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6 July 2006 Edition

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General Election: Sinn Féin highlights key issues

Coalition of confused is no alternative

The Dáil adjourns this week for its summer recess and as An Phoblacht goes to press TDs are sitting until midnight while the government forces through a range of legislation, including a Defence Bill that further erodes Irish neutrality and a Planning Bill that rides roughshod over local democracy and paves the way for waste incinerators in every region.

Fine Gael and Labour have used the last week of the Dáil to table a motion calling for an early general election. The media have given wide coverage to this but few examined the motion itself. It lists some of the failures of the Fianna Fáil/PD coalition but omits others because Enda Kenny and Pat Rabbitte would find it impossible to agree publicly on them. Few in the media will point this out because every effort is being made to present the Kenny/Rabbitte combination as an electable and viable alternative to the Ahern/Harney government.

Policy differences

Much of the media chooses to ignore the fundamental flaws in this argument. First of all even if both Fine Gael and Labour make clear gains in the general election it is likely that in many constituencies these will cancel each other out with Fine Gael gaining at Labour's expense. They are also relying on the Green Party firstly to make gains, which is doubtful and to have the political will to 'make up the numbers'.

Secondly, the policy differences and policy gaps between Fine Gael and Labour (not to mention the Greens and mostly they are not mentioned) are being ignored. On key issues they take no common position because to agree publicly would damage their respective support bases - for example on the privatisation of Aer Lingus which Fine Gael supports but which most Labour supporters oppose.

SF amendment

This confusion within the putative alternative coalition was highlighted when Sinn Féin TDs tabled an amendment to the Fine Gael/Labour motion on Tuesday. Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the General Election should not be fought on the narrow ground agreed by Fine Gael and Labour.

Ó Caoláin said: "The Fine Gael/Labour motion deliberately omits fundamental failures of this Government because these two parties cannot publicly agree on them - at least in advance of a General Election while each tries to retain its support base. In our amendments Sinn Féin highlights these key Government failures which we intend to make General Election issues. They include:

  • The failure to end the inequitable and inefficient two-tier system within our health services and the drive to privatise our health services through massive subsidies for the private health business while the public system is in crisis;
  • The privatization of the national airline, Aer Lingus;
  • The failure of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to promote community safety and human rights and his misuse of his position to target individuals and groups in pursuit of his personal political agenda;
  • The ongoing erosion of Irish neutrality and independent foreign policy through the continued provision of Shannon Airport facilities to US combat forces;
  • The giveaway of our natural resources of gas and oil to multi-nationals such as Shell against the national interest and regardless of the concerns of local communities like those of Rossport, County Mayo;
  • The failure to fulfil the Taoiseach's commitment to provide for representation in the Dáil for citizens in the Six Counties and the overall sluggish approach to the peace process by the Irish Government.

"What is needed is a real debate about alternatives to the failed approach of this Government. Sinn Féin will be setting out our alternatives and working to ensure an election based on real issues rather than tired personalities."

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