Last month the Central Statistics Office produced new emigration figures for the southern state which revealed that 87,000 people had moved to Australia and Canada and other far corners of the globe. The reason? There is no work at home. Currently 460,000 citizens are on the live register. That’s over 14%. And government policies are making the situation worse – not better.Thousands of home owners are trapped in negative equity; poverty is increasing and government debt now stands at €169 billion. Fine Gael and Labour are committed to an austerity strategy which is pushing up unemployment and driving down the quality of life of families.
They have bought into a political and economic strategy which has seen the state’s economic sovereignty dangerously undermined and the introduction of a succession of punitive measures that have reduced wages, child benefit payments, disability payments and social welfare; and attacked social provisions for carers, older citizens, and the blind. In addition a range of stealth taxes, including the Household charge; the universal social charge; VAT increases; septic tank charges and more have eaten dramatically into the incomes of families.Thursday saw the Taoiseach tell the Trade Unions at a meeting of the Croke Park implementation body that there have to be significant payroll cuts next year. He also warned that there could be no delay in reaching agreement and pointed to the negotiations with the hospital consultants as an example of what can be achieved.
The problem is that the words were barely out of his mouth when it emerged that negotiations between the two bodies representing the consultants and the Health Service Executive on work practices had broken down and the issue would now most likely end up in the Labour Relations Court.
Sinn Féin believes that the Irish government is making the wrong choices and disproportionately placing the burden of paying for the debts of the golden circles on those who can least afford it.Unemployment hurts citizens, drives families into poverty and despair, leads to increased numbers of suicide, the loss of the family home, and social problems for communities.
It drives many of our brightest and best young people to flee to Australia and other parts of the globe.In response to this Sinn Féin has in recent years produced a series of alternative budget proposals, in advance of the annual December budget, that contain practical, effective and innovative proposals to reduce the deficit, create growth in the economy, get people back to work and target youth unemployment.
Like our Wealth Tax proposal these are socially responsible proposals. It is evidence that in the battle of ideas that the Sinn Féin party is prepared to think outside the box in seeking effective solutions to problems.Austerity means cuts. It means reducing public spending by attacking public services. It has been a mantra of Sinn Féin that you cannot cut your way out of recession.
And like our alternative budget proposals, Sinn Féin on Thursday produced an alternative jobs creation strategy.Politics is about political choices and in our Jobs Plan Sinn Féin has produced a fully costed, detailed plan that provides a socially responsible way to reduce the budget deficit while creating and retaining jobs. It calls for an investment of €13 billion into job creation and retention, which will create an average of 156,000 short and long term jobs.
The money is there; in the National Pension Reserve Fund, the European Investment Bank, the private pension sector, and in the money the government plans to cut from its capital budget spend.
This is not rocket science.The scandal is that this government will continue to fritter away the money in the NPRF; put money into toxic banks, and pay off unguaranteed bondholders, while older citizens lose home care supports, and there is one reduction after another in wages; support for lone parents; carers; citizens with disabilities; the blind and the unemployed.
Fine Gael and Labour have no strategic vision of how to invest the money in the National Pension Reserve Fund in a way that can help the economy in the long term.Sinn Féin has a strategy.
It is a thoughtful, rational, well developed and costed plan that will use the available resources in an intelligent – smart way.There will be those who disagree with our proposals. That’s fine. Let them do so constructively and provide their alternative.
What we will not tolerate is the begrudgery that passes for political discourse from Fine Gael and Labour. Their record, like that of Fianna Fáil, is appalling.Remember Fine Gael’s manifesto promised that their NewERA plan would invest an extra €7 billion in energy, communications and water to give Ireland the world class infrastructure?
In February of 2012, after a year in office the Government unveiled an Action Plan for Jobs. At its lunch the Taoiseach said it would create an additional 100,000 jobs.
There has been a loss of 33,000 in the last year.
Remember the Labour Party’s promise before the election that it would put in place a €500 million jobs fund to support new ideas and create employment in strategic sectors of the economy?
They promised to establish a strategic investment bank, with a lending capacity of €2 billion, from the National Pension Reserve Fund.
None of this happened. And then there was the Strategic Investment Fund unveiled in September 2011.
It was to provide funds from the National Pension Reserve Fund for investment in the economy, provide capital for small and medium enterprises and the creation of jobs.
Last week in the Dáil the Taoiseach still couldn’t say when the legislation required for the Fund would be produced by his government.
The reality is that none of this is real or meaningful because the government is ideologically locked into an austerity approach that is about cutting jobs and funding from the public sector, and is driving down growth through stealth taxes.
If you want to cut the deficit and increase government revenue while reducing its expenditure, particularly its social welfare bill, then you have to stimulate the economy, reduce unemployment and generate growth.Sinn Féin’s Jobs Plan will do what all of that failed to achieve. It can create real jobs, using real money, and provide the essential growth and stimulus that the economy needs to overcome the disastrous effects of successive bad policies by this government and the last.