26 February 2009 Edition
'Politics of Mé Féin has failed' - Mary Lou McDonald
Sinn Féin Ard Fheis 2009
BY SEÁN Mac BRÁDAIGH
IN a keynote address on Friday evening, outgoing Party Chairperson and Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald told the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis:
“Incompetent government, corrupt bankers and greedy developers have brought this state to the edge of an economic abyss.
“In the blink of an eye we have gone from boom to bust. The years of budget surpluses have been squandered. Those who claimed that they, and they alone, knew how to run the economy have been exposed for the fraudsters that they are.”
She said Sinn Féin was berated when it pointed out the obvious flaws in Government policy such as the creation of a property bubble, the over-reliance on consumption taxes, the growing gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, the rewarding of private greed at the expense of the public good, the failure to think strategically and in the long-term interests of the citizens.
She said that, at the last general election, Fianna Fáil promised to create 250,000 new jobs and to make the 26 Counties debt
free within five years.
'Let no politician lecture the people on pensions until they relinquish their own unfair pension advantage. Let all of them – Enda Kenny and the rest – do the decent thing: stop drawing ministerial pensions; do it now!'
What they delivered was record unemployment, soaring debt and a public finance catastrophe.
But she said the main opposition parties have little to crow about for they showed no more foresight than the Government, promising tax cuts and increased spending.
“The people were sold a pup,” McDonald said. “Now the spectacle of bankers wallowing in self-pity while workers struggled with the prospect of redundancy, reflects just how empty those promises were.
“Government propping up its cronies in the banks while cutting special needs assistants to children in our schools provides the clearest insight into what this government is all about.
“But it is not what the Irish people of Ireland are about, and they would not tolerate this warped approach.
“Brian Cowen and his government need to know that. We need a new ethos in public life and we need to ensure that in these difficult times that taxpayers get value for money.
“There is waste in the public service. Civil servants doing constituency work for ministers is waste; taxpayer subsidies for the private health industry is wasteful. Paying workers that provide essential services for our people is not waste.
'To the back slapping-clique – Ulick McEvaddy and his friends, Mary Harney and Charlie McCreevy – we say: The taxpayer owns this bank. The taxpayer is now in charge. The taxpayer cannot be left in the dark '
“This party will not stand idly by as a discredited government, aided and abetted by Fine Gael opportunists, attacks public service workers. The pension levy is inequitable and indefensible.
“Let no politician lecture the people on pensions until they relinquish their own unfair pension advantage. Let all of them – Enda Kenny and the rest – do the decent thing: stop drawing ministerial pensions; do it now!
“Let no politician lecture teachers and parents on the cutbacks in education whilst members of the Oireachtas hold down teaching posts. Relinquish those posts; do it now!”
Mary Lou said that from the victims of government incompetence, there is no sympathy only anger.
The Government, she said, has no strategy to lift Ireland out of recession and many of their policies run the risk of deepening it.
But, she said, there is a way forward:
“Hope is not lost. There is a way forward. The number one priority is to get Ireland back to work. We need speedy and deliberate targeting of those sectors where growth is possible – sectors like agri-food, research and development and green technology.
“We need to build the skillbase to create and fill new jobs.
“We need to build the critical infrastructure, schools and houses, public transport and ICT.
“Business start-ups must be supported by creating one-stop enterprise business points offering advice, funding and expertise to entrepreneurs.
“An aggressive export Ireland strategy is urgently required. This is an area of huge potential. Currently 90 per cent of exports from this state are from foreign-owned multinationals. Irish enterprises must develop their export capacity. Government policy must drive this.
“The jobs on the line at SR Technics can be saved. Jobs in construction and retail can be saved. Waterford Crystal can have a future.”
But these and other vulnerable jobs would be lost if the current lacklustre approach by government continues, the Sinn Féin MEP warned.
Recovery is not possible unless the banks were sorted out. “This requires forthright, decisive actions,” she said, continuing:
“Let me spell out clearly what needs to happen:–
• A clear out of the higher echelons of bankers. All of them. This means sacking the bankers, not retirement with golden handshakes.
• Investigations of Anglo Irish and all other banking institutions with cases referred to the DPP for prosecution.
• Corrupt bankers must face jail.
• The golden circle involved in dubious investment at Anglo Irish must be named and shamed. They are not heroes. There was no patriotism in their actions.
• Fianna Fáil and the Greens must stop protecting the Anglo circle.
“To the back-slapping clique – Ulick McEvaddy and his friends, Mary Harney and Charlie McCreevy – we say: The taxpayer owns this bank. The taxpayer is now in charge. The taxpayer cannot be left in the dark.
'The politics of Mé Féin has failed. Now is the time for the politics of Sinn Féin. The people of Ireland are in this together. To succeed we must stand up together and stand up for each other'
“Mispaid bonuses and overblown salaries must be retrieved, there must be a cap on salaries of banking executives and an immediate abolition of their bonuses.
Above all we need to know the extent of the banks’ bad debts. The time for speculation as to the state of the banks’ balance sheets is over. We need to have the truth.”
The Dublin MEP said that an independent inspector must, on behalf of the taxpayer, establish their liabilities and that a new, robust financial regulatory system was needed.
Banks must be forced to impose a moratorium on home repossessions for a minimum of two years and support struggling mortgage holders by rescheduling repayments.
Banks must also be obliged to make loans available to small and medium enterprises.
The need for a state bank, long advocated by Sinn Féin, is now, she said, undeniable.
In relation to the shortfall in public finances, McDonald called for an end to the scandal of workers being taxed at the same rate as those earning hundreds of thousands of euros.
“We are calling for the creation of a third tax rate for these high-earners. Never was tax reform more urgent than now. Never was it more necessary for the rich to pay their share.”
Rather than criticising people who shop in Newry, the Government must work for VAT harmonisation, tax harmonisation and nurture a dynamic all-Ireland economy, she said.
“Ours is a great country. We are a capable people. We can rebuild Ireland. Nothing is surer.”
She concluded by declaring:
“The politics of Mé Féin has failed. Now is the time for the politics of Sinn Féin. The people of Ireland are in this together. To succeed we must stand up together and stand up for each other.
“An Phoblacht Abu!”
HANDFULS: Mary Lou with son Gerard and daughter Iseult chats with Martin McGuinness