10 May 2007 Edition
General Election 2007 : Eliminating poverty - a Sinn Féin priority
Wealth must be used to create fairer society
The demand that the unprecedented prosperity witnessed in the 26 Counties in recent years be used to eliminate poverty and create a fairer society was the over-riding theme as Sinn Féin launched the economic policy section of its general election manifesto last Sunday in Dublin.
Sinn Féin’s Dáil leader and spokesperson on Finance, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said the economy should serve society and not the reverse.
“The prosperity witnessed in this state over the last decade could and should have been used to build first-class services in health, housing, education, public transport and balanced regional development. Instead, the Fianna Fáil/PD Government has presided over deepening levels of social inequality, greater regional economic disparity and an economy ill-prepared for future economic trends”, he said.
Sinn Féin’s plan for a strong and sustainable economy involves five main priorities:
- Building the all-Ireland economy including all-Ireland economic planning and balanced regional development;
- Providing world class infrastructure and public services to enhance Irish competitiveness;
- Supporting enterprise and job creation;
- Ensuring that workers’ rights are fully protected in this process;
- Supporting agriculture which provides 20% of all jobs outside the public sector
“In Government Sinn Féin will prioritise the provision of public services for all on the basis of equality. We seek a strong, sustainable economy and want to support an economic environment that enhances job creation and provides favourable conditions for business”, Ó Caoláin said.
It was now widely recognised that Ireland’s economic future depends on moving towards all-Ireland economic integration. Sinn Féin proposes to accelerate this process pending reunification.
“Current Government policy has failed to address rising inflation, over-reliance on foreign direct investment and an over-dependence on the construction sector. In many parts of the state, crucial infrastructure and service provision remains woefully inadequate”, said Ó Caoláin. There was also a need to diversify Ireland’s competitive base.
rebalancing regional development
Sinn Féin proposed to end economic discrimination by rebalancing regional development, particularly in the Border, Midlands and West regions.
Mary Lou McDonald MEP criticised those political parties who promised to deliver badly needed public services, while at the same time offering to slash the tax take.
“Even allowing for economic growth at the current rate, this just does not add up”, she said.
“Sinn Féin would maintain the tax take and invest in social protections and public service provision.
“The cuts that other parties are talking about will not hugely increase weekly incomes but this money invested in public services would make a huge difference and transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of people”, McDonald said.
One in five people were at risk of poverty while almost 275,000 lacked adequate food, shelter, warmth and clothing.
“We have one of the highest rates of child poverty in the EU and OECD. Over 60,000 people cannot afford to adequately heat their homes”, she said.
Sinn Féin proposed to eliminate poverty through the delivery of improved social protections and by measures to address the problem of low pay. The manifesto outlines a package of measures to raise household incomes, enhance specific supports for low-income families, eradicate food and fuel poverty, bring early school leavers back into education, increase support for unpaid care work and tackle disability-related poverty.
McDonald said a taxation system which is just and fair was needed to achieve a more equal society.
“Tax policy should be about reducing the burden on low and middle-income earners. Nobody should have to pay twice as a consequence of service charges and user fees. Government should also seek to raise revenue through methods other than taxation or selling off public assets”, McDonald said.
The party’s Enterprise spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD said the distance by which the 26 Counties lags behind other states in broadband provision — a direct result of Government action — was a disgrace. He pointed out that the privatisation of Eircom, had resulted in the state going from second in Europe for telecommunications availability to 23rd in less than a decade.
Sinn Féin believed infrastructure development should be publicly funded and state-led and that Eircom should be brought back into public ownership. Failing this, a new, publicly-owned telecommunications company should be established.
Arthur Morgan also said that development of indigenous Irish business was crucial for a sustainable economy.
“Under this Government, businesses, large and small, are feeling the pinch from the combined impact of poor infrastructure, traffic gridlock and spiralling energy, water and waste management prices’, he said
Sinn Féin would continue to encourage Foreign Direct Investment but give the same type of supports to small and medium businesses. The party would also support agriculture, which provides 20% of all jobs outside of the public sector.
The Government had allowed Ireland to remain over-dependent on foreign and non-renewable energy supplies and captive to oil price rises. In Government Sinn Féin would support public enterprise through the establishment of a state oil, gas and mineral exploration company and a publicly-owned company to develop Irish renewable energy resources for the benefit of the nation.
• The full version of Sinn Féin’s document A strong and equal economy can be accessed on the Sinn Féin website www.sinnfein.ie