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17 July 2008 Edition

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Sinn Féin defends vulnerable against Government cutbacks

Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Arthur Morgan

Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Arthur Morgan

SINN FÉIN has rejected moves to make the most vulnerable sectors of society in the 26 Counties bear the brunt of the current economic downturn. The Irish Government last week announced that potentially devastating cutbacks in public services remain the main plank of its response to a massive revenue shortfall.
This week, in a move that outraged workers across the state, the Small Firms Association (SFA) called for a cut in the minimum wage, currently standing at €8.65 an hour.
Following last week’s Government announcement of cutbacks, Sinn Féin Employment and Workers’ Rights spokesperson Arthur Morgan told the Dáil that cuts in public services would merely result in prolonging the period of recession now being experienced. He also said Government announcements of where savings would be made exposed the fact that Government wastage and inefficiencies had been normal practice for years.
Patient care was being affected by cuts in the area of healthcare and these represented a gross mismanagement of the public health service by a Government which prefers to subsidise the private healthcare business, Morgan said.
Also speaking during the Dáil debate on the economy, Sinn Féin Dublin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh criticised the Government for withdrawing €45 million from the overseas development aid budget. The Dublin TD also sought detailed data on how salary cuts will affect Garda resources and operations tackling serious drug and gun crime. He also emphasised the need for investment in critical infrastructure such as urban regeneration projects in Dublin and Limerick to be protected.
“Government has squandered the good years so they must now more than ever ensure they manage properly the difficult ones”, he said.

THREAT TO MINIMUM WAGE
Meanwhile, Arthur Morgan has again rejected the SFA’s suggestion of a cut in the minimum wage, saying Sinn Féin is determined to ensure that, unlike the recession of the 1980s, the burden of this recession will not fall primarily on the shoulders of the low-paid.
“It is very disappointing that the lowest paid and most vulnerable workers in society are the first to be targeted in a time of recession rather than those who can actually afford to take a hit,” Morgan said on Tuesday.
He accused the SFA of manipulating statistics to portray Irish minimum wage workers as better off than those in other countries.
“When we take into consideration that the cost of living here is higher than the European average, this makes our minimum wage workers some of the worst-off in Europe.
“There is no room for lower pay at the bottom of our pay structures and it will not solve the problems faced in this economy. Low-paid workers have not caused the recession. If pay cuts are to be made they must be made by those on the upper rungs of the pay scale who themselves have driven up inflation.”
The Louth TD rejected the Green Party’s proposals to cut employer’s PRSI, saying that Irish employers make the lowest contributions to their employees’ social insurance fund in Europe.
“With a Social Insurance Fund under more pressure than ever, and receiving fewer contributions in the wake of growing unemployment, this suggestion from a Government party reeks of unbelievable economic naivety and is the kind of thinking that drove us into our current problems.”
Morgan said small businesses must be helped to endure the recession but cutting vital social insurance and expecting people to work for “slave wages” is not the way forward.
“The fact that our export market is not performing better must surely be an area that we can look at to help increase the business opportunities for small firms, and Sinn Féin suggests that relevant bodies such as Enterprise Ireland, Chambers Ireland, the Small Firms Association and the Government, currently engaged in social partnership talks, take the initiative to plan how to protect Irish business without deliberately targeting the most vulnerable.”
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