23 July 2009 Edition
Sinn Féin says government has no mandate to implement 'devastating cuts'
Huge public anger greets ‘slash and burn’ report
THERE has been an angry reaction across the 26 Counties to the recommendations to government of ‘An Bord Snip Nua’ published on 16 July.
€5.3 billion of spending cuts, mainly affecting health, education and social welfare, and thousands of job losses have been recommended by the report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes chaired by economist Colm McCarthy.
The report directly threatens the future sustainability of rural communities with recommendations for the closure of rural schools, Garda stations, railway lines and the end of funding for rural transport schemes cuts in the Rural Environment Protection and Disadvantaged Area schemes.
What have been widely described as ‘slash and burn’ recommendations have received an angry reception from health and disability groups, teachers, public sector workers, farmers’ organisations, gardaí and the defence forces. Trade unions representing workers have threatened industrial action if the government proceeds with the recommendations to attack jobs and pay.
Commenting on the report Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said that if implemented its proposals would have devastating social consequences.
“As well as dismantling the health service, effectively abolishing the medical card system, slashing social welfare, increasing the pupil-teacher ratio in our already under-funded schools and reducing special needs assistants, the recommendations of this report directly threaten the future sustainability of rural communities.”
Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said the Government has no mandate to implement the sweeping measures in the report which would “devastate healthcare for the sick, education for children, care for older people and social supports for all those who need them”. He called for a national debate on the way forward and a General Election.
“Our public health system is already suffering because of the continuing cuts which began in 2007. If the further cuts in this report are implemented the public health system will be plunged deeper into crisis with very serious consequences for patients. There is already a shortfall of hospital beds and nurses, insufficient numbers of GPs, inadequate primary care, long waiting lists, and cuts to a whole range of services such as home helps. To impose more cuts in health and social care services would be worthy of Thatcher at her worst and such cuts will be resisted”, he said.
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD has said Irish society cannot afford to implement the proposed cuts. Morgan criticised Colm McCarthy for proposing cuts to the lowest earners in society while earning €1,000 a week for preparing the report.
“The government needs to question how, in advance of the European Year for combating poverty and social exclusion in 2010, Ireland will be dealing its harshest blow yet to those struggling families that have lost their incomes as a result of job losses, those families who have to wait weeks to get any sort of subsistence from the State, the families that were encouraged to take out exponential mortgages and now have no means to make payment. For the Irish Government that are so keen to redeem themselves in the eyes of foreign lenders, the European Year will highlight how the government has failed those on the margins of society, especially if An Bord Snip’s recommendations are to be adopted.
“On top of these proposed cutbacks, Eurostat figures today revealed that Ireland is the second dearest place in Europe to live making life even more difficult for those on low incomes.
“I especially find the remarks on welfare payments being a disincentive to labour participation repugnant. While members of the group may be privileged enough to have a career and an extra job on the side, ordinary Irish people are struggling to keep their jobs or indeed to find a job. No-one takes pride in having to stand in a queue for Social Welfare or having to scrape by on the crumbs afforded to them by government.”
“Colm McCarthy surely is Doctor Evil in this respect for he has prescribed more pain and misery for the poor as a form of recovery for everyone else.”
Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said the government has made a conscious and motivated decision to bail out the banks, indebting taxpayers for decades to come, but refuses to stimulate the economy to keep people employed and is quite happy to cut dole payments at the same time.
Sinn Féin, he said, had identified €80 billion worth of savings which don’t target the vulnerable, through abandoning the “ludicrous NAMA plan”. He added, “The government is on a crash diet. They don’t care about the long-term consequences, they just want to inflict pain now on sections of the economy which they have no vested interests in so they can make-up for their own mistakes and look good to international suitors.”
He said the vast majority of the proposals in the ‘Bord Snip’ report should not be implemented. “The government should make this clear and not allow people struggling on social welfare or at risk of losing their jobs, to be worried sick about how they will survive.”
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development Martin Ferris TD said: “There must be many people around the country wondering what they did to deserve the punishment recommended to be visited on them by Colm McCarthy who was one of the cheerleaders of the disastrous property bubble that is behind much of the current mess. Indeed as recently as May 2007 DKM Consultants, which provides Mr. McCarthy with one of his other lucrative nixers, was advising people that the property outlook was bright and predicted an increase in construction output in 2009. Ironically that report was done in conjunction with the incompetent speculators of EBS.
“So it will come as no comfort to ordinary decent people around this country that the bill for the mess created by these people will arrive not at the door of the property speculators, gambling bankers, tax exiles and their puppets in the Galway tent but at those of decent hard working people whose lives and society are threatened by the consequences of the excesses and stupidity and greed of the wealthy unproductive elite.”
Meanwhile Donegal Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty said, “Colm McCarthy and the other members of An Bord Snip Nua are all significantly high earners who are so far removed from the reality facing the hundreds of thousands of people dependent on social welfare that they are not qualified to recommend cuts to social welfare payments. This also goes for the members of government who will now try to implement the disgraceful cutbacks contained in the Bord Snip report.