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Monday, January 19, 2015

A left alliance to counter the political right

Some commentators argue that left/right politics is redundant. That such terms are outdated and are a relic of the past. They are described as 'old fashioned' and as having no place in our modern political system. Of course it is absolute nonsense. Maybe a section of the electorate do not associate with such terminology or there is a need to change the language - but the ideological battle is the same. It's Labour vs Capital, small Government and light touch regulation vs public services and a managed economy, it's progressive vs regressive taxation, it's the power of the collective and community vs individualism and a race to the bottom. Or put simply it's the reverse of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

This is important as we approach important elections North and South. In recent times right wing parties in the North rolled over and were prepared to accept budget cuts and welfare cuts while Sinn Fein stood in isolation defending the most vulnerable. The party fought with others to hold the line, take a stand for increased funding and reject vicious British Tory cuts supported by a conservative Dublin Government. Considering the balance of forces tremendous credit is due to the Sinn Fein negotiating team for the outcome. Left/right politics was far from redundant in these recent talks.

In the South the policies of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are conservative, regressive, unfair and create social and economic inequality. It's about reducing the public sector, gutting public services, building an economy on low pay and tax cuts and pay increases which favour the top earners and the wealthy. The ESRI have described each and every budget from this Fine Gael/Labour Government as regressive and favouring the top 40% earners as opposed to the remaining 60%. In simple terms - low and lower middle income earners benefit least. What is needed is a reversal of this trend.

A broad, sustainable and politically mature left alternative is required. This must involve those serious about Government and making change. Now is not the time for sniping from the sidelines or hurlers in the ditch. We need real leadership and a solid, progressive, realistic and deliverable left alternative. It must involve Sinn Fein, progressive left Independents, trade unions, NGO's, progressive economists and those on the left from the world of business, enterprise, sport, arts and culture.

Any serious left alternative must avoid engaging in auction politics. It must argue for taxation but taxes that are fair, progressive and necessary to invest in and provide first class public services. It must challenge the right wing election rhetoric of unsustainable and unrealistic tax cuts and wage increases. Reforming our tax system to move away from regressive stealth taxes to more progressive and direct taxation based on income must be front and centre. It must avoid the temptation to join in the auction politics. It is not only possible but necessary. The electorate are wary of false promises and poor leadership. They require honesty, fairness and strong political leadership. And this will come from the left - with Sinn Fein in the driving seat.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Appointment as Group Leader in the Seanad

I am extremely proud and privileged to have been selected as the Sinn Féin Group leader in the Seanad. I will join Kathryn Reilly from Cavan and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh from Galway as part of a strengthened Sinn Féin team in the Seanad and the Oireachtas. We will do our best to provide robust opposition and effective leadership.

In a few short months Sinn Féin has fought a number of elections North and South. We now have 1 MEP, 5 MP’s, 29 Assembly members, 14 TD’s, 3 Senators, an Udarás member and hundreds of city, county and town councillors across the Island. We truly are an all-Ireland party.

I also welcome the announcement of the Taoiseach’s 11 nominees and I am looking forward to the opening of the 24th Seanad on Wednesday. I am glad to see that the nominees are drawn from important sectors in Irish society but disappointed to see no one from the unionist community in the North on the list. Perhaps this was an opportunity missed by the Taoiseach.

As Sinn Féin said during the visit of the British queen to Ireland, gestures must be matched by real political action. I also welcome the Taoiseach’s assurance that the 11 nominees would be independent and that their votes in the Upper House would not be under the party whip.

Sinn Féin has proposals for the reform of An Seanad, but there is no doubt that the addition of such figures as Dr Martin McAleese and senators representing the arts, sport and social activists and campaigners will enrich the Upper House. Those of us who wish to see an upper house remain need to work doubly hard to make the Seanad relevant. However this is impossible without genuine reform aimed at democratising the Seanad and making it fit for purpose. Maybe the people will act where the politicians have failed.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

29 Assembly Seats, 14 Dáil Seats, 3 Seanad Seats and 400,000 first preference votes – the success of an All Ireland Party

In the course of the last few months Sinn Féin has achieved significant electoral success. The General Election in February saw the party triple its Dáil representation and win 14 seats. This was followed by a successful Seanad election last month with the party winning 3 seats. The Northern Assembly elections have brought more success with 29 seats in total. All of this is a vindication of hard work and political leadership.

Winning seats though is not enough. We need to continue the process of change. There is still considerable unfinished business in relation to the peace process and implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Issues in relation to education reform, the Irish language, a Bill of Rights and greater North-South co-operation need to be addressed. The transfer of policing and justice powers needs to be followed by full fiscal powers to the Northern Assembly.

Across the Island far too many people live in poverty. Hundreds of thousands of citizens across the island are out of work. The social and economic challenges are great but not insurmountable. I genuinely believe that there has never been a greater need for real republican politics of fairness, justice and equality. I also know that a better Ireland is not just possible but deliverable. I look forward to being part of the Sinn Féin all-Ireland team as we continue in our good work in the weeks, months and years ahead.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Labours way or Frankfurt’s way – I guess its Frankfurt’s then

One of the most crucial issues in the recent election campaign was the banking crisis and its effect on the economy, our public finances and the people of this state. Austerity budgets, cutbacks, higher taxes and job losses are all a direct result of a flawed banking strategy that saw hundreds of Billions of taxpayer’s money put into the black hole of Anglo and other stricken banks. This disaster is undoubtedly the primary reason for the collapse of the Fianna Fáil vote.

The contrary position adopted by Fine Gael and Labour of wanting to see ‘burden sharing’ and of ‘not one more cent’ undoubtedly won seats for both these parties. Almost six weeks on from the election and the manifestos of the Government parties are being consigned to history as little more than mere pre-election promises.

The Labour Party’s pre-election stance was clear and unambiguous – it is Labours way or Frankfurt’s way. With the announcement of €24 billion more of taxpayers’ money going into the banks to pay back in full investors and speculators it is clear that the Frankfurt way has prevailed. The Irish taxpayer has again been shafted to protect German, French and British banks. Most of the €24 billion the state will put into the banks will be borrowed money. This makes it worse as our national debt is spiralling out of control.

One simple fundamental economic truth seems to evade our politicians. They don’t seem to realise that the more blank cheques they write to shore up the European banking system, the more they are burdening us with future taxes. This burden causes the economy to contract more. Writing cheques to bail out Europe’s banks won’t help anyone, apart from the creditors of the banks – who should suffer anyway. What we are witnessing is the new Government embracing the failed policies of the past.

The choice for the Irish state is clear: we need to impose aggressive burden sharing on un-guaranteed bonds. We need to go after bondholders. While the focus of the Government and the EU has been on banking stress tests, not one person in Brussels or in the Cabinet has had recourse to a stress test for the wider economy or for hard-pressed working people in this state, the unemployed and those on social welfare. While election promises are broken and speculators and investors are refunded in full, all of those families struggling to cope will be asked to pay more. We are being let down once again.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Reform must start with the Dáil

Today I joined Sinn Fein’s team of candidates in the upcoming election in launching our national campaign. The party is standing 41 candidates in 38 constituencies. In every constituency where we are standing, Sinn Féin is going out to win. Every TD elected for Sinn Féin means a stronger voice for citizens, for working families, for the unemployed and those struggling to make ends meet.

The more Sinn Féin TDs elected the louder the voice for those they represent. A vote for Sinn Féin is a vote for real change.

As the only all-Ireland party Sinn Féin is standing on a platform that is underpinned by our republican principles. We are seeking a mandate for:

- Root and branch reform of the political system to produce a genuinely open and accountable form of government that empowers citizens and ends the notion of political elites

- The protection and creation of jobs

- An end to the two-tier health and education systems

- The proper use of Ireland’s natural resources for the common good

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

Sinn Féin is the only party to spell out clearly that we will put those on middle and low incomes first and that we would reverse cuts to public services and social welfare introduced in Budget 2011. In Government we would:

- Reverse budget cuts, specifically to public services and social welfare

- Reverse the cut in the minimum wage

- Abolish the Universal Social Charge

Sinn Féin would end cronyism. Reform must start with the Dáil — that means cutting the wages and expenses of Ministers and TDs. Next week we will launch our full manifesto setting out in more detail our specific proposals.

Monday, January 31, 2011

I believe there is a better way

Tonight I attended the launch of my and Sinn Féin's election campaign in Waterford. 300 people packed into the Granville Hotel to hear Mary Lou McDonald and I set our Sinn Féin's policy platform. This is one of the most important elections in the history of this state. I seek election to the Dáil so I can be part of the national debate on how we solve the big problems facing our country and county. We are putting forward economic polices that will deliver growth and jobs. We are seeking a new beginning in banking that delivers for citizens and business. We seek to reward and encourage innovation and enterprise. We want a deficit reduction strategy that is realistic and deliverable. We want a fair and just taxation system. We also want to end the madness of the tax payer being saddled with private banking debt. We want an economy that serves the people and all the people.

Sadly this Government has ruined the economy. The Government policies we warned against in the 2007 election have brought about economic chaos. Our public finances have collapsed, our banking system has caved in under its own greed and we have record high unemployment. 14,600 people in Waterford are out of work with thousands more having emigrated. We need to change course.

I and Sinn Féin are arguing for a more realistic deficit reduction strategy. We are calling for a six year plan and one that reduces the deficit by protecting middle and low income families and targets high earners and wealth. We have published comprehensive taxation alternatives which are fully costed by the Department of Finance. No individual who earns under €100,000 or family earning less than €200,000 a year is affected by our proposals, They include a third rate of tax of 48% on individual incomes in excess of €100,000 a year, standardising all tax relief’s, the introduction of a 1% income linked wealth tax on all assets in excess of €1million and modest increases in capital gains and capital acquisitions tax.”

We are also arguing for a three and a half year €7Billion stimulus plan funded from the National Pension Reserve Fund. We are opposing the IMF/ECB deal which sees the state borrow €35 billion to pay for private banking debt. We will stand up for Ireland’s interests and not those of international investors who took a gamble and lost. Working families who are getting hit hard should not be saddled with more private banking debt. It is morally, socially and economically wrong. It is time to make the decisions that our in Ireland’s interests and we in Sinn Féin stand ready for that challenge.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Who Mr Gilmore, is guilty of economic treason now?

With an election clearly on the horizon the cut and thrust of the campaign has started in earnest. However there is a rather familiar tone to the content of the establishment party arguments. Rather then attacking the policies of Fianna Fail and the Greens - Fine Gael and the Labour Party have turned their attentions to Sinn Féin. They are engaged in a game of smoke and mirrors as they attempt to misrepresent our position. They see the threat and are attempting to create fear. This is nothing new, we have had all this before.

In 2007 Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour united in attacking Sinn Féin. They dismissed us as economic illiterates. They proclaimed that Sinn Féin in Government would see the collapse of our economy and predicted economic Armageddon if we held the balance of power. The phoney war with Fianna Fáil was put to one side, Sinn Féin was the real target. They then tried to out bid each other in the worst case of auction politics this state has ever seen. When Fianna Fáil and the PD’s promised tax cuts, Fine Gael and Labour promised more. It was Sinn Féin alone who refused to engage in such shameful antics.

Three and a half years later, let’s examine the evidence. The banking system has collapsed, hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs, working people are getting hammered through cuts and tax increases and our economy is on its knees. And guess what – Sinn Féin was not in Government. Our warning of the dangers of a property bubble, unsustainable public finances and light touch regulation in the banks has come to pass. This gives us no satisfaction but I am simply setting the record straight.

It is against this backdrop that we find ourselves here again. It is the political equivalent of ground hog day. Again Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour contrive to attack Sinn Féin and undermine our credible alternatives just as they did during the Lisbon campaign. The Labour Party is now defending everything they berated the Government for. They are facilitating the passing of the Finance Bill and Decembers Budget, have done a u-turn on the bank guarantee by making the taxpayer pay for private banking debt and are supporting the IMF/ECB bailout which will see this state borrow €35 billion on a high interest rate to put into wayward banks. Who Mr Gilmore, is guilty of economic treason now?