Labour agrees to rush through draconian Finance Bill and to implement austerity measures
Brian Lenihan, the Irish Finance Minister, last night thanked "the Greens, Fine Gael and Labour for their constructive approach" – an approach which will make the working people of Ireland pay for the bankers’ crisis.
After the economic collapse of the so-called ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy, Ireland is spiralling into political chaos and worsening social problems . The coalition government of Fianna Fail and the Greens imploded and the Greens left the coalition last Sunday. Brian Cowen, the Prime Minister, had to resign as chair of Fianna Fail (the main pro-capitalist party), which was in government for 20 of the last 23 years. Fianna Fail won 41% of the national vote at the 2007 general election, but has fallen to 8% in the latest opinion polls. It is open as to whether the Greens will be able to return to the parliament.
Negotiations with the so-called opposition parties have resulted in an acceptance by Fine Gael and Labour to implement a crucial finance bill implementing the austerity measures announced by the government in its budget last December. The bill is expected to be passed by parliament on 29 January and gives legal effect to the reductions in Ireland’s minimum wage, tax rises and public spending cuts. In return, the government promised to bring forward general elections, initially called for 11 March. They are now expected to be held on 25 February.
Opening the press conference on Monday, 24 January, Councillor Clare Daly, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland) and United Left Alliance (ULA) candidate for Dublin North said:
“Fine Gael and the Labour Party correctly say that the Fianna Fail minority government,
a) doesn’t have the confidence of the Dail [national parliament];
b) has a Taoiseach [Prime Minister] who doesn’t have the confidence of his own party;
c) is so utterly discredited that the General Election must be brought forward.
“It is therefore a massive contradiction that they are falling over themselves to help a discredited, disintegrating government with no mandate or moral authority to pass a Finance Bill that savages the living standards and public services of working people and the unemployed so that European speculators and financial institutions recover the billions they disastrously gambled in the Irish property market.
“What Labour and Fine Gael are at, is to ensure that the infamous and unjust IMF/EU programme is passed by Fianna Fail so that they can pretend to avoid direct responsibility for its passage but then claim that they have no option but to implement it.
Councillor Richard Boyd Barrett, People Before Profit and ULA candidate for Dun Laoghaire said
"The posturing by Fine Gael and the Labour Party over the Finance Bill almost puts Fianna Fail and the Greens to shame. The Finance Bill gives legal effect to the budget. Therefore you can’t be against the budget and at time express a willingness to ‘facilitate’ it passing through the Dail in a week. This is utter hypocrisy.
“If they were really opposed to this budget they would be demanding an immediate general election where the budget could be debated. The truth is that both the Labour party and Fine Gael have no alternative to budget cuts and austerity policies and are committed in principal to the EU/IMF bailout agreement. They may be willing to play around with the details of the budget cuts but they are committed to implementing €15 billion in cuts because they argue there is no alternative. We say there is an alternative and it begins with tearing up the EU/IMF Memorandum of Understanding and burning the bondholders. It certainly does not involve pouring money into a failed banking system and the private pockets of property developers."
Joe Higgins, Socialist Party MEP and United Left Alliance candidate in Dublin West comments;
"This must be a low point in cynicism in Irish politics which has seen many lows. We have here the ethics of corner boys pushing one of their number to mug vulnerable passers by while the rest skulk nearby ready to pick the victims’ pockets.
“The Finance Bill enshrines the most far reaching attack ever on the livelihoods and living standards of ordinary people to satisfy the profit lust of the financial markets. It is a grotesque betrayal for the Labour Party in particular to cooperate in any way in its passage.
“Clearly the General Election should be called immediately with the provisions of the Finance Bill and economic policy generally as the centre of debate. In this way every party will be called on to justify why working people in this State should be enslaved to the financial markets or to repudiate such a policy."
Councillor Gino Kenny, People Before Profit ULA candidate for Dublin Mid West said
"The farce in Dail Eireann must end and a general election must be called today. We are staunchly opposed to the current budget and by extension to the Finance Bill. Fianna Fail must call an immediate general election and allow the people to have their say.
“The reality for hundreds of thousands of Irish workers and their families is that their living standards are collapsing and their children are faced with no choice but to emigrate. For those who are unemployed there is little or no prospect of finding work and the little protection offered by social welfare is under concerted attack.
“We were told that if we all ‘took the pain up front’ things would turn around. So they slashed public spending and imposed tax levies and took €14 billion out of the economy promising that the deficit would fall, the economy would grow and unemployment would fall. It didn’t happen, in fact things got worse. We are now in EU/IMF receivership and all the mainstream political parties can debate is who is going to push through the cuts. But where is the alternative to the cuts?"