Taoiseach challenged on Harney's privatisation threat
Speaking during Leaders Questions in the Dáil today Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD challenged the Taoiseach over the Tánaiste's recent remarks that she would consider withdrawing from Government if her plans to privatise public transport in the state were not proceeded with.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "As a direct result of statements made to the media at her party conference by the Tánaiste Mary Harney SIPTU has left negotiations on a new phase of the Sustaining Progress Agreement. The Tánaiste indicated that the future of this Fianna Fáil/PD Coalition would be in doubt if PD plans for the wholesale privatisation of public transport in this state are not pushed through. She made no reference to the rights of workers in the public transport sector and immediately threw into doubt the supposed assurances offered by the Taoiseach, assurances which led SIPTU to postpone planned industrial action.
"The Taoiseach stated last summer that he was "increasingly" not a supporter of privatisation of semi-state companies 'even if that is not the view of my colleagues'. Has that position changed, Taoiseach? Does the difference between the PDs and Fianna Fáil which the Taoiseach pointed up still exist? Who now determines Government policy on privatisation? Has the Tánaiste raised this matter directly with the Taoiseach? Has she and her party colleagues in the Government threatened to withdraw if this Thatcherite agenda is not carried through?"
Deputy Ó Caoláin went on to compare the PDs threat to withdraw from Government over privatisation of public Transport with their attitude to more pressing issues of national concern. The Cavan/Monaghan TD asked, "Can the Taoiseach tell us if the PDs threatened to withdraw because of the non-delivery of the government commitment to end hospital waiting lists permanently by May this year? Or because of the non-delivery of the promised 200,000 further medical cards? Or because we still have about 130,000 people on local authority housing waiting lists?"
Deputy O Caoláin concluded by asking, "Does the Taoiseach agree that the very last thing we need in public transport is its opening up to plunder by privateers who will cherry pick the best routes? What real guarantee can the Taoiseach offer to both workers in CIE and to the travelling public that their jobs and their services will not only be maintained but improved, as improved they must be if we are to have a viable infrastructure in this State? Is he still 'increasingly' less a supporter of privatisation or 'increasingly' more so? And finally as well as conceding policies to the PDs has Fianna Fáil also conceded part of their party name 'The Republican Party' which is now being dropped at a time when the President of the PDs Michael McDowell is claiming to be the only and the greatest republican in the country?" ENDS