Equality for all is at the heart of Sinn Féin’s agenda for government
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said that in Government Sinn Féin will prioritise the provision of public services for all on the basis of equality. Speaking today at the launch of Sinn Fein's General Election Manifesto, Ó Caoláin said the unprecedented prosperity witnessed in Ireland over the past decade could and should have been used to build first-class services in health, housing, education, public transport and balanced regional development. Instead, 'the basic needs of many citizens are not being met and the quality of life for many has been steadily undermined', he said.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:
"When people elect a Government and pay taxes, they rightly expect the provision of quality public services. That is what the Social Contract is all about. In Celtic Tiger Ireland, however, essential services are not made available equally to all. Rather, the quality of services available depends increasingly on your ability to pay over and above your taxes. Despite ample wealth in this state, public provision is shrinking and double taxation for services in the form of service charges and user fees is on the rise. The net result is an unequal, two-tier system in healthcare, housing, education and childcare.
"The unprecedented prosperity witnessed in Ireland over the past decade could and should have been used to build first-class public services in these areas as well as in the area of public transport. It could and should also have been used to undo the regional economic disparities that have existed in this country since the foundation of the state. Instead, the basic needs of many citizens are not being met and their quality of life has been steadily undermined. Young working families cannot afford a home; our roads are gridlocked and there is insufficient public transport; our hospitals are in chaos and our schools are overcrowded.
Only yesterday two reports have strongly reinforced the Sinn Féin position on our public services.
- Research presented at the annual meeting of the Irish College of General Practitioners has shown that 70% of public patients waited two to 12 weeks for tests for stomach and bowel cancer while 62% of private patients accessed the same tests in less than two weeks. Inequality of access is the core inequality in our two-tier health services. People generally receive excellent care when they get into the public hospital system; but it is often too late for public patients who have had to wait too long for critical diagnoses. People are actually dying because of the two-tier nature of the health system.
- Local authorities are opting to collect huge sums from developers instead of requiring those developers to provide social and affordable housing under the Planning and Development Act. Over €60 million has been collected by local authorities between 2003 and 2006 but this has not been converted into homes for people on the housing waiting lists in anything like the numbers required. This reinforces the point Sinn Féin has made repeatedly that there can be no substitute for the provision of high standard and properly planned social and affordable housing directly by the local authorities.
'Government and Opposition parties who are claiming that they will deliver the public services that people are crying out for, while at the same time offering to slash the tax take, are being highly irresponsible. Even allowing for economic growth at the current rate, this simply does not add up. Sinn Fein has no intention of getting involved in this disingenuous auction politics.
"In Government Sinn Féin will prioritise the provision of public services for all on the basis of equality.
"We seek the transition to a public health system where care is provided, free at the point of delivery, on the basis of need alone, and funded from general, fair and progressive taxation. We would immediately end all tax breaks for private hospitals and invest all health funding in the public system. We are committed to the provision of medical cards for all below the poverty line and all under-18s. We would deliver into the public hospital system the additional 3,000 hospital beds that are required and we would reverse cutbacks at local hospitals to ensure local emergency cover.
"Sinn Féin would establish a Department of Housing with a full Minister and ensure the construction of 70,000 new housing units by 2012.
"Importantly we would amend the Planning and Development Act (2002) to require that all new developments allocate 30% to social and affordable housing, with at least 10% social and at least 10% affordable housing and we would legislate to ensure vital services are incorporated into all new housing schemes.
"Sinn Féin would increase mortgage interests relief for first time mortgage holders and principle home-owners who earn up to the average industrial wage.
"We would reform the planning laws to support the right of rural dwellers to build on their own land or to purchase and build locally.
Sinn Féin would introduce a tenants' rights charter and seek to eliminate homelessness by 2010.
"We propose to centralise childcare provision under a single Government Department. We would introduce a universal pre-school session of 3.5 hours per day, five days a week for all children aged 3-5 years and immediately reduce all class sizes for children under 9 to a maximum of 20 pupils.
"Sinn Féin would end the use of prefabs in within the lifetime of the Dáil and increase funding at pre-school and primary level to equal that at third level, ensuring that schools in areas of high disadvantage receive more resources. We would prioritise action on autism to ensure early intervention.
"Ireland is now in a better position than ever before to significantly raise the standard of living for all our citizens and create a society that is fair and equal. Sinn Féin seeks a mandate in this election to further our efforts to guarantee that everyone's basic needs and rights to food and warmth, housing, health, education and childcare are met and that all have the benefit of a comprehensive regime of social protections."ENDS