Ireland: The connivance of the Labour Party and Fine Gael

Not only the Fianna Fáil and Green Party, but the two biggest parties in opposition also offer them only a menu of cuts.

Today [8th of December], and for very many days to come, intense attention will be focused on yesterday’s Budget of savage austerity foisted upon the Irish people on the orders of the European Union Commission, the International Monetary Fund and The European Central Bank – all acting as blatant enforcers for Europe’s major bankers and financial speculators.

The people of this State now find themselves in a frankly bizarre situation that simply should not be tolerated. A government, composed of political parties which are supported by less than one in five voters, is imposing disastrous economic and fiscal measures designed to run, not over one year which would be bad enough, but for four years.

The question then is why it should be remotely possible for such a government to even contemplate such a course of action? And the answer to the question is to be found sitting on the opposition benches in Dáil Éireann, for it is the connivance of Fine Gael and the Labour Party that allows this.

Let us take the hypothetical situation where these parties declared that they were absolutely opposed to the draconian measures being proposed and would point blank refuse to implement them when in power. The game would be up and a General Election would have had to be called immediately. However, by agreeing with the parameters of the government’s four year programme of cuts and extra taxes, Fine Gael and Labour implicitly endorse the fundamental thrust of the plan and make it politically possible for an utterly discredited government to go ahead.

There is now a real dilemma for ordinary people when they come to vote in the General Election. Not only the Fianna Fáil and Green Party, but the two biggest parties in opposition also offer them only a menu of cuts.

Fine Gael is blunt about their plan of cuts and taxation amounting to €6 billion next year, the same exactly as the government’s. The Labour Party is desperately trying to hide the fact that it also is prepared to hack the incomes and public services of ordinary people.

Labour’s document, Proposals for Budget 2011, is an exercise in deliberate obfuscation of the real role it would play in a new government with Fine Gael, whether as senior or junior partner. The word ‘cuts’ is never used. Instead we have “budgetary adjustments” to the amount of €4.5 billion for 2011 in a combination of cuts and tax increases. That is €1.5 billion less than Fine Gael’s but the Labour Party does agree that the €1.5billion will have to be factored in except over a slightly longer period of time.

In other words, the Labour Party, like Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party, accepts the dictats of the financial markets that it is working people, the unemployed, pensioners and the poor that must pay for the monumental economic and fiscal crisis caused by the unbridled greed of the land speculators and the bankers who financed them. The Labour Leader, Eamon Gilmore, in reality accepted responsibility for the fundamental features of the Fianna Fáil / Green Party government when he stated that Labour would not reverse cuts introduced yesterday in the Budget when it is in government.

The next government is very likely to be made up of Fine Gael and the Labour Party. Talk in some Sunday newspapers of a coalition government involving Labour, Sinn Fein and the United Left Alliance was fanciful speculation because there would be fundamental disagreement between the Left and the others on what would constitute the basis of a solution to the current economic disaster.

The Left would insist on an immediate repudiation of the vassals’ charter imposed by the IMF/EU Commission which, if continued with, will turn Irish workers into serfs permanently transfusing their economic life blood into the vaults of the world’s financial markets and leave a trail of social wreckage across the Irish landscape. The Left would also insist on not a cent being paid to the financial speculators who gambled and lost on the crazed casino that was Ireland’s property market.

The Left’s position is that the major financial institutions should be in public ownership but restructured under democratic control, and run in an entirely different way. This would make possible, not only providing loans to self employed people and small enterprises, but investment in major infrastructural projects and services and in the process, create tens of thousands of necessary jobs.

The launch of the United Left Alliance has generated a lot of interest. That was justified for it will feature prominently in the seismic changes that will be registered in Irish politics in the months ahead and will bring centre stage the realisation that there is a democratic and socialist alternative to the broken system that now prevails.

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December 2010