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Sinn Féin is building alternative to Government of broken promises - Ó Caoláin

25 September, 2003

Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called for closer co-operation among the parties of the broad left in the Oireachtas in opposition to the FF/PD Government's "Thatcherisation of Ireland". He was launching a Sinn Féin audit of government policies and setting out his party's alternatives. Speaking at a press conference in Dublin today, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"As we prepare for the return of the Dáil next week Sinn Féin is issuing a call to action against the Thatcherisation of Ireland. We are publishing an audit of the right-wing policies of the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats government and pointing up our alternative.

"Sinn Féin wants to see not only a real opposition but a real alternative to the broken promises and conservative policies of this Government.

"The electorate were deceived by Fianna Fáil and the PDs before last year's General Election. In the area of health alone we were promised an end to waiting lists within two years and medical card cover for an extra 200,000 people.

"There is widespread agreement that these and other promises were acts of deception. What is not so clear to many people is where the alternative can be found, and how this Government can most effectively be challenged.

"Sinn Féin is building the alternative. We are doing so on an all-Ireland basis. As a left republican party, Sinn Féin believes that equality must be the cornerstone of our society and our economy. Government policies should be driven by the needs of citizens, not the demands of the market.

"In the past six years of FF/PD government, relative poverty has grown very significantly; in other words the gap between rich and poor has widened. The better off have benefited disproportionately from the tax policies of Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy, thus setting a headline across all government polices.

"The real opposition to such policies is not led by the conservatives of Fine Gael, the so-called leading party in opposition in the Dáil. Their call for the Government to renege on pay agreements with workers in the public service alone demonstrates that if Fine Gael is the answer it must be a very silly question.

"The potential for real and effective opposition resides in the parties of the broad left in the Dáil - Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, the Green Party, the Socialist Party and progressive independent deputies. Together they outnumber the Fine Gael deputies. They led the opposition to Irish Government collusion with the invasion of Iraq earlier this year. They have strongly opposed government cutbacks and the right-wing thinking behind them. I want to call here today for closer co-operation between the broad left in the coming Dáil term.

"I want to turn briefly to the issue of the health services. Here, above all, the right-wing ideology that dominates this Government is preventing real reform based on the equal right of all to the best healthcare, regardless of ability to pay.

"As we look towards the end of 2003 we face the prospect of more cuts in the health services and more broken promises from the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats government. Health boards face financial crisis, hospital beds are being closed, A and E units are bursting at the seams as we speak.

"Health Minister Micheál Martin has published a package of proposals which promises reform of the health system but really offers only bureaucratic change. It fails to tackle the basic inequality in the two-tier system.

"The vision and the political will to truly reform that fundamentally unequal and inefficient system is absent from this Government. Sinn Féin offers that vision and the determination to make it a reality. We will campaign for an end to the two-tier system and its replacement with a truly national health service with free care for all at the point of delivery and funded from general taxation." ENDS

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