Ireland is a small country of great variation. From the sprawling urban cluster of Dublin to the many isolated pockets of rural Ireland.
For every country to be successful, a good place to live and to work, it needs quality transport infrastructure, public transport links and international connectivity.
The problem with these essentials, as the Right would see it, is that they cost money. Governments like the Tories in Westminister or the Irish tory alliance of Labour and Fine Gael would rather save that money for bank debt, cuts to the top rate of tax or for buying the next election.
They refuse to see the social and economic benefit for a country which is connected, easy to traverse and where no area is too isolated from the next. But those benefits are clear to us in Sinn Féin.
Investment in transport infrastructure and public transport and the retention of our connectivity through Aer Lingus is crucial to Ireland’s recovery and to building a society and an economy which leaves no one behind and no part of our island behind.
The austerity agenda has been pursued rigorously against transport by the Dublin government over the last 4 years. It has cut infrastructure programmes and road maintenance funds allowing our roads to crumble under us. It has cut subvention to public transport forcing routes to be cut in areas where no other option exists for those who don’t own a car and it now considers the possibility of selling off the crucial connectivity that Aer Lingus provides to a corporate giant with no interest in Ireland or its future.
Despite the fact that keeping a car on the road has never been more expensive regional and smaller roads have begun to be plagued by potholes again, reverting to standards not seen since the late eighties when it was an issue which lost government members their seats.
Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann, despite doing everything to successfully weather the worst of the crisis are now being threatened by government privatisation plan. These companies have struggled to maintain much needed services and managed to increase passenger numbers and revenue despite cuts to subsidies from the state which forced farer increases. Now they will have to compete with private operators who will drive down wages, cut services and maximise profit for their shareholders. Some small operators might be happy at this opportunity but it seems almost certain that this will result in public transport companies losing their most stable subsidised routes to large multinational operators.
This privatisation of routes, 10% across the 26 counties and 100% in Waterford city. Will further undermine Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus and if allowed to continue will put their futures in jeopardy.
These companies provide service we cannot afford to lose and good jobs we must protect. Their contribution to our society and our economy is immeasurable.
Sinn Féin government would protect public transport services and ensure that where a routes where economically and socially important they would receive government support. Profit cannot be allowed to be the decision making factor in whether we allow rural Ireland to thrive or to decline further.
Sinn Féin in government would stop cuts to rural transport services and the rural transport program. We would stop any move to privatise public transport routes or to undermine public transport companies. Privatisation is not just selling off our assets, it is selling off our future.
The same principle applies to our connectivity. It is clear from listening to expert on our economy that Ireland needs Aer Lingus’s slots at Heathrow. We also need the jobs it provides in Ireland. Willie Walsh has made it clear that he needs slots for IAG to service the expanding market of South America and the Far East.
He will say anything and do anything to get these slots and Ireland will suffer for it if we sell them to him. Even the CEO of Aer Lingus when trying to downplay the value of the slots admitted they were at the very least worth more than a third of what IAG were offering for the entire company.
We cannot risk these good jobs and we cannot throw away our connectivity and put more jobs at risk. Whether it’s in 6 months or 5 years we will continue to need Aer Lingus slots at Heathrow.
Sinn Féin remains utterly opposed to the sale of the state share in Aer Lingus. If in government we would do everything in our power to retain these slots indefinitely, to protect jobs in Aer Lingus and to resist a sell off.
Investing in transport for Ireland North and South is not just important it is fundamental to our countries future and a priority for Sinn Féin in government.