Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Progressive Oppostion

It looks likely that there will be 14 Sinn Féin and up to 10 progressive left deputies in the incoming Dáil. 
These 24 progressive left Representatives need to eclipse Fianna Fail as the opposition to the incoming conservative administration and ensure that victory could be grasped from the jaws of defeat, so to speak.  This is a platform that we could barely imagine a few short weeks ago,
The election campaign was dominated bu the specific budgetary issues and the immediacy of the crisis facing the people.  Ideology struggled to feature.  It can now be a central feature of debate from the first day of the incoming Dáil.  The people can hear how and why we are in this crisis and just how similar FG and FF are.  It will also continue to force the members of the Labour Party to examine how best to use their political strength. 
I would make a particular appeal to the members of the ULA to resist the temptation to take an elitist view of what it means to be on the progressive left. The days of political sectarianism on the left need to be left behind.
The British Labour politician Tony Benn described British Labour something like this.  Labour is not a socialist party, but it has many Socialist within it.  SF could be described that way,  Certainly, the ULA should reach out to the membership of SF.  It would be good for both groups.  All activism is educational and it works both ways.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Language Freedom movement redux eile

Fine Gael seem to think that the Irish language is a barrier to progress. They are trying to lower Irish's status as a Leaving cert language.

Just like the Language freedom movement Fine Gael is bringing the past back into Irish politics.

Irish is a defining feature of Ireland. No matter where you are from or what your background the Irish language is the patrimony of everyone.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have together tolerated 8 decades of failed language policy. For me the failure to restore Irish is a good example of how failure is tolerated in this state. Fine Gael instead of improving the teaching of Irish has responded with the out dated agenda of weakening it.

A move which has been widely condemned by ordinary students and people.

FG or FF does not have a right to destroy our language.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Keeping jobs, giving new opportunities and stopping emigration

In 2010, unemployment peaked at almost 460,000. There are 439,000 people on the Live Register. The country has also seen a return to high levels of emigration with the ESRI recently predicting that 100,000 people, mainly young people, would leave Ireland over the next two years. This level of emigration exceeds anything seen during the worst days of the 1980s. Unemployment is the only figure that matters for those of us concerned with economic recovery.

Employment, not percentage increases in GNP/GDP, is a true reflection of meaningful economic growth. High rates of unemployment don’t just spell bad news for the economy now – structural unemployment into the future will have a devastating impact on any hope of restoring the Irish economy.

The relationship between jobs and the deficit is a clear one – more people in work produce higher levels of spending activity and tax revenues, as well as lower welfare payments. In 2008, employment in this State fell by 84,000. This was associated with a decrease in tax revenues of €6.5billion and an increase in social welfare payments of at least €2.5billion, a total deterioration in Government finances of €9billion.

Sinn Féin’s employment and financial stimulus package costs €7.595billion and will create 160,000 jobs directly over the medium-term, tens of thousands more jobs indirectly and also save thousands of jobs. The full cost of our employment stimulus amounts to €7billion. The financial stimulus of €595million is accounted for in our tax and saving measures. The multiplier effect on GDP of creating 160,000 jobs would amount to 1.8%, according to ESRI figures. And this would be real GDP growth – not growth based on the profits of multinational companies based here.

Our stimulus is about providing immediate and direct employment in key sectors such as infrastructure in the immediate term. But in the longer term the impact of our stimulus plan would see the State’s competitiveness increase as we become a world leader in green energy, IT and research and development, in addition to having world-class infrastructure to attract Foreign Direct Investment and support indigenous enterprise for longer-term employment creation.

Furthermore, the completion of key strategic infrastructure projects, such as the National Broadband scheme, and the improvements in the education and health services, will make Ireland more competitive and put us in a better position for economic recovery in the years ahead. In addition to these proposals, Sinn Féin has a strategy to boost the tourism sector including developing tourist attractions and amenities and a plan to create a new generation of co-operatives. This sustainable, long-term employment would broaden the tax base and secure it.

The 10-point plan

1. A jobs stimulus. Sinn Féin is advocating the transfer of €7billion from the National Pension Reserve Fund (NPRF) for a State-wide investment programme (stimulus). We are calling for a transfer from the fund of €7billion –– for a jobs stimulus package. This money should be administered out of the NPRF over the next 3.5 years, with the Department of Finance signing off on proposals as they are submitted from the departments. All proposals would have to have ‘value for money’ clauses and total number of people that would be employed under the proposal. €2billion would be spent on the employment stimulus in 2011.

2. Growing the agri-food sector. Deploy funding of €500million to set up and support central production hubs for SMEs involved in the agri-food sector so that they have access to advice, support and, most importantly, infrastructure and equipment perhaps not available to early- stage start-ups. We envisage existing agencies such as Enterprise Ireland and An Bord Bia to come together with Government to drive this project. This would create 5,000 direct jobs and 2,000 indirect jobs.

Coupled with regional networking, partnerships and branding across the whole country, this measure alone has even greater potential for job creation. Investment in agriculture and the agri-food sector provides high returns for the Irish economy. The multiplier for agriculture on GDP is 1.73 and 1.76 for the food and drink manufacturing industry (if you invest €1million in these sectors, the wider economy sees a return of €1.73 million). Funding required = €500m.

Creating jobs through the construction of essential infrastructure

3. Health infrastructure. We would build 100 new primary healthcare centres throughout the State at a cost of €500million. This would alleviate the strain on our main hospitals. It would provide local healthcare for a variety of medical conditions and an excellent resource for communities. The building of these centres would create in the region of 5,000 jobs and 2,000 indirect jobs. Our pre-Budget submission provides for the lifting of the current recruitment embargo, which would allow all these centres to be staffed in the years following their construction. Funding required = €500m.

4. School buildings and refurbishment. An increased school-building and refurbishment programme for 2011 to take at least 125 schools through the construction stage. A 16-classroom generic repeat design project costs approximately €3million in current market conditions. This would cost €375million in total and create approximately 4,000 jobs directly and 1,600 indirect jobs. A minimum of 150 school-building projects should enter the architectural and planning stage each year so that school projects are ready to proceed as quickly as possible to the construction phases. Funding required = €375m.

5. Crèches. Build 100 crèches State-wide for state childcare provision at a cost of €200million, creating 2,000 jobs directly and 800 jobs indirectly. Funding required = €200m.

Assisting businesses and entrepreneurs

6. Improving communications infrastructure. Augment the current National Broadband Scheme to provide a fibre-optic island-wide network. Fast-track the €435million spend so that it is delivered beginning in 2011 instead of 2013. This will provide in the region of 4,500 jobs directly and 1,700 jobs indirectly. Funding required = €435m.

7. Assistance for those starting a business. Change the PRSI system to create a safety-net for those who attempt to establish their own business. Provide a one-stop-shop virtual helpdesk for business start-ups with legal, HR, patents, accountancy and funding advice. In addition, create an innovation website where budding entrepreneurs can pitch their business and invention ideas to investors at home and abroad. Funding required = €2 million.

8. Helping businesses to export. Create a ‘Sales Ireland’ strategy to help Irish firms access export markets outside the US and Britain and to help Irish firms looking to set up manufacturing businesses with the potential to compete with out largest imports, including R&D funding. Currently, almost 90% of exports come from foreign-owned multinationals and foreign-owned firms import over 86% of the materials they use, bypassing Irish firms.

9. Maximising employment on public projects. Rethink local authority and public sector construction, service and procurement contracts to create a level pitch for small businesses to tender. Breaking tenders into smaller pieces allows contractors with less significant turnover to efficiently tender for work. Make the employment of a set amount of apprentices a condition on which public contracts are awarded to contractors building public infrastructure.

10. Initiate a ‘Frontline Services Aides Scheme’ where people are employed to take on specific work from overworked frontline workers (e.g. civilianising administrative work that is currently done by Gardaí). Funding required = €250m.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Sinn Fein election manifesto

In this election Sinn Fein, as set out in our policy manifesto, is seeking a mandate to safeguard society and the economy. We cant afford to sacrifice either to the narrow interests of a small clique - either here or in the banking halls of Europe and the policy rooms of the IMF. Too much is at stake. Now we have to stand up for our interests as a society. Beyond this Sinn Fein will be seeking a mandate for:

- Root and Branch reform of the Political System to produce a really open and accountable form of government that empowers citizens and end the influence of the political elites.

- The protection and creation of jobs.
- An end to the two tier health system and and the two tier education system
- The proper use of Ireland’s natural resources in the common good

- Continued support for the Peace Process and the Good Friday Agreement

Saturday, February 12, 2011

If you cant canvass maybe this is an option.

The election is in full swing now and the party, its candidates, activists and supporters are putting their backs to the wheel in terms of time and money.

Its going to be a challenging year for Sinn Fein. Elections to be fought in the southern and northern areas of our country.

If you can canvass or help out please do contact your local cumainn. Look at the map on the side of this page to find your nearest cumainn.

If you cant canvass for any reason but want to make a contribution then a donation is an option. These  are difficult times as we all know but it may be an option for some.

Please consider it if you can. The Sinn Fein donation link is here

Friday, February 11, 2011

Safeguarding Irish interests

Gurdgiev, Ross and even the Fine Gael man agreeing Sinn Fein and Pearse is bang on the money

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Please Like our new Facebook page

We experienced some technical issues recently and our Facebook page closed.

In order to avoid that happening again we have moved over to a Facebook fan page.

This will allow us to keep building our friends and keep in contact with you all.

Our new page is here - Please hit like.

We'll have it back up to full speed in the next few days

Helping young people to stay at home

6 reasons to vote for Sinn Féin in this election


1.  Sinn Féin has shown that there is a better way.  We were the only party not to sign up to the government's consensus for cuts and instead put forward a real costed alternative for economic recovery.

2.  Sinn Féin would reverse cuts to public services and social welfare introduced in Budget 2011. We are the only party to clearly state that we would do this.

3.  Unlike the other parties Sinn Féin would stand up to the IMF and EU. Sinn Féin is an Irish republican party. We are a United Ireland party. We believe in the sovereignty, independence and freedom of the Irish people and the right of our people to build our own society.

4.  Every TD elected for Sinn Féin will mean a stronger voice for working families, the unemployed and all those struggling to survive. The more Sinn Féin TDs elected the louder the voice for those they represent in the Dáil.

5.  Sinn Féin stands up for ordinary people.  Over the last year it is our party, which confronted this government and demanded higher standards. For us, actions speak louder than words.   Sinn Féin was the only party to oppose the Lisbon Treaty, pointing out the dangers for our sovereignty.  Sinn Féin forced the government to hold the Donegal SW by-election, exposed the Taoiseach's contacts with leading people in Anglo, is the only party not to sign up to the Fianna Fáil / Green Party / Fine Gael / Labour consensus for cuts and instead put forward a real alternative for economic recovery.  Sinn Féin TDs only take home the average industrial wage.

6.  Sinn Féin will change politics and put an end to cronyism.  Reform must start with the Dáil.  That means cutting TD's wages and expenses. It means changing how the Dáil business is done so the Government can be held to account.  We would abolish the Seanad in its current form

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ireland’s Austerity Woes


Ireland’s Austerity Woes
07/02/2011 By Nat OConnor
From the very beginning of the crisis, the Irish Government’s response has failed to protect vulnerable people and has damaged the long-term prospects of the economy.

To put the scale of Ireland’s austerity measures into context, about €30 billion worth of austerity measures (cuts to public spending and tax increases) have occurred since the crisis began at the end of 2008. In scale, these total just under a fifth of the current size of Ireland’s economy (GDP €160 billion). To apply the same level of austerity across the EU, with its GDP of €12.5 trillion, there would have to be €2.4 trillion worth of tax increases and spending cuts.

What is even worse is that Ireland is only half-way through the process. The last budget was the first of four agreed with the EU and IMF in order to secure loans to Ireland. What follows is a brief overview of events, and austerity measures adopted in response, for those who might not be familiar with the details of the Irish case.

Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy on 15 September 2008. The Irish Government held a ‘midnight meeting’ on 29 September 2008, centred on Ireland’s banking crisis. Hence, Ireland’s financial and economic crisis dates from then, although other aspects of the crisis only emerged into broad public discourse in later months.

The discourse around the crisis centred on ‘external’ events from the outset. The problems in Ireland were blamed on the global financial crisis. However, it soon became apparent that Ireland would probably have suffered a recession sooner or later, even in the absence of international events; although some people denied this for quite some time. Ireland’s speculative property/construction bubble peaked just as Lehman Brothers fell. As a result, the coincidence of both national and international factors has led Ireland to experience a particularly severe and prolonged economic collapse.

The fiscal policies of the Government in the years leading up to 2008 were increasingly unsustainable. The construction bubble brought in much increased revenue from transaction taxes (e.g. stamp duty on property purchases, plus VAT from construction-related activities). Much of this tax revenue was from private debt invested in the construction market. In addition, income tax receipts were high and low unemployment reduced demand for welfare spending.

During the boom, the Government cut personal taxation and continued to permit high levels of tax relief to individuals and corporations, fatally undermining the stability of tax revenue. When the bubble burst, tax receipts fell by a third in two years. Up until this point, Ireland had been living a fantasy, where unsustainable tax receipts masking otherwise low taxation miraculously allowed the state to raise public spending and provide more services. When tax revenues collapsed, suddenly a massive current deficit appeared. One direct result is that the future size and role of the state is now at stake in Ireland. The balance of austerity measures between taxes and cuts will determine whether Ireland takes a route of low taxation (and therefore eviscerated public spending) or more public services (and therefore more European-average levels of taxation to pay for them).

On 30 September 2008, the day after their emergency midnight meeting, the Government announced a bank guarantee scheme, with the state guaranteeing €440 billion to six Irish banks, with the objective of safeguarding the Irish banking system. To put the scale of the guarantee into perspective, Ireland’s GDP in 2008 was €180 billion. Some prominent figures had called for a bank guarantee scheme, but the devil is in the detail. The guarantee was a blanket guarantee, which did not discriminate between banks of genuine systemic importance to the economy and others, which were not (notably Anglo Irish Bank, which was heavily involved in lending to the construction sector). It also covered more bondholders than should have been protected. Ultimately, it was a costly gamble that assumed liquidity was the only problem. However, it quickly came to light that the problem was not one of liquidity, but of solvency across the entire banking sector.

The Irish Government established NAMA (the National Assets Management Agency) in late 2009 to remove ‘bad loans’ from the balance sheets of Irish banks. However, NAMA was slow to start and has faced legal challenges to its powers. It was quickly overtaken by events. The lack of solvency in the Irish banks has forced the state to recapitalise them. This has led to the complete nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank (known as ‘Anglo’) and more recently, the near-total state ownership of Allied Irish Bank (known as AIB). Perversely, NAMA continues to transfer loans from these state-owned banks to itself, a state-owned institution, costing unnecessary millions in legal and accountancy fees.

As a euro area member, Ireland has had no direct recourse to monetary policy. A range of monetary policy measures were taken by the European Central Bank in response to the crisis; however, these were insufficient compared to the scale of the problems Ireland was facing.

To date, the government has had four national budgets during the crisis period. (Details available on The first budget, at the end of 2008, was two months early in order to respond to the emerging global financial crisis. Taxation was raised and public spending lowered. This budget did raise the level of unemployment payments, but subsequent budgets cut the rates and qualifying criteria for benefits to a greater degree than this budget raised them.

In the 2009 budget, the Government announced a policy of encouraging workers back in to employment by cutting their social welfare payments. Payments for young people (20-24) were set at special low rates. For all other cases, the rate was to be reduced where job offers or activation measures were refused. Further cuts and tax increases followed in the 2010 budget.

The fourth austerity budget, for 2011, again reduced social welfare payments. The national minimum wage was also reduced by nearly 12 per cent. Increases in personal tax in this budget have also disproportionately impacted on the low paid. Changes to rates and bands meant that an employee on €20,000 per year paid as much extra tax as an employee on €200,000. In addition, changes to social insurance created a new Universal Social Charge, which introduced much higher rates onto low- and middle-income employees than had previously been the case. And, of course, people on lower incomes are more reliant on the state services that are suffering cutbacks.

Unsurprisingly, consumer spending in the economy has collapsed and Ireland continues to experience negative growth in the domestic economy; GNP continues to fall. Unemployment is at 13.4 per cent and renewed high emigration masks a higher rate of job losses. The situation is better for GDP, which is growing again (albeit at low levels) due to strong performance by exporting firms.

The last budget was merely the first instalment in a four-year plan, which envisages further cuts and tax increases. Polling day in Ireland’s General Election is 25 February. The result will determine the extent and timing of further austerity measures, but one thing is sure: much more pain is yet to be inflicted on the Irish people. At the same time, the election provides an opportunity for the next government to change direction on economics: more can be done to increase investment and foster job creation, especially by indigenous companies; private bank debt can be separated from the sovereign national debt; and the conditions of the EU-IMF loans can be changed. Indeed, all of these things must happen if Ireland is to be realistically able to afford to repay the loans.

The resistance within some quarters in Ireland to such measures is perhaps more surprising to an outside observer than it is from within. Part of the solution to Ireland’s current insolvency is that many economic commentators and practitioners have to admit that our previous economic model was – and remains – seriously deficient. There is no going back to ‘business as usual’, but to accept this implies a great deal of cognitive dissonance for those who were the strongest supporters of the economic consensus that brought Ireland to ruin.

The Pipe - A state against its own

If anyone is looking for a bit of down time from canvassing then a good show is on tonight.
The documentary 'The Pipe' is being shown tonight at 9.30 on TG4.

The Website for The Film.
Worth looking at I'd say.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Its Our Choice! Isn't it?

Fine Gael and a increasingly unsure Labour Party are saying that any alternative to compliance with the terms of the IMF/EU deal is a reckless gamble. Vincent Brown (whether mischievously or otherwise) rounded on Eoin O Broin of Sinn Fein on the basis that burning the bondholders and the strategy that SF is advocating would see us unable to pay public servants, including the Gardaí, within a year or so. Scaremongering, in other words.

None of us have a crystal ball, but it seems to be that it is entirely reasonable to go back to the major European governments - the movers behind the deal - and outline in clear terms that we are not going to subject our people to this level of misery over a prolonged period and we are not going to be restricted in our ability to invest in job creation, if the democratic will of our people is to vote for parties that advocate this approach.

And there's the rub. Are we saying that advocating anything other than an agenda suitable to the IMF - a conservative and deregulated economic approach - like the one that facilitated the runaway banks for example-is tantamount to a reckless gamble? So that's it. Its the same political and economic approach or nothing. That's the real danger here and it needs to be challenged. The IMF and EU don't see Fine Gael challenging and, alas, Labour seem to be moving towards the continuation of this right wing agenda too, though I suspect that they are wobbling. I hope so