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11 April 2002 Edition

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Public services nightmare

"Government boasts ring hollow" - Ó Caoláin



Boasts by the government that it has improved public services "ring hollow", says Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. The Cavan/Monaghan deputy was speaking in one of the last Dáil debates before the general election. The Dáil is scheduled to resume on 17 April but the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern may dissolve it at any time.

Speaking in the debate on an opposition motion critical of the government's record, Ó Caoláin said that "to a visitor from outer space" the government's claims in its amendment to the motion would make impressive reading "as the figures are rolled out and the huge sums of money are totted up. But from where the real people of Ireland are standing, the government's boasts bear no relation to their daily lives".

He told the Dáil:

"They mean nothing to a young married couple struggling with a crippling mortgage that forces them both to work and to leave their children who have to be cared for in an expensive crèche, if they are lucky enough to have one in their locality.

"The government's boasts ring hollow to an elderly person waiting years for a hip operation or to an expectant mother whose local maternity unit has been closed and who has to make a long and hazardous journey outside her county to receive pre-natal treatment and to give birth. They are bitterly ironic to a seriously ill man lying on a trolley in an accident and emergency unit.

"The housing figures mean nothing to a single mother and her child who have been on the housing waiting list for years, or to a family living in overcrowded conditions that beats a path in vain every week to the local authority's housing section in search of decent accommodation. A young couple starting out in life, unable to buy a modest home, will be astounded by the government's claim to have moderated house prices and to have afforded greater participation in the housing market to first time buyers.

"A tenant in the private rented market facing an exorbitant rent increase or eviction will note that the private rented sector is not mentioned in the government's amendment, as will his counterpart living in grossly substandard accommodation. Even this government could not devise a positive spin to put on its abysmal failure to protect tenants, given that more evictions are taking place now than was the case under British rule.

"Bundles of surplus copies of today's Order Paper could be supplied to teachers and parents of primary school pupils as they patch up crumbling classrooms and fill cracks in roofs and walls while awaiting an announcement from Marlborough Street of when a building project will finally be sanctioned. Perhaps they will have to wait until this year's complement of pupils reaches voting age."


LACK OF DELIVERY FOR CAVAN/MONAGHAN


Ó Caolain said the government might consider posting copies of its amendment in Counties Cavan and Monaghan "to console those who see no prospect of the early delivery of the promised bypasses for Belturbet, Carrickmacross, Castleblayney, Monaghan and Virginia". He asked:

"What has this government done for Counties Cavan and Monaghan? There has been no improvement in public transport in the region. Neither county is included in the phase 1 of the extension of the broadband network. The government has not seen fit to locate a Department or third level college in my constituency. Local enterprises do not receive special aid, there has been no major inward investment and the real health needs of my constituents are not recognised. That is the government's record in the counties I represent.

"The ideology which drives this government is expressed in the section of its amendment dealing with housing, which states that 'first-time buyers have been afforded greater participation in the housing market'. The people of Ireland are citizens with rights, not merely consumers with buying power. They have a right to an equal place in society and decent homes and should not be confined to a niche in the cut-throat housing market, which has been designed by the government for the profit of speculators.

"I look forward to presenting Sinn Féin's vision during the general election campaign, when we can put forward a real alternative to the failed policies of this government and its predecessors. An Ireland of inequality has been created, but my party's goal, which is the aspiration of the overwhelming majority of Irish citizens, is that this country will become an Ireland of equals."
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