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5 March 2009 Edition

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Economic crisis - banks should pay, not the workers

IN the past six weeks the Irish Government has taken thousands of euro from the pockets of low and middle income families through the pension levy. It has cut back on special needs  education and is in the process of imposing the most damaging healthcare cutbacks that the 26 Counties has experienced since the 1980s.
All of this is being done to benefit the very banks that bear a major responsibility for the current economic crisis. With the recapitalisation of Allied Irish Bank and Bank Of Ireland the Irish Government is giving banks €7 billion worth of tax payers money without seeing sufficient material return.
Legislation passed in the Dáil this Wednesday on the Pension Reserve Fund effectively gives the Minister for Finance a carte blanche to raid the fund whenever he wants, provided it is for his pals in the banking sector. This is why Sinn Féin has opposed the move.
At the time of the budget Sinn Féin proposed the use of the pension fund for critical  infrastructure  so we could fight the recession  and preserve jobs. Despite the obvious need for investment in job creation and job retention, the Minister for Finance continues with his exclusive focus on the banks while cutting back on public services.
There is nothing in the government's Bill which enables the use of pension reserve funds  for  labour-intensive  transport infrastructure. There is nothing in it for the building of new schools and nothing for other public  services which  would  have  a  far more positive impact on the economy than what is being done with the financial institutions.
What this  legislation  is  all  about is using the pension fund for the Government’s only real concern –  its banking friends.
The present government’s relationship with dodgy developers, bankers and other special interest groups has led to a conflict of interest which means it is unable to rein in the banks.
The government will not name the members of the ‘Golden Circle’ because that would mean exposing its own friends.
The Minister for Finance unwisely boasted at  the  time of the Bank Guarantee that this ‘was the cheapest bailout  in  the world’. But that Guarantee has left a potentially crippling debt of €440 billion.
With the banks recapitalisation programme we are now on the verge of using our last stash of money to pay for the mistakes of the banks. It is the banks that should pay and not Irish workers and small businesses.

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