sinn Fein has a true republican vision for Ireland. Together we can build a better Ireland, a prosperous Ireland, an equal Ireland.