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Monday, September 28, 2009

Lies, damn lies and statistics


As we approach the final few days of the Lisbon Mark 2 campaign it is fair to say that the debate has seen its share of lies, damn lies and statistics. If we are to believe everyone on both sides Lisbon is about Job creation and job losses, economic recovery and economic ruin, strengthening democracy and ending democracy as we know it. The first casualty of this campaign was truth. Some on the fringes of the no campaign say that if Lisbon is passed the Minimum wage will be reduced to less then €1.80 (lie), conscription will be introduced (lie), abortion will be legalised (lie) and our elderly will be the victims of euthanasia (lie). On the other hand Fianna Fáil and their friends in Fine Gael and Labour tell us that if we accept Lisbon it will mean jobs (lie), investment (lie), will lead to economic recovery (lie), we keep our permanent commissioner (lie), our neutrality is protected (lie) and that workers rights are strengthened (lie).

So now it is up to the people to decide. It is going to be a difficult task for people to sift through the spin and the lies. Supporters of the treaty have very skilfully turned the referendum into a vote on the economy and recovery rather then on what we are actually voting on – the treaty. Equally groups on the fringes of the no side have brought issues into the campaign which have nothing at all to do with the treaty. When people go to the polls on Friday they will be asked to vote on one thing and one thing only – the Lisbon Treaty. The only question that people should really ask themselves is whether or not they believe Lisbon is good or bad for Ireland. All of the bogus issues should be left outside the polling booth. This will be difficult but if we are to do ourselves justice we must pass judgement on what we are being asked to judge – the treaty.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Community allotments and Gardens should be provided


With the current economic downturn people are looking at ways to become more self sufficient. I followed Corrigan’s farm on RTÉ and I enjoyed the first series. A second series will be aired shortly. The programme motivated me to submit a motion to Waterford City Council calling for the provision of community allotments and gardens as a method of civic participation in creating a healthy, clean and sustainable environment. It is actually something that came up a bit on the doorstep during the recent local election and it is an area that many community groups are interested in. There are currently no allotment spaces available for members of the public to rent from the city council.

Section 2(1) of the Acquisition of Land (Allotments) Act 1926 (we really need to update some of our laws) states that the local authority may provide allotments as a result of demand made by members of the public. Does such a demand exist? I believe it does. Interestingly the Minister at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has recently announced that he will be ensuring local authorities include an allotment officer who will work to ensure the provision of adequate land for allotments and provide support to users.

There are many benefits to providing allotments and community gardens. Aside from the obvious one in that it could provide a valuable source of income for the city council it could also help meet the social needs of citizens and maintain a sense of community. It would also be good for the Environment and possess a range of health benefits. I also see opportunities in providing educational benefits to children and others to learn about vegetable growing. It might even provide opportunities for some of those who are out of work. As Chairperson of the Council’s Environment Strategic Policy Committee this is an issue I intend to pursue. I have submitted a motion to be debated at a full council meeting and I hope it is both supported and implemented.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rody Molloy scandal enough to turn your stomach


Recent revelations that Rody Molloy had his pension boosted by nearly €1.5m by the Tánaiste are stomach turning. Roddy Molloy was responsible for gross negligence and of wasting millions of Euro of taxpayer’s money. He had to be dragged kicking and screaming from his job. The Government’s response was to award Mr Molloy a golden handshake and a boosted pension. This deal is crooked and should be reneged on. It says everything about this Government – they will go to any length to protect their friends and the golden circle in Irish politics.

For the full extent of this scandal to sink in you need to put it into context. Over 400,000 people are on the dole. Many are struggling to pay basic bills. Most are in debt. This deal was done at a time the Government was taking decisions to cut services and increase taxes. It was also done at a time when Waterford Crystal workers were left high and dry without any pension. For Rody Molloy, this Government and their ilk it is business as usual as they line their own pockets. It is easy to call for someone’s resignation and it is often done in the political sphere. But I am convinced that the Ministers involvement in this sordid scandal is reason enough to resign. She is not fit to hold public office. She should resign, this sordid deal should be reneged on and Rody Molloy should be made pay back expenses that he abused as Director of FÁS.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Is NAMA the only show in town?



A local newspaper editorial announced this week that NAMA is the only show in town. I appreciate the point that was being made – that this is the Government’s device and it is the only one they are willing to pursue. But the real question is whether or not NAMA is the best device to sort out the banks. A number of alternative propositions have been put forward by the opposition and all have been rejected. Why? Are these propositions worthy of debate? If the Government genuinely feels they are unworkable then at least debate them in the Dáil. Instead the Government have railroaded through their plans with little or no debate about the alternatives.

The Government believes NAMA is the only show in town because it is the only one which protects the failed bankers and the greedy developers. We in Sinn Féin have called for the two main banks to be nationalised, cleaned up and put to work in the interests of the Irish people. NAMA on the other hand has nationalised the debt but privatises the profit. The state has taken over the banks toxic loans, the bad loans or to be frank the irresponsible loans. The profitable loans, the ones which will be repaid remain the private property of the banks. When the banks dump their bad loans on the taxpayer and make a profit on the good loans as well as customers deposits the profit will remain the banks. In other words the taxpayer gets saddled with the toxic loans and the banks get to carry on as normal and bag the profits. It might be the Government’s only show in town but in my view hardly the best one.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lisbon debate at City Library

I took part in a debate on the Lisbon Treaty tonight at Waterford City Library. The speakers included Cllr Tom Cunningham (FG), Brian Jordan (FF), Cllr Davy Walsh (WP) and myself. The event was hosted by Nicola Beresford. The debate was lively and robust. However I have still not been presented with a single reason why we should vote yes by the yes speakers other then the fear of saying no. Vote no and we will be marganlised. Vote no and we will become isolated in Europe. Vote no and we will become second class citizens. Indeed if we are to believe the FF representatives and their friends in Fine Gael and Labour if we vote no we are destined for economic ruin. What nonsense. Even if we take at face value what these guys are saying - what does this say about Europe. Are you happy to be part of a Union which treats its people like this? If not, express your opinion in the most effective way you can and vote No on October 2nd.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cross party delegation to meet Minster for Trade and Enterprise



At a meeting of Waterford City Council tonight it was agreed that a cross party delegation would go and meet the Minister for Trade and Enterprise to discuss the serious job losses in Waterford and economic activity in the city. I agreed with the proposition but not without reservation. Firstly I think it is important for local elected representatives to voice our concerns at the haemorrhaging of jobs in Waterford and the failure of Government policies. The Minister and the Government need to feel the heat and be made aware of the human cost of job losses, Government cuts and failed Government policies.

What struck me about tonight’s meeting however was how heavily dependent we are on central government and how weak our local government system is. Why is it that we have to continuously go cap in hand to a Minister to get what we deserve as of right? I am also conscious of not raising unrealistic expectations. A delegation of Waterford City Council meeting with the Minister will not create a single job. Our greatest strength is our ability to bring agencies together and force action locally.

On a separate but somewhat related note I was intrigued by a contribution by Cllr Jack Walsh of the Labour Party at the meeting. He spoke passionately about the need for us to pass Lisbon or face the prospect of being marginalised and scare potential inward investors. Does he really believe that investors will base their decision to come or go on whether or not we vote for Lisbon? I doubt it even rates as an afterthought. However the intriguing part of his contribution for me is that if we do pass Lisbon, give more power to the EU and take a step closer to complete economic, political and military union then it will not be national Ministers we will have to meet in the future but unelected EU commissioners.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Launching a local Economic Development Document – Getting Waterford Back to Work


This week I launched a local economic development document – Getting Waterford Back to Work. I believe the document is practical, deliverable and is a call to action. While the responsibility for causing the economic crisis lies squarely with the Government there is an onus on everyone to play a constructive part in helping to solve the problem. I am not prepared to sit on the sidelines and blame others without offering solutions.

Recent job losses in Waterford City have devastated the local economy. Job losses at Teva, Waterford Crystal, Bausch and Lomb and ABB have matched job losses in the construction, tourist and service area. Unemployment in Waterford City has risen by over 50% in the 12 months to the end of July with 12,744 people signing on, up from 8,383 in July 2008. The adjusted figure taking into account recent redundancy announcements will push the jobless figure to over 14,000.

There is no silver bullet solution and economy recovery will be slow at best. There are though a number of positive steps that can and must be taken to secure the long term economic viability of the region and the city. Waterford City must become the engine and the economic driver of the region. Undoubtedly Government support and investment in the city as the gateway of the region has been poor. Equally we must start performing more locally and lesson our dependence on action from central government. Therefore Waterford City Council must act as a catalyst for this by bringing agencies together and fostering local solutions to local problems.

I recently presented the City Manager with a document – Getting Waterford Back to Work outlining specific proposals that could in the short and long term help Waterford’s local economy stave off the worst effects of the economic downturn while also leaving it better placed to grow sustainably in the future. These proposals include helping local firms access National and EU funding, arranging a meeting of local bank managers to discuss in a transparent way banking practises, the front loading of key infrastructure and employment intensive programmes, moving forward with transport infrastructure plans, more regional spending in Green Technology, support for locally driven R&D as a new platform for job creation, revive crystal manufacturing in the city and the establishment of an educational taskforce to help those who have lost their jobs.

Some of these proposals need action from central Government. The single greatest act that would assist the region is the designation of WIT as a University. However most can be delivered locally. We need urgent action. We cannot sit on the sidelines and simply blame others. I hope my proposals will be received well. Now more then ever there is a need for Waterford politicians, civic leaders and communities to work together to ensure that Waterford City is not left behind

Friday, September 11, 2009

Déjà vu - I thought we had this debate before


I took part in a debate in Limerick City last night on the upcoming Lisbon Treaty. It was with a sense of Déjà vu as we had the debate before; we had the arguments, the leaflets, the posters, the vote and the result. A majority of people voted on referendum day and of that a majority said no. Over 900,000 people to be precise. The people gave the Government a mandate to go and get a better deal. They wasted that opportunity and are now asking us to vote again on exactly the same treaty.

I believe that voting no simply on the basis that we have already said no is not reason enough. The world has changed since the last referendum. Ireland’s economy has gone into freefall. Our public finances are in a mess. The prospect of direct IMF intervention is real. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs. Savage cuts are being implemented in health, education and across the public sector. Nama is being set up to bail out greedy property speculators and incompetent bankers. So I agree, we do need a new referendum. We need a new treaty for the new changed economic circumstances we find ourselves in.

The economic philosophy which underpins Lisbon and Europe – Neo Liberalism – has failed. It is a system that has brought us boom and bust. It is a system that has increased wage differentials, brought about greater inequality, trapped more people into poverty, privatized public enterprises, weakens public services, undermines workers rights and above all supports the primacy of the free market. This failed ideology is not what we need to turn things around. You cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that created it. So we have a choice. We can say no again and for the right reasons again and in doing so send a strong message to our Government and to Europe – we need a new treaty for a new times..

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Parents express anger at Education cuts


Today I and other members of Sinn Féin handed out leaflets outside a number of primary schools in Waterford City. The leaflets highlighted the impact the education cuts announced last year are having on schools. These cuts are now beginning to bite. Parents were very receptive and were seething in their anger of the Government. It is a disgrace that young children are being asked to suffer because the Government made a mess of the economy. Sinn Féin activists in Dungarvan, Tramore, Dunmore East and Portlaw also spoke to parents at their local schools. The leaflets encouraged people to contact local Government representatives and the Minister for Education and send them one simple message - hands off our schools.

Workers at Morris Builders Providers forced to strike


I joined workers at Morris Builders Providers this morning on their strike picket against what they see as a selective and unfair redundancy process. Over 30 members of the UNITE Union are on strike. The strike is not about money or wages. It is about an attempt by the management of the company to force through redundancies by the use of a manufactured and unfair selection process. The workers reluctantly withdrew their labour following three meetings of the Labour Relations Committee.

Essentially the company want to select who they wish to sack. The workers have a right to object to this and to seek a fair and just selection process. To this end I have called on the management of the company to engage with the union and to agree to a voluntary redundancy process. To many employers think that they can use the current downturn as an opportunity to treat workers in whatever way they like. They must not be allowed to do so.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

TIME FOR THE COMMUNITY SECTOR TO FIGHT BACK


I attended a protest organised by SIPTU today in Dublin to fight back against cuts in the Community Sector. I commend SIPTU for organising the march and for mobilising thousands of people nationally from across the community sector. It is vital that the sector unites against savage cuts which will devastate communities especially those worst hit by the recession. The Community Service Programme has seen its funding cut by €10m. €44million has been cut from the Community Development Programmes and partnerships. Many Family Resource Centres are under threat of closure. €2.6m has been cut from the National Drugs Strategy. As a voluntary member of a Community Development Project in Larchville and Lisduggan and a former board member of Waterford Area Partnership I know at first hand the impact these cuts will have. These are organisations working at the coalface in disadvantaged areas trying to bring about social inclusion.

It is right that people in the sector are angry that the Government are making the vulnerable pay for their mistakes. However it is not enough to be angry. We need to turn that anger into action. The best way for the sector to achieve this is to unite behind a campaign to have these savage cuts reversed. I am calling on everyone involved with or who benefited from community development type programmes to attend SIPTU’s national march organised for September 30th in Dublin. Only be working together and uniting behind a single campaign can we successfully force this Government to abandon their strategy of making the vulnerable pay for their mistakes.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Greed, Greed, Greed behind Teva Job losses


It is truly devastating for everyone in Waterford to hear of the news that Teva is to cease its tablet production in Waterford. I was attending an important meeting of the City Development Board where we were discussing economic development when news seeped through that 315 jobs were to go at the plant. My immediate thoughts were of anger that faceless people motivated by greed can make such decisions with no regard for those who work for them. I thought of the 315 people, their families and dependents and what it will be like for them as they attempt to find work in these challenging times.

It is important that we do no lose sight of the human side of all of this. Nearly 15,000 people in Waterford are now on the dole. That is 15,000 families with mortgages to pay, children to provide for and all on just over €200 a week. These job losses will further weaken an already battered local economy. How much more can we take?

I am hesitant to make the typical call for the setting up of task forces and the like. We need action. In Waterford City we must lesson our dependence on Multi-nationals. We need to see greater development of local indigenous industry and give better support to the SME sector.

This week I furnished the city manager with a document – Getting Waterford Back to Work. The document is a call to action. The coalition Government has failed Waterford and has failed the 15,000 people now signing on. To say they need to do more is an understatement, however let us not sit on our backsides and wait for someone else to do something for us. We all have a responsibility to come up with solutions and play our part. While it is difficult to be positive and easy to be angry we must be constructive in helping to sort out the mess others have created.