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2 October 2017 Edition

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Leo’s ‘Republic of Opportunity’ protects the status quo

Fine Gael clings to power because Mícheál Martin and Fianna Fáil allow it

THE TWO conservative parties in this state have shared power between them since the foundation of the 26-County state. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have swapped places several times from the Opposition to the Government benches but the policies remain the same. 

They see themselves as being there to protect the status quo.

They fear change. 

They are not interested in building a true Republic.

The economic crash challenged this hegemony. Fianna Fáil were badly bruised but Fine Gael stepped in and implemented their policies. They were supported in this by the Labour Party, who talked the talk but sadly failed to deliver. Bondholders were bailed out, NAMA was set up to save the banks, and ordinary people were thrown to the wolves. Many lost their jobs; many more lost their homes.

The 2016 general election again challenged the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael grip on power. 

An increase in the Sinn Féin vote presented them with a dilemma – talk to Sinn Féin or form an alliance to keep Sinn Féin out. They chose the latter. 

For all the talk, spin and bluster, Fine Gael clings to power because Mícheál Martin and Fianna Fáil allow it.

Meanwhile, the crisis for many families continues. It is real; it is tangible. Record levels of citizens are in emergency accommodation with 3,000 children among them. The lack of social and affordable housing and the rising rents have created a housing emergency. Fianna Fáil’s solution is to give a tax break to developers. Fine Gael publish plan after plan but fail to build the homes people need.

The emergency in health worsens as, day after day, record numbers of patients lie on trolleys, 600,000 patients are awaiting procedures, and many wait over two years simply to see a consultant. Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar talks about a “Republic of Opportunity”. 

In an appeal to woo middle class voters, he promises them tax cuts. A closer examination reveals cracks in this proposal. He talks about reducing the marginal tax rate to below 50%. He forgets to mention that this will only impact on the top 14% income earners. For Leo, the other 86% can paddle their own canoe.

Sinn Féin wants to be in Government, North and South. 

The people we represent cannot wait as Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael continue protecting the insiders and the elites. They want change and they want it now. That places a responsibility on those who oppose their policies to offer a clear and credible route to Government.

The media obsession with who will make up the numbers and largely ignore what sort of policies they will implement continues. Sinn Féin is challenging this narrative. 

We want to work with any party or group who will work with us and deliver a fair, progressive and republican Programme for Government. 

We know that Fine Gael’s trumpeted “Republic of Opportunity” is a mirror image of the spin in Thatcher’s Britain.

We will oppose this tooth and nail.

Sinn Féin is up for the challenge of Government. After the next election we will either be in Government delivering on a truly progressive and republican set of policies or in opposition, holding others to account.

We are capable of both.

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