Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

21 January 1999 Edition

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Workers in struggle

Double standards in local government

Governments have conceded the need for a regional and localised approach to economic development. What is needed now is a programme of democratisation
Voters in the 26 Counties go to the polls this coming June to elect members to councils across the state as well as 15 MEPs. The elections to the councils were delayed from 1998 because yet again local government was to be reformed.

The failures and inadequacies of local government are plain for all to see in the 26 Counties. The Flood inquiry into abuses of planning regulations is only the first step towards uncovering the level of corruption and fraud in local government.

However the annual statement from Shannon Development last week highlighted other failures in the 26-County's local government structures. Shannon Development reported that they had created 3,200 jobs in 1998. They had spent more than £11 million on infrastructure in the region, refurbishing and upgrading industrial estates and enterprise centres as well as building new industrial units. The Development company is also in the process of buying new land in Ennis, Tralee and Limerick City.

Activities like this should be the remit of local government. Shannon Development has no electoral representation and does not have to answer to the local community it represents because it is totally under the control of central government.

In Dublin the Temple Bar area is again run by an unelected state appointed company. The same is the case in Dublin's Docklands as the areas economic and structural development is controlled by the Docklands Development Authority.

The existence of regional development companies and enterprise zones shows that successive governments have conceded the need for a regional and localised approach to economic development. What is needed now is a programme of democratisation for these institutions. Agencies and bodies like Shannon Development, Enterprise Ireland, the IDA and others have budgets running into hundreds of millions of punts. They must come under the remit of a democratic system of local government. That would be real reform of local government.

Who is to blame?

The crisis at Tallaght Hospital and the reduction in hospital services is not a situation that happened overnight
What do Brian Cowen, Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin have in common?. They have all held the post of Minister of Health in successive Dublin Governments over the past five years.

During this time the health sector in Ireland has weathered crisis after crisis, culminating this week in the resignation of Tallaght Hospital's chief executive David McCutcheon.

During their tenure the number of hospital beds has decreased by 20% and in Dublin three hospitals have closed with the one hospital that replaced them unable to deliver the services it was designed for.

Tallaght Hospital has a budget overrun of nearly £18 million. In the wake of it's chief executive's resignation the recriminations from Fine Gael and other political parties were flying. However the crisis Tallaght Hospital and the reduction in hospital services is not a situation that happened overnight.

It is the direct consequence of ongoing neglect by central government. All the parties in government over the past five years must share the blame and now they and especially Cowen must act to deliver a quality health service to all.

Shut Sellafield now

The announcement that the German government is set to end the reprocessing of its spent nuclear fuel should lead to the end of Sellafield's THORP facility. Sellafield will lose £1 billion in business if the German Government implements proposals to end the use of nuclear energy. This would involve the shutting down of 19 reactors in Germany.

The reprocessing facility at Sellafield depends on importing spent nuclear fuel for reprocessing to justify the huge capital costs invloved in building and maintaining the facility.

In September 1998 it was revealed that the independent consultants report justifying the £2.8 billion Thorp plant never actually existed. The £2.8 billion needed to build the plant came from an EU low cost loan signed by then Dublin Government Finance Minister Albert Reynolds during the 1990 Presidency.

It is strange that when the EU Commission is complaining about state aid to business it is remarkably silent about the aid given to nuclear facilities. The economic viabillity of THORP has never been independently validated. It is not economicially viable and it was any other loss making business it would be closed.

An Phoblacht
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Dublin 1