Saturday, November 28, 2009

Time for mutiny on this ship of fools

Over on the Sluggerotoole site they have highlighted a review on the Guardian newspaper of Fintan o'Toole's new book Ship of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Sank the Celtic Tiger.

It looks like its going to be an interesting read and above all its fantastic to see this type of contribution to the general debate. After the fall of the Soviet Union Finland nearly fell as bad as we now have fallen. But they rebounded rebuilding a fairer society and becoming an inspiration to other countries. So while things may seem incredibly bleak now this is an opportunity to start building something new.

Of course the Finns didnt have to deal with a Fianna Fail party but the debate has to start somewhere and if we are going to build a Republic on this island then getting rid of the corrupt Fianna Fail kleptocracy is a necessary step.

The book review highlights clearly our predicament:
Irish GDP is now shrinking faster than in any other advanced economy, and the country's gross indebtedness is larger than Japan's. House prices have fallen more rapidly than any others in Europe, and the average Irish family has lost half its financial assets. Unemployment has risen faster than anywhere else in Europe.
It lays out clearly how Kleptocracy relaced democracy in the south:
All this has been accompanied by a culture of corruption so shameless and spectacular that it makes Dublin look like Kabul. The former prime minister Charles Haughey stole €250,000 from a fund set up to pay for a liver transplant for one of his closest friends. Last year, the chairman of Anglo Irish Bank resigned when it emerged that he had €84m in loans from his own bank, a sum concealed by an annual (apparently legal) cooking of the books. As O'Toole points out, bribery, tax evasion and false evidence under oath have not simply gone unpunished; the very idea of penalising the culprits is viewed by the governing elite as unsporting or even unpatriotic.
And thats to leave out the most cunning of them all. The review continues apace laying bare whats rotten in the southern state:
The state is widely seen as "a private network of mutual obligations" rather than an impersonal body. Palms are greased, backs scratched and old pals promoted, often without much sense that this is anything other than the natural thing to do.
And boy did the last 10 years take that to a new height. The worst type of gobdaw was appointed not because they were barely qualified but because they were the orignal greasy hands in the till.

And then it gets to a point of discussion that is all too common in Ireland today:
The discrepancy between formal and informal codes in the country, between official behaviour and nods and winks, bulks large. Stretching a point or turning a blind eye is rife, in ways that would scandalise many a German or American
How do we make our country more like Germany and less like a maffia ridden fiefdom? Now those countries are not perfect but for all the American pork barelling at least they have some corrupt people do the perp walk.

Why are basic minimum standards of governance ignored in this state.

Why are key positions farmed out to buffons whose only qualifications was buying rounds with one pint of Bass included.

The review ends by saying for the south
Perhaps its best hope now is to revert as soon as possible to third world status and qualify for a loan from the IMF.

Is that what we are reduced to?

Once upon a time people in the south believed that the Greens would be the party that would drag the south into the modern world. We have two failed states on this island and need to build one - a modern state, where merit is the key to advancement and nomal democratic standards are upheld.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The rich pay too much tax me arse!! Just look at the facts

Below is a piece from Eoin Ó Broin that appeared in this weeks An Phoblacht. It provides useful information on how we can answer the government claim that the rich cannot afford to be taxed anymore and are already paying more than there fair share.

I strongly believe the information here and the information contained on the TASC website, mentioned below, is the ammunition we need to counter the propaganda of the ruling elite in this country. In order to convince people we are capable of running this country we need to convince them we know our stuff, especially in relation to economic matters. Therefore it is vital for republicans to continue to educate ourselves on economic matters and the TASC site and Michael Taft's notes from the front are good places to start.


FINANCE MINISTER Brian Lenihan keeps telling us that high-earners pay enough tax.
In their November pre-Budget outlook, the Government told us that 4% of earners could pay up to 48% of the total income tax take in 2009.

What more proof do we need that the country’s super rich are paying their fair share? Well, as it happens, a lot more.

Why? Because the Government’s figures don’t tell us how much the top 4% earn and whether paying 48% of all income tax take is fair or not.

Fortunately for us, those smart people at TASC have produced a report that tells a lot more about income distribution than the Government would like you to know.

TASC is an independent think-tank dedicated to combating economic inequality and promoting equality. The website is filled with invaluable information.

Their latest report is The HEAP Chart. It provides a detailed analysis of income inequality in the state.

The top 1% of the population own 20% of the state’s wealth. When residential property is not included, this same 1% own 34% of the state’s wealth.

83% of the PAYE workers earn less than €50,000 per year, while 66% earn less than €33,000 per year.

Only 14% of PAYE workers earn more than €50,000 per year, with a tiny 2% earning more than €100,000 per year.

When you consider that 5% of the population own 50% of the state’s wealth, then the Government’s projected income tax returns for 2009 don’t seem so unfair.

What TASC’s HEAP report tells us is even more interesting. While, during the boom, the income of all groups increased, the gap between high and low incomes widened considerably.

In a comparison of income distribution from 1987 to 2005, TASC demonstrate a clear growth in inequality.

In 2006, women’s income was only 86% of men’s. The proportion of women at risk of poverty in 2007 was 19% compared to 15% of men.

The average annual salary for those with no primary or formal education was €13,489 compared to €45,707 per year for college graduates.

More shocking is the fact that 34% of those with no primary or formal education were at risk of poverty compared to only 3% of college graduates.

IN every EU or OECD comparison contained in the TASC report, the 26 Counties was near the bottom of the pile.

We have higher levels of inequality and poverty and lower levels of spending on social protection than almost all of our rich EU or OECD neighbours.

For TASC, the solution to this mess requires greater equality in people’s pre-tax and post-tax income. Guaranteeing minimum incomes, limiting ‘super salaries’, a fairer tax system and investment in education are all required.

So the next time you hear a Government TD tell you that 4% of workers pay 48% of income tax, don’t just sit there, reach for the HEAP Chart and tell them it’s because our society is so unequal.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Leader of a developing-world country visits natural disaster zone

What leader of the developing world could this be...?

Well look no futher than Mr. Brian Cowen.

Nobody will doubt the accuracy of "natural disaster" but developing world is that a bit harsh for south Ireland?

Frankly no its not. If the shoe fits we should call it as it is. There is a reason why traffic in Dublin creeps along, why rail bridges collapse and why Galwegians either cant drink the water in their houses or they cant get into their houses cause of water.

The enjoyable
notesonthefront blog highlighted a report by world economic forum in October 2008 on our infrastructure. Its not comfortable reading. It turns out that infrastructure wise we are all too often a disaster.

In the category of 'Quality of Overall Infrastructure' we rank 64th in the world. 64th! 64th out of 134 countries. Our infrastructural quality ranks behind Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Azerbaijan, Jordan and Jamaica.

Sri Lanka and Mauritius are developing countries and we rank behind them. That description of south Ireland as a developing world country seems to be holding water.

Quality of Roads: We rank 70th - behind even Georgia. With a mean score of 3.5, we are closer to bottom ranking Mongolia (1.4) then we are to top ranking France (6.7).

Georgia - 70 years of Moscow mismanagement is better than 70 years of FF/FG mismanagement it seems

Quality of Port Infrastructure: But then we fall back down - all the way to 64th (we own 64). This is particularly dismal given that over 90 percent of our exports go through our ports; and we're an exporting nation. We even rank behind Zimbabwe and they're landlocked! (They rank higher because they still have better access to South African ports and any inland waterways.)

Worse than a land locked country. Brilliant stuff Fianna Fail. Why would a country like Ireland need quality ports. Thank god we are are surrounded by water but tis a pity at the moment we are under it. So according to the WEF many important aspects of our infrastructure are worse than countries we give aid to.

But the World Economic Forum are not the only body turning an eye on south Ireland. Our friends in the OECD issued a set of conclusions and recommendations at the start of November on our environmental performance.

There are many interesting points in it to discuss but I want to focus on the part that deals with water and flooding. That being topical and all.

Remember this was issued only in November. It was so rosy back then when we were assured that

Ireland has met all deadlines to date for implementing the Water Framework Directive. A new approach to minimising flood risk is being put in place.
Excellent news that. Cork will be thrilled to hear that.With brilliant timeing it continues:
nevertheless, the rate of progress so far is unlikely to prove sufficient...
The city of Galway experienced outbreaks of cryptosporidium in 2002 and 2007, and old lead pipes cause unacceptably high lead levels in more than a few towns.
Unlikely to prove sufficient. Could that be the understatement of the year? I wonder what affect having to drink faeces fouled water has on the minds of multi-nationals in Galway? Were jobs lost because of that?

But then at the end of the report's section on water, and you'd have to laugh really, they have the following recommendation to the Fianna Fail Govt:

further integrate water quality and flood risk management considerations into spatial planning and development management processes.
Can anyone imagine Fianna Fail tying together water quality, flood risk management and spatial planning. Well maybe some naive newbie in the OECD but surely in Ireland we are all learning the hard way that FF is simply too corrupt and incompetent to even tie their shoelaces.

Martin Ferris TD, the Sinn Féin spokesperson on the
Environment, put it well when he said

"The cosy relationship between Fianna Fáil and developers throughout the 80's and 90's saw housing estates spring up in the most unsuitable places such as the flood plains where so many houses have now been ruined by water. Concern for the safety of the homes being built and those living in them meant nothing as developers lusted after massive profits in an over-inflated housing market and in this they were facilitated by their friends in Fianna Fáil.

Martin hits the nail on the head by highlighting this. We have not experienced a natural disaster so much as a man made disaster. Fianna Fail let housing developments go anywhere as long as de boys paid up in the Galway tent. Can we be surprised that aspects of our infrastructure are worse than Georgia or Sri Lanka - neither countries have had an easy time. So what excuse can Fianna Fail have. Corruption, no planning or long term vision, blended with incompetency had a huge role to play in what happened.

Just ask the people in houses built on what Bandon locals used call the swamp. Welcome to a developing country.

There are a lot of ties in with this story - reformed govt:local and national, appropriate tax burden and subsequent investment, NAMA, and criminal legislaton for corruption. This flood tells us so much about modern Ireland.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Peter & Paul - Till Debt do they part

The great Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw said "a government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul". So how is Peter doing?

Well Peter who we might regard as the ordinary citizen presently getting knocked over because he wasn't smart enough to win money on the horses like Bertie (he was quare lucky that Bertie) is not doing so great.

In the southern state Peter is relying more and more on the state to make ends meet. The CSO's survey on Income and Living conditions 2008 revealed that social welfare and benefits accounted for more than 22% of household income

But for the 10% of households in the lowest income bracket these state payments accounted for 88% of the gross household income. Now every week for months this govt. has been jumping from one position to another when it comes to such payments. They have to be cut drastically or cut a small bit. Smash these dole bludgers or its just necessary cuts etc.

All they have succeeded in doing is terrifying ordinary people who rely on state transfers to make ends meet. Now scaring the bejaysus out of people is hardly doing anything to boost consumer confidence and today's Irish Times report, anecdotal though it be, is further evidence that this govt. is only ensuring economic activity weakens further and further. Japan, move over! south Ireland is thinking about joining you in a lost decade.

But besides the deflationary impact this will have there is a more immediate impact. As mentioned households rely on the govt. for 22% of household income. Add in the fact that southern Irish household debt as a percentage of disposable income increased from 48 per cent in 1995 to approximately 176 per cent in 2009 giving us the dubious honour of being fourth among developed countries in terms of debt ratio.

In other words we are over our heads in debt and the clowns at the top who have NAMA for their developer buddies think Peter our indebted citizen can go hang. Welfare is going to be reduced by god and if that tips him and thousands others over the edge into bankruptcy then its a price worth paying. Who cares that 20% of households were in arrears on payments such as bank accounts, mortgages, rent, credit cards and utility bills. Almost eight per cent of households had arrears of two or more types. Who cares? Well certainly not Fianna Fail.

So what happens when you go bankrupt in south Ireland. Well, as described in an excellent article in the Irish Times, you dont actually go bankrupt. You see when our flag went up over Dublin we didnt seem to ever get around to changing the Victorian mindset. In 2007 a grand total of 4 people went bankrupt in south Ireland. 4! Considering the collapse of the global finances in 2008 this rocketed to 8 in 2008. Doesn't sound right does it?

But remember I mentioned Victorian mindset. Well in the South you have the Dickensian outcome that you get 12 years to discharge your debt; as opposed to 12 months in Britain and 5 years in many other european countries. As the Times noted 12 years is longer than manslaughter. And now that we are speaking about Prison maybe we should think about a system that jailed 276 people in relation to the non-payment of civil debt last year. While the High Court abolished the imprisonment of debtors due to an inability to pay their debt earlier this year its still on the books. Still jailing someone at the cost of 2k a week must make sense on some level although not if they owe money on the level of Seanie Fitz.

And typical of south Ireland when the state fails the people must fend for themselves. The money and Advice budgeting services, a voluntary group, saw its number of clients jump from 14,551 in 2006 to 23,000 this year.

As our economic recovery document says:

There are currently 422,500 people on the live register. This number is growing and there is no government strategy to deal with it. The government claims that saving the banks will fix the economy. Proving them wrong will be cold comfort to the many people who have lost their jobs, who face this Christmas in debt, in poverty and with the prospect of the very small payments made to them by the state being cut.

We are facing into the worst financial crisis since the last one caused by Fianna Fail and we have to rely on a voluntary group to support ordinary people from the deprivations of a Victorian era bankruptcy model thats going to be pushed to the limit by the deflationary policies of a govt. thats intent on reducing the income of one of the most indebted people in the industrial world.

A Bankrupt state morally if not yet financially. I am no radical but the only thing that springs to mind in response to this situation is does anyone have a sledgehammer. This state needs to go.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Michael Taft's assessment of Sinn Féin's budget proposals.

Michael Taft is one of the most respected left wing economic commentators in Ireland. He is a supporter of the labour party, but has been a strong advocate of a broad left alliance in Irish politics. His assessment of the current Sinn Féin budget proposals is below.

As I have said before on this site I feel any Sinn Féin supporter with a desire to have a better understanding of economics, should read Michael's webpage on a regular basis.

His site is called Notes on the Front (named after a column written by James Connolly) The address is


Putting the 'Workable' Back into the Economy: The Recession Diaries - November 19th

One could despair. All the major political parties are supporting another round of fiscal contraction, though they may differ on the balance of tax increases and public spending cuts. In this respect, Fianna Fail has won that particular battle, we are just fighting within the parameters they have set. There is seemingly no challenge to the deflationary orthodoxy on the horizon.

Except . . . .

Sinn Fein has published its 2009 pre-budget submission, ‘The Road to Recovery’. In short, it poses a more sophisticated approach to our economic and fiscal crisis. On the one hand, an investment stimulus to generate growth; on the other hand, a range of mostly taxation measures to start to repair the public finances. Sinn Fein proposes to use different instruments to attack the distinct parts of the deficit – the cyclical and the structural.

It’s a ‘walk-and-chew-bubble-gum-at-the-same-time’ fiscal policy; not only is it workable, it has the potential to bring the economy back to some sort of ‘workable’.

Let’s start with the investment stimulus, or the cyclical side of things. They are proposing a €3.9 billion stimulus, or 2.5 percent of GDP (pointing out that this is equivalent to the Anglo-Irish Bank give-away).

The main components include:

~ a job retention scheme with a potential to save 90,000 jobs
~increasing and modernising CE schemes
~Investment in state infrastructure (labour intensive work in construction, insulation, etc.)
~a National Development Scheme to directly employ people on ‘public works’
~a temporary ‘Front Line’ services initiatives to employ people in ‘civilianising’ work in the Gardai and nursing sectors
~The establishment of a state childcare and pre-education sector, along with employing a range of specialist teaching assistants.

These would be supplemented by a range of fiscal stimulus – reducing alcohol duty over the Christmas period, reintroducing the Christmas bonus, and a ‘cost of living’ package that would reduce everyday expenditure items (utilities, public transport, insurance policies, etc.).

There’s a lot of material here that would need to be developed. For instance, I’m not sure what modernising CE schemes would look like – especially with a National Development Scheme running alongside it. The Front Line services initiative looks extremely worthwhile – so much so, why make it temporary? This has the potential of substantially increasing public sector productivity. And Sinn Fein might have benefited from examining the ICTU/Fine Gael proposals for promoting public enterprises as an engine of infrastructural investment to raise long-term productivity (next generation broadband, green technology, etc.).

But the broad thrust is correct: public sector expansion (especially in the areas of education), job retention, infrastructural investment. This will boost output, create jobs and start the economy back on the road to recovery which, in itself, is the most sustainable means to bringing the deficit under control. That’s the ‘walking’ part.

Now for the ‘chewing gum’. Sinn Fein proposes a range of taxation measures and spending cuts to achieve savings of €7.6 billion – a larger amount than any other party is proposing. These can be broadly broken down into:

Taxation: a new third tax rate of 48 percent for those over €100,000, a wealth tax (or, as I like to describe – a comprehensive property tax), standard-rating tax reliefs while getting rid of property-related ones along with the private hospital co-location relief, abolish the PRSI contribution ceiling, increase the tax on ‘second homes’ along with other capital income measures, etc.

Spending Cuts: apart from a couple of innovative suggestions such as establishing a state wholesale distribution of drugs and the wider use of generic drugs (on top of saving money, it could actually be little money-spinner), this section mostly focuses on public sector pay and salary reductions, including politicians and professional fees.

There’s no sense in going over each detail. We can always find something to disagree with. For instance, I wouldn’t support capping public sector pay at €100,000; this would disadvantage the public sector in the specialist labour market and, in any event, as CSO researchers have shown, higher paid public servants suffer a wage disadvantage, especially males, compared to their private sector counterparts. And I would prioritise the effective over the marginal tax rate. But in the main, the proposals go in a positive direction.

Sinn Fein proposes to pay for their stimulus programme by: (a) taking a proportion of the revenue raised from their tax/spending measures (about €1.9 billion), and (b) dipping into the National Pension Reserve Fund (€2 billion)

Again, I would be cautious about resorting to the Pension Fund. There may well be a lot of calls on that fund through future bank capitalisations. I would have rather seen Sinn Fein make more of our strong debt profile – the combination of a relatively low debt level combined with our strong Exchequer cash balances. They did make insightful comments:

‘ . . . we should not be afraid to sustain some level of deficit financing – borrowing for infrastructural development – something which most other countries use as a matter of routine . . . The claims that we are over-borrowed, that we cannot sustain the current level of borrowing and that public spending is the cause of all fiscal ails, are untrue . . . ‘.

Nonetheless, to the extent that resources for stimulus can be obtained from low-deflation tax resources and public spending efficiencies, that is clearly an advantage. The argument for debt-financed stimulus has never rested on ‘we borrow because we can’, but rather, ‘we borrow because we must’. Stimulus that is partly financed from own-resources is preferable.

But let's take a step back for a moment. Because there is something more going on here than just a new calculation, a catalogue of different policies. Franklin Roosevelt once said, ‘There are many ways to go forward, there is only one way to stand still.’ At present, the current economic debate is standing still, stuck on this contraction. There is no dialogue, no conversation – merely a hectoring, a lecturing: how we must fact reality, how we must take the pain up-front, how hard decisions must be taken.

Sinn Fein is pointing to a new dialogue, one consistent with going forward; where more and more people are encouraged to present all sorts of ideas to grow the economy – from business supports to social protection measures, from state spending to incentivising private investment, from increasing taxes on some to decreasing taxes on others.

Not all of them will be good measures, not all of them will stand up to scrutiny, and not all of them can be accommodated. But to have a growing pool of walking-forward ideas – we would be engaged in a new dialogue, over what will work best

Indeed, a new dialogue could have an energising effect, raise confidence and act as a stimulus in and of itself. We should never overlook the psychology of economies – of the people who work in them, of the consumer, of the investor. A new dialogue could produce, in the first instance, a substantial rise in the output of ideas. If that happens, material output will follow.

Now compare that to today, when every idea, every suggestion no matter how worthwhile is met with a ‘We’re broke, can’t do it, where’s the money coming from.’ My favourite is ‘We must cut our living standards to improve our living standards.’ That would depress any economy regardless of its potential.

Sinn Fein has provided, not only a clear and coherent alternative to the deflationary orthodoxy, a more sophisticated fiscal platform from which to launch recovery. They have demonstrated a new way of how we can talk about our economy.

All in all, not a bad day’s work.

A defense of Sinn Féin's record in support of public services in the North.

Below is a piece from Sinn Féin MLA Sue Ramsey. In this article from this week's An Phoblacht see defends Sinn Féin record in Stormont in its defence of public services.

If people in the party, or near to the party, feel like attacking this article, and the argument put forward in it, I believe it is vital that an alternative strategy and policy be put forward.


Sinn Féin ministers – Standing up for services


RECENT weeks have seen people across Ireland uniting to demand action on unemployment, in opposition to cuts to public services and to defend the declining income of people on low wages and social welfare.

Sinn Féin commends the trade union movement for these mobilisations and we applaud the tens of thousands who took to the streets throughout the country.
In the North, the focus of the ICTU-called demonstrations was on the so-called “efficiency savings” of more than £700 million being demanded by the British Treasury of the health service over the next three years.

There is growing anger among health and social care professionals, trade unions and the broader community as the cuts threaten to seriously erode the quality of care in the North’s healthcare system and attack the rights of health workers.


The proposed cuts may lead to the loss of up to 3,000 jobs, including more than 700 nursing posts, and a drastic reduction in the ambulance service as well as the closure of hospital beds.
There is also a push to have patients stay in hospital for the shortest time possible, including those who have undergone surgery. Women’s health professionals have expressed dismay at the Belfast Trust’s plans that new mothers be released from hospital just six to 12 hours after they give birth.

And while these so-called efficiency savings are supposed to free up resources to be reinvested in frontline services, there is no guarantee or mechanism to ensure this is the case. You cannot get more frontline than the ambulance service, one of the targets of the cuts, or the backbone of the health service – its nurses.

Additionally, the Belfast Trust’s plans to stop recruiting new staff, ban agency workers and overtime would impact on the most vulnerable and lowest-paid health workers.


There are undoubtedly real efficiency improvements that could be made in the health service, such as addressing high levels of bureaucracy, top-heavy management and outside consultancy fees.

Ending duplication and maximising the scale of economies through greater all-Ireland workings could release millions back into service delivery. Sinn Féin has called for the comprehensive ‘Investing in Health’ strategy proposed by Bairbre de Brún when she was Health Minister to be implemented as a way to strengthen the health service and integrate it with other departments and social agencies, such as housing and education bodies for example.

This strategy has the potential to save millions of pounds in the health budget by taking a holistic approach to preventative health care.


The proposals are being driven by the British Government’s agenda of privatising and attacking the public health service and other public services. We believe a strong campaign by the community and trade unions will play an important role in defending our public services from such attacks.

Sinn Féin ministers in the Executive have taken steps to ensure that key public services such as water and public transport remain under public control. Our ministers have been pursuing a strategy of investment to protect public services and jobs, and tackling persisting inequalities, poverty and discrimination while advancing all-Ireland co-operation and integration.
Minister for Regional Development Conor Murphy has announced the investment of hundreds of millions of pounds into developing efficient, high-quality, affordable and accessible public transport that aims to make the bus or train a more attractive option than private car use. This includes funding for 290 new buses, 20 new trains and a rapid transit network in Belfast. Last October, Conor also introduced free travel on public transport for all citizens in the North aged 60 and over. More than 57,000 older people have now taken up this entitlement.


As well as developing sustainable transport, Sinn Féin has used its role in the Department of Regional Development to ensure that water remains in public hands.
Despite the obvious eagerness from London to have the Government water company in the North sold off, the Minister has firmly ruled out any moves towards privatisation of the water and sewerage services and voiced his commitment to ensure “it will remain in full public ownership now and in the future”.

We have campaigned since 2001 against the plans made under direct rule ministers to force citizens in the Six Counties to pay a new charge for water when they already pay for this vital service through rates.

In 2007, Conor Murphy commissioned a two-part ‘Independent Review into Water and Sewerage Services’ that recognised the contribution households already make through regional rates and ruled out double charging and private profits being made from the service.
Responding to the increased financial pressures households have come under in the context of the recession, Sinn Féin recently brought forward a successful motion to defer any decision on the funding arrangements for the water service until beyond 2012, when the North’s economic situation would be reassessed by the Executive. The Executive agreed to cover the cost of domestic water use until that time.


Last December, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness helped secure a £15 million financial hardship package to provide assistance in housing, fuel and debt costs for those most vulnerable to the effects of the economic downturn.

Sinn Féin Minster for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Michelle Gildernew has also organised the investment of £10 million to tackle rural poverty through fuel support, rural transport and rural childcare initiatives. Over the next five years, she will be investing £530 million into rural areas in the North.

The most significant change taking place in an Executive department is the radical, progressive reform of the education system being led by Sinn Féin Education Minister Caitríona Ruane. She is advancing a programme of modernising education, based on replacing the failed academic selection system with area-based planning to facilitate the development of post-primary education provision.

The minister has launched a £700 million Schools Modernisation Programme of investment in the schools estate over the next three years.


Sinn Féin ministers in government are demonstrating their commitment to defending public services, to advancing the all-Ireland agenda and overcoming poverty and inequality.
But the Executive is facing serious challenges in meeting the efficiency targets demanded by the British Treasury across all departments. The framework of the British Government’s pro-privatisation economic policies, and its refusal to address the legacy of its historic under-funding of vital services in the North, lie at the root of the problem.

The unfolding crisis in health care provision clearly shows that more must be done to defend the public sector.

Our immediate priority is the defence of frontline public services and to tackle health inequalities, and ensure that vulnerable people, people living with disadvantage and poverty, and those most at risk are protected.

These proposed cuts demonstrate sharply the need for decision-making powers about the economy to be in the hands of locally-elected and accountable politicians that will make decisions based on the interests of local citizens. Sinn Féin reiterates our call to the other parties to support the acquisition of greater fiscal powers for the Assembly on this basis.

We support the community and trade union campaigns across Ireland in defence of jobs, public services and social welfare and believe a strong and organised movement will play a vital role in protecting and advancing our rights, living standards and services for the future.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

ILR Podcast: Joanne Spain - Sinn Féin

Below is a link to the Irish Left Review of an interview with Joanne Spain. It is a detailed interview giving a good indepth analysis of Sinn Féin's budget proposals.

ILR Podcast: Joanne Spain - Sinn Féin’s Pre-Budget Submission

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Video of launch of Sinn Féin's budget proposals

Sinn Féin TDs, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Arthur Morgan and Aengus Ó Snodaigh launch the Party's Pre-Budget Submission 2010 - The Road to Recovery - in Buswells Hotel in Dublin on November 16th, 2009.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Magic Numbers in the southern Media.

Magic Numbers.

I've been trying to read up on my economics. While its always been a relevant subject and necessary for anyone who has an interest in progressive politics its really hit the limelight now.

The dismal science has many arcane and complex theories.

Two of which were discovered by the southern media.

The first is TINA - There Is No Alternative. Its the southern media's catch all theory thats applied once exhaustion sets in. Its most recent outing has been with Nama.

But the second is economics at its best. Its the Magic Number theory.

First I learned of it was yesterday in the Sunday Tribune. Shane Coleman, Political editor and dabbler in economic theory was the man of the moment.

In a rather long article questioning whether Fine Gael and Labour had the bottle to make difficult budgetary choices Mr. Coleman was determined to set the scene early.

The first words were: It's the €4bn question. Now when I did my leaving cert in english we were told avoid repetition, dont hack away at the same point. Did anyone tell Shane?

Repeatedly the number of €4 billion in cuts is the number bandied about. Over and over again Shane hacks away telling us that "The closer it comes to the budget, the closer Fine Gael's proposals to produce the magic €4bn will come under scrutiny." And Fine Gael can be sure that its proposals will come under scrutinity but since when did all budgetary policy become defined by the number 4 billion.

Shane lists a number of various opposition party measures to cut expenditure but guess what as none of these hit 4 billion then well they just dont do it.

There will have to be budgetary cut backs. The economy is going to need to be restructured. Its going to be rough and hard and we all know it but the southern state is not best served by journalists who become fixated by numbers without taking the time to consider what the numbers mean. Just because the Fianna Fail/Green govt. sets a target does not mean its correct and anyone who fails to hit it is wrong. If the various economic plans of the opposition parties are focussed, credible and purposeful then thats the mark of a good plan.

The mark of a good plan is not picking a number and slashing and burning till you get there. Magic aint real Shane and picking the magic numer of 4 billion simply because its the wheeze of the moment aint much of a trick and its certainly not a useful contribution to the debate.

Maybe one day in the south we'll get a media that takes the time to think for itself rather than just dribble out this nonsense.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The IMF will save us!!! - Yeah, the people who have all the economic answers, but didn't see this mess coming.

Below is an article from this week's An Phoblacht on the dangers of the IMF. In my opinion it is a strong likelihood that many of the ruling class in this country would be quite happy for the IMF to come into Ireland and take the blame for implementing cuts to pay and social services. They will turn around and try to blame the unions and the work shy for not having the brains to bow to the cuts this government is currently proposing.

Fianna Fail and Fine Gael will simply say there is no alternative. Well there is. Make those with money pay for solving this crisis. Make them take the pain not ordinary working people.

Anyway the piece below will give you some information on the IMF and every left republican should read up on this orgaisation because we will hear it mentioned alot in the coming deabte around the budget and beyond.


IMF is not an option for Ireland

BE AFRAID, be very afraid, ‘IMF creep’ is threatening Irish sovereignty. It probably started as a joke at Dublin cocktail parties, where the well heeled talk about the latest David McWilliams articles and how they miss George Lee on RTÉ, but the glib argument that with a deepening economic crisis and a paralysed coalition government the only way to avoid disaster was to allow the International Monetary Fund (IMF) manage or run the Irish economy is gaining credence.

It can be comforting to think that there is a way to call time out and let someone else clean up the after effects of the economic tsunami that has beached the Irish economy but it is a delusional state.

It is the ideology of those who used to think that Thatcher wasn’t all that bad or that nuclear power is a viable option to protect the environment and tackle climate change. You know them, the people who ponder over the differences between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael policies. When in government or not the differences between them are often cosmetic.

So before we press the emergency button do we really know who the IMF are, what they do, and most importantly if they are that great why did they not see the international economic meltdown that was emerging in this decade across the world’s economies?

What did they think, say and do about the global financial and banking collapse that has in Ireland wreaked the most havoc, with the highest levels of unemployment and the proportionally biggest bank bailouts of any other developed economy in the world?

Finally what is wrong in Ireland that we think so little of and value our economic sovereignty so lightly that some would consider throwing it away so easily. This question is perhaps the easiest to answer.

There are those who never appreciated the value of economic independence for Ireland, those who never wanted the responsibility of building a better Ireland, and would instead be quite content to let someone else do it. It is the ideology of Homer Simpson and scarily it is gaining credence In Ireland today.

Who are the IMF?

Ireland is actually part of the IMF along with 185 other states and the has a history of rebuilding shattered economies. It emerged in 1944 as a vehicle for the Allies post World War II reconstruction programme. There were 29 original members and alongside the IMF a new World Bank also came into being. Their original task was in 1944 according to the IMF one of “overseeing the international monetary system”
In reality the IMF and World Bank would set the game rules for financial markets and international trade, rules written by the most rich and powerful countries in the world.

What do the IMF do?

Through the World Bank and funding given to them by member states, they lend money to other states who are in financial difficulty. The money comes with an ever increasing amount of strings attached.

One good example of this was an IMF fund introduced in 1986 called a Structural Adjustment Facility, better known as Structural Adjustment Programmes.

The programmes work quite simply in that recipients get low cost loans where the repayments are easier to meet than international market rates but there a lot of conditions. These can be summarised under the demand to open their economies to more trade and ensure as little state involvement in domestic markets, which for poor underdeveloped states often means cutting back of health, education and social spending while privatising as much of the public sector in your economy as possible.
Many organisations including the Debt and Development Coalition in Ireland argue that the IMF has increased poverty in underdeveloped economies through the conditions of the funding it provides.

The IMF also produce a range of economic data and reports, and regularly comments forcefully on whether they agree or disagree with the economic policies of particular states. For example, in June the IMF said the 26-County economy was the most overheated of all “advanced economies”. If you don’t owe them money it is a moot point. If you do, you should read on?

The Ukraine Example

The Ukrainian Government have received almost $11 billion in loans from the IMF. In late October the head of the IMF described a new law to increase minimum wages and pensions by 20% in Ukraine as ‘a threat’ to the country’s economic stability.
The Wall Street Journal reported that, “The new Ukrainian law could derail the loan arrangement between Ukraine and the IMF and jeopardise arrangements the country has made to receive a loan from the European Commission”.

The IMF would only sanction a 10% increase in wages and pensions. This is the inflation rate there, arguing that anything above “would place an unsustainable burden on public finances.”

The Romanian Example

Reuters reported this week that the Romanian Government are to “force 1.3 million state employees to take 8 days unpaid holiday at the end of 2009 as part of efforts to meet International Monetary Fund spending targets”.

The news agency said that, “The move is part of deep austerity cuts that the European Union’s second poorest country is planning, including up to 150,000 public sector job cuts next year.”

So without the IMF we are talking public sector wage cuts in Ireland and with them who knows how like Romania Ireland would be?

The Sri Lankan Example

The Sri Lankan economy is facing into an election, and here in this flawed democracy it seems that the IMF are the de facto government. This week the IMF agreed to give the Sri Lankan government $329 million, part of a $2.6 billion loan. The IMF wants the government to ‘broaden the tax base” and “control spending”.

Anti-IMF campaigner Sarath Fernando, described by one news agency as “a veteran campaigner for the rights of peasant farmers and agriculture workers”, believes that, “The IMF wants government to reduce spending by raising taxes, privatising state-owned enterprises and cutting the welfare and social spending”.

Under the terms of the IMF agreement the Sri Lankan government must cuts its budget deficit from 7% to 5%. Without the IMF we have been able to consider a lot more options than the Sri Lankans.

Who else has the IMF ‘helped’ in 2009?

In the year to date Latvia, Hungary and Iceland have also received IMF bailouts. This week the IMF gave $1.7 billion to the Dominican Republic and Montenegro are negotiating a loan.

Who has threatened the idea of an IMF role in Ireland?

In August, former Fine Gael Garret FitzGerald, supporting NAMA said that failure to support the project could “let Ireland fall into the hands of the International Monetary Fund”.

In October Mary Harney said, “If the Government hasn’t the capacity to do what’s needed, then others will come in, like the IMF, and overnight they will make decisions. Then they will immediately start cutting expenditure by maybe 30 or 40 per cent, and that is a fact.”

The two were threatening the IMF to preserve a failing status quo, meanwhile the internet blogs, message boards and occasional economic commentary columns of Irish newspapers are floating the IMF option.

It is not a course of action anyone should want to take. The IMF is a road to ruin. shown by the living standards in most African states before the IMF came in with the money and the cuts/privatisation agenda and look at it after.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wolfe Tone, An Uaimh agus Euskal Herria

Wolfe Tone, An Uaimh agus Euskal Herria

New Media such as podcasting, blogs, or social media such as Bebo, Facebook etc. are changing how we communicate with each other.

These types of media are radically redefining the structure of communication in the world. Where once communication was top down and you only heard what you were supposed to hear now we have a flatter model. I can ignore RTE, ignore the Irish Times and not rely on Stephen Collins of Charlie Bird to tell me what to think.

In a way we are back to the era of the pamphlet - when any man or woman could, via a single press, spread their message outside the normal channels of communication.

When Wolfe Tone wrote his pamphlet about the rupture with Spain he was disappointed to see that it had less of an effect then he expected. But he himself was immediate witness to how it shook both the supporters of the foreign govt. and the Irish who stood with them.

An occasion soon offered to give vent to my newly received opinions. On the appearance of a rupture with Spain, I wrote a pamphlet to prove that Ireland was not bound by the declaration of war, but might, and ought, as an independent nation, to stipulate for a neutrality. In examining this question, I advanced that of separation, with scarcely any reserve, much less disguise ; but the public mind was by no means so far advanced as mine, and my pamphlet made not the smallest impression. The day after it appeared, as I stood perdue in the bookseller's shop, listening after my own reputation, Sir Henry Cavendish, a notorious slave of the House of Commons, entered, and throwing my unfortunate pamphlet on the counter in a rage, exclaimed: Mr. Byrne, if the author of that work is serious, he ought to be hanged.

Sir Henry was succeeded by a Bishop, an English Doctor of Divinity, with five or six thousand a year, laboriously earned in the church. His lordship's anger was not much less than that of the other personage. Sir, said he, if the principles contained in that abominable work were to spread, do you know that you would have to pay for your coals at the rate of five pounds a ton?

Those principles did indeed spread across this entire country and they are still spreading today. Just as Tone harnessed his ingenuity, creativity and passion for a Republic to use simple technology to force the pace of change via an independent, non-sanctioned media, then surely we modern republicans can follow once again his footsteps and do the same. There is an amazing legacy of independent media argiung for the republican cause in Ireland. This is just the next chapter.

In that vein I thought I'd look at two exciting uses of technology where political discourse is bypassing and ignoring the main stream media and instead doing its own thing and talking directly to the people.

The first is:

Ar Muin na Muice, agus Peadar Toibín - 12ú Samhain -

Is é Ar Muin na Muice an clár Gaeilge de Near90FM i mBaile Átha Cliath Thoir-Thuaidh. Téann sé amach gach lá i rith na seachtaine ag 5.30 i.n. agus bíonn sé a athchraoladh ag 9.00 ar maidin chomh maith. Bíonn sé le fáil timpeall na cruinne ar an idirlíon freisin ag

Tá na Comhairleoirí san Uaimh tar éis vótáil ar son rúin go mbeadh gach forbairt cónaithe nua sa bhaile ainmnithe i nGaeilge amháin. Chuir Comh. Peadar Toibín (SF) an rún síos agus labhair Darren Mac an Phríora leis faoi.

Tá an Podchraoladh anseo.

Basque Info

And the second inspiring use of new media is the Facebook group: Basque Info. They are dedicated to bringing news from the Basque world to the English speaking world.There Facebook group page states that "You can listen to Basque Info live today at 12pm on Féile FM 103.2 Belfast and tomorrow at 3.30pm on Near 90.3 FM Dublin. This week along with the news we'll be carrying out an interview with Basque analyst Inaki Soto."

It sounded like a very interesting discussion and unfortunately the broadcasts went out yesterday and today. I have not seen if they have them on podcasts but I will keep an eye out for their next broadcast. Did anyone hear it?

Their stated goal is to break the wall of silence imposed by the Spanish and French states on the Basque Country and its struggle for self-determination. Its a great idea and effective - there is good material on Herri Batasuna's new initiative and also details on the repression by the French/Spanish govts.

Its a great resource and if you are on facebook I recommend it. If you are not on facebook then what are you are waiting for :)

The only limitation to using such a media route is imagination and creativity. There are many exiting possibilities and its exciting to see new media coming to life.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

What Next for Ireland's Young?

To get back one's youth one has merely to repeat one's follies - So said Oscar Wilde.

Its an apt quote as south Ireland faces into a new era of large scale unemployment with the young being especially hard hit.

For decade after decade we exported our youth like they were cattle. It appears we are now on the verge of repeating this folly. Youth unemployment is rising dramatically and threatening to condemn another generation to a lost decade or to while their time away in another country.

What Next for Ireland's Young?

We are today beset by many crises in this country. The most serious crisis is of course the banking crisis and the money pit that NAMA represents - the crime of the century.

Attendant to that there are several other crisis - the structural crisis in our financial system where we spend more than we take in; the personal debt crisis coming down the line and the disaster that might happen if the ECB raises its interest rates (Although that seems to be unlikely for a while yet - but for how long?) etc.

With the economic mismanagement in this state having been so criminal its no surprise or wonder we are where we are.

Every sector of society, bar the influential minority able to distort the economy to their advantage, are hurting.

One demographic thats hurting particularly bad is young people. Its a grim time to be young in this state. Your chances of getting a job is low to none and if you do get a job then its more and more likely to be a part time job.

Young men have been especially hard hit by the downturn, with the unemployment rate rising to 40% for 15-19 year-olds and 30% for 20-24 year-olds. With no opportunity to get a job many of them are staying on in in education causing a sizable drop in labour force participation rates for those in the 15-24 year-old category.

The situation is grim all across europe / the euro zone. Currently unemployment for under 25s in spain has hit 41%. Thats a staggering figure. For the Euro region the rate in the euro region was 20.1 percent

In the medium term its likely that youth unemployment will continue to rise rapidly. The economy is likely to contract by nearly 2% in 2010.

Its a crisis thats starting to get some focus. Leading British labour economist David Blanchflower, who recently warned that the FF/Green coalition was driving the economy over a deflationary cliff, recently was reported in the Irish Times as having warned that Ireland, like Britain, faced the prospect of a lost generation. He highlighted research that showed those unemployed in there 20s are more likely to be unemployed, have lower health and generate a lower wage later in life. The problem with disadvantage is once you are disadvantaged you are always on the back foot and its hard to get your head above water.

How long will it be before they get back into the labour force and for those who do get back its more and more likely that they will be in part time labour. All across europe the % of workers in part time labour is increasing. Here its gone up by nearly 5%. Its going up because companies are trying to hold onto their staff rather than let them go, so drop them to part time. But the more part times we have the weaker the economy and the weaker the labour force and its power.

How are we going to solve this crisis.

Its a debate we have entered early with our jobs creation strategy and on economist Liam Delaney is commenting on it as well highlighting the fact that you can hardly condemn work experience programmes, or such active interventions into the labour market, as a failure when its FAS running them. Delaney recommends that the programme be simple be taken away from FAS. Considering the legacy of FAS is, frankly, a shameful legacy of graft and corruption, then it would be a good start. Lets give intervention and job supports an honest chance and not allow it be squandered by a failed organisation like FAS.

But if this state does not resolve the problem of youth unemployment then that will be another shameful legacy for a state tainted so much by graft and corruption.

Message brought loud and clear to heart of "Cowen Country"!

By: A Contributor

Today felt like the start of something, that the ordinary worker’s of this country, are not going to stand idly by while their wages are slashed and the services they provide are skinned to the bone. The spirit of the day can be summed up by the Industrial Worker’s of the World when they say “an injury to one is an injury to all”

I am referring, of course, to the 4,000 strong demonstration (of which I was a part) in Tullamore today, organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions as part of their “Get Up, Stand Up” campaign. While there was some of the usual drivel from some “Champagne Socialists” in IMPACT and SIPTU about continuing so-called “Social Partnership”, there was also a militant section who know that the Government and Bosses are not our partners, that it our taxes and TV license fees that keep public broadcasters on the unnecessary wage of €900,000 per annum, while ordinary workers survive on peanuts, and that this is not acceptable!

This has always been how Capitalism has divided and conquered, by convincing the people in our society that they can reach one of the few places at “the top” by scrambling over their colleagues and other workers. This is an illusion and rather than continue doing this, ordinary people need to realise that we should not be trying to rise above our friends, neighbours and colleagues, but to level the playing field so that all advance together.

I personally believe the way forward now lies in the continuation of this campaign and in strike action taking place on the 24th November, and to borrow from the Socialist Party, that this strike should be turned into a 24-hour General Strike by getting unionised private sector workers to join in a demonstration of solidarity.

Viva la Revolution!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Budget 2010 - There is another way

I was out today along with thousands of others marching against government policy and demanding a new approach to the problems this country faces. Below is an outline of how Sinn Féin feels the probelm should be tackled. It is written by Joanne Spain and appears in this weeks An Phoblacht.


This Friday, thousands of people are gathering across the state to oppose the savage Budget due this December that threatens public services, the vulnerable and our quality of life.

For the past 18 months, the Fianna Fáil and Green Party Government has been running two economies: one for the wealthy and one for everyone else.

The first entails huge borrowing and a cash stimulus for banks; the second comes with talk of deficits, tightening our belts and sharing the pain for a mess we didn’t make.

This ‘real’ economy (not the Monopoly one involving banks and ‘Get out of jail free’ cards for developers) will be dealt with in the Budget. The Government wants to reduce the deficit by over €4 billion. Almost all of it will come from slashing child benefit, social welfare payments, investment in schools, hospitals and public transport, and teaching and nursing jobs.

The Budget will create no jobs. There will be no stimulus package even though almost every other country in the world is employing one. At the same time as the Government is taking away our rights, it will be spending our tax on a €54 billion golden handshake for banks, developers and land speculators.

There is another way.

Next week, Sinn Féin will launch its pre-Budget submission. It’s not designed to protect the wealthy or save banks. Its purpose is to show how this economy can be saved through a stimulus package and how there is still a lot of money being left alone by the Government for deliberate policy reasons.

We show how around €7.5 billion can be added to the economy this year, €5.5 billion of which comes from making the wealthy pay their fair share; €2 billion comes from the National Pension Reserve Fund (the same fund that the Government used to inject €4 billion into Anglo Irish Bank) and we use it for a jobs stimulus package.
None of our proposals involves cuts to essential services, though we do tackle some of the waste in public spending, such as the subsidies to private healthcare and the exorbitant wages paid to elected representatives and senior civil servants.
We debunk the myth being propagated by the Government about our borrowing levels. No country wants to be in debt but most accept that trying to reduce a deficit in a recession is madness. Even in 2012, when our borrowing is expected to peak, we will still be below European average figures.

The Government and its puppet economists like Colm McCarthy are telling us we can’t borrow any more because they want to cut public spending. They believe social welfare payments (€204 a week) and nurses’ wages are too high. When they can find a logic for indebting the country, however, in this case €54 billion for banks, they will borrow.

We also put paid to the ‘slash social welfare’ mentality.

Our social welfare payments are not too high. They are barely adequate, as anyone who has just lost their job will tell you.

Consigning people to poverty because you don’t have the courage or the inclination to take on vested interests is not the answer.

Cutting social welfare rates in a state so reliant on VAT receipts is utter madness, as people on social welfare tend to put their money back into the economy. Sinn Féin has a novel way to cut the social welfare bill: Create jobs.

Our economy can be saved. There is a way to do this, a different way to what the Government will unveil in December.

Our way asks those who can afford it to pay more, stimulates the economy with job-creation, and introduces a cost-of-living package for people struggling to make ends meet. The Government’s way will push us further into recession as they fill the lifeboats with their friends and our cash.

HERE’S some of Sinn Féin’s Budget 2010 proposals

Introduce a third tax rate of 48% on earnings in excess of €100,000 - Raises €355 million

Standardise all discretionary tax reliefs – Raises €1.1 billion

Abolish mortgage interest relief for landlords – Raises €285 million

Abolish the PRSI ceiling – Raise €119.5 million

Introduce a 1% wealth tax on all assets worth more than €1 million, excluding farmland-Raises €1.6 billion

Increase Capital Gains Tax to 40% – Raises €190 million

Introduce measures to reduce the cost of medicines in our health system, including nationalisation of wholesale distribution of drugs and the use of lower-cost generic drugs – Saves €200 million

Establish a jobs retention fund available to SMEs. This measure has the potential to save 96,000 jobs in 2010. Cost: €600 million

Use the public sector and direct public employment to kick-start the economy. Increase and modernise CE schemes and invest in state infrastructure. Cost: €2 billion

Build the state childcare and pre-education sector. Cost: €500 million
Re-introduce the Christmas bonus scheme for social welfare recipients. Cost: €223 million

Implement the pay increases for 2009 as set out in the last social partnership agreement. Cost: €230 million

Implement a ‘cost of living’ package that freezes and lowers everyday expenses like public transport, television licenses; reduces VAT on essential items; reduces professional fees (High Pay Commission could help with this); and targets insurance policies offered through banks and other measures. Cost: €300 million

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sinn Féin back ICTU rallies against spending cuts

Sinn Féin leaders from across the country have clearly demonstrated their support for the ICTU protests planned for the 6th and 24th November. Marting Ferris has spoken out strongly against Labour TD Costello's criticism of the planned action and Gerry Adams made the below statement.

The battle lines are being drawn very clearly for the struggle that is about to commence. A massive programme of cuts is being planned for North and South of the border and Sinn Féin must stand clearly with the forces who wish to see us defend the interests of the weakest members of society. Be they those in receipt of welfare benefits, health care etc. Or those workers who are fighting to defend jobs, pay and conditions.


Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has called for people in the north to show their support for our public services by attending rallies organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in Armagh, Ballymena, Belfast, Derry, Magherafelt and Newry this Friday, November 6th.

Mr Adams said:“The Irish Congress of Trade Unions National Day of Protest on Friday will give people from across Ireland the opportunity to demonstrate their opposition to cuts in public services.

“The focus in the north the will very much be on planned cuts to the health service, including job losses and the closure of hospital beds. The British Treasury is demanding ‘efficiency savings’ of £700 million over the next three years.

“The reality is that it will be the most disadvantaged, whose life expectancy is already significantly lower than others, who will be most adversely affected these cuts.

“Our priority is the defence of front-line public services and to tackle health inequalities and ensure that vulnerable people, people living with disadvantage and poverty, and those most at risk are protected.

“The Executive is facing very real challenges in meeting the efficiency targets demanded by the British Treasury.

“I believe that there are steps we can and must take to defend public services, and already Sinn Féin Ministers in the Executive have taken steps to ensure that key public services such as water and public transport remain under public control. “Sinn Féin have led the demand for greater all-Ireland working across the Health Service and I believe this could deliver substantial savings that could be channelled into sustaining and developing front-line services. Ending duplication and maximising the scale of economies could release millions back into service delivery. I also believe that the proper implementation of the Investing for Health Strategy can deliver huge savings.

“It is time to mobilise, agitate, educate and politicise for real change. These rallies are an important part of the campaign to defend public services that must continue beyond Friday.”

The rallies in the North are being held at 1pm in Armagh (Hospital); Ballymena (Diamond); Belfast (City Hall); Derry (Custom House Street, off Guildhall Square); Magherafelt (Diamond)l; and Newry (City Hall).

And in the 26 Counties in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford, Sligo, Tullamore, and Dundalk

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Beyond the Nation - Inspiration from overseas.

The Republican movement is characterised by its openess to outside influences. It has never closed its eyes to the outside world to focus solely on our own struggle to establish a republic but has always been ready to look beyond these shores to find inspiration, to support people in struggle etc.

There are many examples - republicans like Bob Doyle; the close bonds with the African National Congress, the support for the Basque people etc.

From each of these encounters we have given and received support and inspiration.

Eoin o'Broin in his book sets out several theses for development which he argues Sinn Fein must consider in order to maximise the party's growth and development

One of those thesis is "Beyond the Nation". o'Broin contends that Sinn Fein must continue to build and deepen its engagement with like minded parties across Europe. Specifically he mentions progressive parties in Finland, Norway, Netherlands and other Scandinavian/European Left-Green movements.

Looking abroad has always been of benefit to our movement. Whether it was the support and advice offered by the ANC at the start of the peace process, or the inspiration of the Basque people whose struggle to retain their culture and unite and free their country is so similar to ours. We can learn from their mistakes and their successes.

So are there, for you, any particular parties or movements in Europe, or even wider afield, whose success can be a model for our own and whose failures we can avoid by studying their mistakes.

Considering one of the big challenges in Ireland is the breaking down of the partitionist mindset and also the need to persuade unionists of the merits of a UI then I would suggest the Scottish National Party is a good example of a party that is very successfully reasserting the identity of a country and gradually building momentum for an independent Scotland. Their steady approach of good governance and the assertion of their separate cultural identity is making normal the idea of a separate, independent Scotland and making that day more likely, in my opinion. But they have not lost their focus on the need for social equality either for the Scottish people. They have made big improvements in reducing poverty in Glasgow, they have stopped the selling of council houses in order to maintain a supply for those who need it etc.

Who else might be a good example or inspiration for this party? Any suggestions?