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1 October 2010

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Sinn Féin ready to fight the cuts as Cowen staggers

Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin lays it on the line for the media at the party’s think-in ahead of the Dáil’s and Seanad’s return

g  BY MÍCHEÁL Mac DONNCHA

GROWING political storms were making the Brian Cowen-led government increasingly unstable as Sinn Féin’s Leinster House team met for its annual think-in and pledged to fight the savage cuts threatened for the December budget.
With a clear head, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin set the agenda on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, just under a week after a ‘hung-over’ and inarticulate Taoiseach was interviewed on the same radio programme.
Unlike Fine Gael and Labour, Sinn Féin focused on Cowen’s defence of the Government’s flawed fiscal policy with €3billion and more in cuts each year to 2014, a policy that the two so-called ‘main opposition parties’ have failed to challenge.
Opening the think-in, Ó Caoláin said Sinn Féin was “joining with communities the length and breadth of the country in fighting the cuts and demanding a real strategy for job creation”. He rounded on Fine Gael and Labour:
“A Fine Gael/Labour coalition is being presented as the inevitable outcome of the next general election. But what would their Programme for Government be? We don’t know. Enda Kenny recently parroted the discredited catch-phrase of George Bush the First: ‘Read my lips, no new taxes.’ Enda’s political fiancée, Eamon Gilmore, said, quite rightly, that nobody could give such a commitment. But then Labour’s Finance spokesperson, Joan Burton, when asked would Labour carry out Fianna Fáil’s plan to take the lowest-paid into the income tax net, refused to rule it out.”
Ó Caoláin said that Sinn Féin was committed to keep low-paid workers out of the tax net.
“Sinn Féin has also done what the Government has failed to do and that is to produce a coherent jobs strategy. Investment in job retention and job creation will make a real difference in people’s lives and provide a real return to public finances.”
He said the Fianna Fáil/Green Coalition’s response to the recession has been as fundamentally flawed as the mismanagement that led to the recession in the first place.
“That is seen above all in their appalling handling of the banking collapse. They have poured billions of the people’s money into the zombie Anglo Irish Bank, the very financial institution which, more than any other, fuelled the madness of the property boom.
“They have kept in place a bank guarantee which is costing the taxpayer dearly, demands little accountability from the banks and allows them to continue to exploit customers with excessive interest rates, massive mortgage debt and a credit famine for viable businesses.
“Sinn Féin’s opposition to the legislation that set the terms of the Bank Guarantee Scheme has been vindicated.
“The zombie Anglo Irish Bank should have been wound up and the gamblers who bet on it should have taken the hit, not the ordinary taxpayer.
“We need a strong state bank that serves the people and not multi-millionaire executives and shareholders. A commission should be established to examine the most responsible and economically safe method of dismantling NAMA, another huge imposition on the Irish people, courtesy of Fianna Fáil and the Greens.”
Urging a united stand against cuts, Ó Caoláin said:
“In education, Government cuts mean dilapidated schools, larger classes and neglect of special needs.
“In health, the cuts mean longer waiting lists, cancelled operations, more people on trolleys and chairs in A&E, hospital services closed down.
“If the recruitment ban in the public health services is maintained over the next three years then a further 6,000 posts will remain unfilled.
“Real political change requires more than just a change of Government. That is why Sinn Féin is a campaigning party. We are in our communities fighting against the cuts and for economic justice. Only people power will bring about real change. The real coalition we need is a coalition of communities, trade unions, voluntary organisations, campaigning groups and parties of the Left to shape a better, fairer Ireland.”

• As An Phoblacht goes to press on Wednesday 29th September, the Dáil returns and there are certain to be more storms ahead for the Fianna Fáil/Green Government.
A general election could be triggered at any time and Sinn Féin is urging all members and supporters to be ready and determined to increase the republican presence in Leinster House.

4 Defend wages
“WORKING PEOPLE are being targeted through an onslaught on wages and conditions and the overall impact of cuts in public provision.
“I will continue to be particularly vigilant in regard to legislative attempts to undermine agreed wage rates as was proposed earlier in the year.”
– Martin Ferris TD, Workers’ Rights spokesperson.
4 Cuts don’t work
“CUTBACKS in general don’t help the economy and they don’t help people. They contract the economy and drive people into poverty.
“Let’s be honest with the public - they are taking your tax money to pay for a failed banking strategy, not reduce the deficit. The deficit is growing because of the banks and no amount of health and education cuts will bridge the gap.”
- Arthur Morgan, Finance spokesperson.
4 Focus on jobs
THE REALITY of 455,000 unemployed in the 26 Counties, half a million in Ireland, loomed large at the Sinn Féin think-in. Bríd O’Brien of the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed was the guest speaker and described how the INOU’s work has increased greatly during the economic crisis.
She called for far greater flexibility from the State to assist the jobless, especially in terms of education and training while receiving welfare support.
Sinn Féin Social Protection spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said the party is advocating that social welfare for the unemployed be increased in the form of the return on the Christmas bonus cut by the Government in 2009.

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