PAPER OF THE SOCIALIST PARTY
As pay & benefits slashed it's.....
TIME THEY ALL WENT! United Left Alliance - A real alternative
By Stephen Boyd OW MUCH are you down?” This is now a commonly heard question as people discuss the impact of the Budget on their “wage packets” and benefits. Hundreds of thousands who were already struggling are now questioning what is there left to sacrifice? It is now the case for many families that a sick child is the “cause” of a financial crisis. Where will the money come from to pay the €50 or €60 GP visit fee? One caller to a well known radio talk show had her electricity cut off because she owed Airtricity €140! She was living with her three children in darkness, with no heat during the coldest winter in nearly 50 years. That is the reality of what this recession means for many - this is Ireland 2011. No money to pay for the basic necessities, light, heat, food or for the mortgage/rent to ensure you and your family have a secure home. Unfortunately for workers, the unemployed and even many middle class people, it is going to get a lot worse. This is the first of another four draconian budgets. December’s Budget contained €6 billion in cuts and tax increases that has hit those on benefits, the low and average paid the hardest. But there are another €9
billion in cuts and tax hikes to come, including a water tax and a home tax. Yet at the same time, billions are handed over to the banks and the super-rich bondholders. While all of this is going on we have had to stomach the attempts by those who are responsible to save their own electoral skins. Leading members of Fianna Fail and the government squabbled over whether Brian Cowen should go. Yet the majority of people in the country want all of them to go because they understand that Fianna Fail are responsible for this mess. None of the protagonists in the Fianna Fail leadership farce have to worry about whether they can pay their electricity bill. Earning between €180,000 and €215,000, they are well off. Joe Higgins, Socialist Party MEP speaking about the Fianna Fail leadership debate said: "Several pretenders to the “throne” believe if the Taoiseach was a better communicator working people, the unemployed, students, those waiting on hospital trolleys would all of a sudden feel better about the cut backs and impositions this government has foisted on us since the recession began and which they intend that we continue to endure over the next five years. But they can’t shirk their collective responsibility for what they have
done. Their efforts to do so are a deception that will not work." The general election is not far off. Fianna Fail and the Greens are going to get a well deserved electoral hammering. It looks like the next government will be a Fine Gael and Labour coalition and they have made it clear it is their intention to continue with a programme of cuts and austerity - to make you pay for the recession. However there will be an alternative in this election. The Socialist Party has joined with the People Before Profit Alliance. the Workers and Unemployed Action Group and other lefts in an electoral alliance the United Left Alliance. The ULA is planning to stand in half of the general election constituencies - and in these areas you will have a chance to vote for candidates who reject the cuts and the EU/IMF austerity programme and who believe that an active response is needed to stop the attacks on our living standards and public services. If you have had enough of the rich getting bailed out whilst the majority are forced to struggle to make ends meet then get in touch with us today to find out what you can do to help get fighters for the rights of working class people elected - a real opposition inside and outside the Dail to the cosy establishment consensus.
CONTACT THE SOCIALIST PARTY - (01) 6772592, PO Box 3434, Dublin 8
Prepare to fight Home and Water Double Taxes By Cian Prendiville, Socialist Party Candidate for Limerick City WORKERS AND the unemployed must now prepare for a crucial battle against water charges and a home tax. From 2013 we will be saddled with these two extra stealth taxes, if the political establishment get their way. In the Finance Act there are plans to introduce a precursor to the home tax (or ‘site valuation tax’ as they want to call it) in 2012 with a ¤100 flat charge across the board. That’s yet another ¤100 being taken out of our pockets to be poured into the coffers of the bankers and bondholders. Just like with bin charges, if we allow the Home Tax and Water Charges to come in, the cost will go up and up. That’s why we have to prepare now for a momentous struggle against these unfair double taxes.
We can have no faith in Labour or Fine Gael to repeal this Finance Act, or stop the double taxes, as it was those parties in the first place who tried to introduce water charges in the past. Instead, we must build strong community campaigns. In the late 1980s and '90s the extension of water taxes in cities across the country was the spark for a major boycott campaign of refusal to pay this new burden on PAYE taxpayers. This mass non payment campaign combined with political action forced the abolition of water charges in city after city. A new campaign built on the same tried and tested method of mass non-payment must be built in response to these new unjust taxes. The Socialist Party along with others on the left and side by side with trade union and community activists will be at the heart of this struggle.
United Left Alliance launched across the country Hundreds sign up to new political force By Kevin McLoughlin INCE ITS public launch at the end of November, the United Left Alliance has been very warmly received and it’s potential to have a major impact in the coming general election has been clearly indicated. More than 350 attended the launch rally in Dublin on 29 November, with 180 of those signing up to become activists of the ULA. On 10 January, 100 of those attended a follow up organising meeting in Dublin. On Wednesday 12 January, more than 200 people packed into the Metropole Hotel for the launch of the ULA in Cork. The meeting was excellent and the mood was strong. 108 new activists were signed up on the night and the ULA has clearly strengthened the left in Cork. Between now and the middle of February, nearly another twenty local launch meetings for the ULA will take place. A number will take place in the different constituencies in Dublin but the ULA will also be launched throughout the country, including Laois, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Clonmel, Limerick. Hopefully new areas will be added to this list as the ULA is the only force that is offering a real left alternative to the capitalist establishment and the Labour and Sinn Fein. The United Left Alliance is in discussions with left activists in Waterford, Galway and Sligo, amongst others. These are key areas that any new force that takes itself seriously would want to get organised in as soon as possible. We would encourage all to sign up to the principled position contained in the ULA’s programme and pledge. The ULA rejects the capitalist
Cllr Joan Collins, Cllr Richard Boyd Barrett, Socialist Party MEP Joe Higgins & Cllr Seamus Healy
Socialist Party candidates for the upcoming General Election JOE HIGGINS MEP
Cllr MICK BARRY
Cork North Central
Cllr CLARE DALY
Dublin South West
Dublin North East
Dublin North market and the policy of austerity cuts at national and local authority level. The ULA stands for the democratic public ownership of the wealth and resources so that the economy can be planned for the interests of working people not profit. The ULA stands against the political and economic corruption
ROB CONNOLLY Dublin Mid West
and profiteering that caused the crisis. If more credible groups and candidates commit themselves to the principled stand of the ULA, the bigger the impact that the ULA can have. In turn each individual group and candidate will be given increased significance by their
CONOR MAC LIAM Carlow / Kilkenny
association with the United Left Alliance’s challenge. Just before Christmas the Socialist Party was contacted by a large group of Labour members from the Laois constituency who had become disgusted by the undemocratic manoeuvrings of the party leadership regarding candi-
date selection. After serious discussions, this group have now adopted a position far to the left of Labour and have now resigned from the party and endorsed the ULA’s programme and pledge and will now stand as part of the ULA in the general election. If the ULA can mount credible challenges in more than half of the Dail constituencies, it can be seen as a serious response to the IMF/EU austerity and as a real opportunity for ordinary people to use the election to build a new left and ultimately a new party that represents them, something that is sorely needed. To have successful local launches, which help develop the name profile and momentum of the ULA and strengthen the chances of our candidates, is a top priority. On top of the members of the Socialist Party, PBPA and the Workers and Unemployed Action Group (South Tipperary), the ULA should also target to sign up 1,000 new activists by its Convention in Dublin on 19 February. At this point the ULA is primarily an electoral alliance, but all volunteers must be encouraged to be fully active and have their say. At its meetings, including the Convention, the ULA must encourage fraternal debate on issues and politics. Within the ULA, the Socialist Party will advocate that the ULA should adopt a socialist outlook as the only way of defeating capitalist oppression. Every new activist should be encouraged to recruit their friends, family and workmates so the ULA can grow quickly and maximise its chances. Getting a number of TDs elected, who could act as a focal point for a left and socialist opposition to the capitalist crisis and the likely government of Labour and Fine Gael and for struggle against the austerity attacks, would be a major victory.
Patients will die as health crisis worsens By Conor Payne HE NEW year saw the worsening of the crisis in the health service as record numbers of patients were forced to wait on trolleys in A&E departments. On 5 January, the number of patients on trolleys around the country reached 569. In 2006, when there were 495 people on trolleys, Mary Harney declared it a “national emergency”. The Irish Association for Emergency Medicine warned that “It is now well-established that boarding hospital inpatients in emergency departments results in increased numbers of deaths among this group of ill patients, compared to similar patients who are admitted to a hospital ward in a timely fashion”. The attempts to explain the crisis as being caused by the rise in Swine Flu and the Winter Vomiting
Bug ignore the reality that the public health service is critically underfunded and is being cut back further as part of the government vicious austerity policies. Even during the economic boom, Ireland only spent 90% of the EU average on health and the losses of the health cuts of the 1980s were never recovered. In the '80s there were 18,000 beds - now there are
only 9,500. The government has already implemented huge cuts and a recruitment freeze, crippling the health service further and now plans another €1.4 billion of cuts by 2014. The underfunding of our health service has been a deliberate ideological choice of this government, as part of their policy of increased privatisation of the health service.
Unfortunately, the opposition parties plan to continue with the same agenda of privatisation and cutbacks. Fine Gael's “Reinventing Government” document proposes to hand over the health service wholesale to private companies. And both Fine Gael and Labour are committed to the IMF's four year austerity plan which will inevitably mean even less resources and less doctors and nurses. Meanwhile, the VHI's announcement of increases as high as 45% for their customers underlined how highlighted the insanity of the twotier health service. The price hike will particularly hit older customers who need access to health care the most. This is the logic of for-profit healthcare- the only way profit is made is by blocking access to care and the less older customers covered, the better for the purpose of profit maximisation. The increase comes after VHI had had a public spat with private
hospitals, succeeding in forcing a 3% cut in costs on the hospitals. This is madness- instead of a rational use of resources to provide healthcare for all we have different wings of the for-profit health industry fighting to avoid as much cost as possible. Private health insurance is a parasite on the health service- 50% of people pay for it but it provides only 10% of the total cost of healthcare in Ireland. There would be no need for this racket if we did not have a deliberately underfunded and neglected public health service. Instead of a recruitment freeze at a time of mass unemployment, there should be jobs created in the public health service for the thousands of nurses who are unable to find work in Ireland. The alternative to the chaos of the current situation is a fully funded free public health service, paid for by taxing the rich and providing health care to all who need it.
HIGGINS SOCIALIST PARTY MEP Dear Members of the ICTU Executive Council, As we know the IMF and EU Commission have taken a large measure of control over this country's economy. As an immediate response, on Saturday 27 November, there was – especially given the atrocious weather conditions - an enormous turnout on the ICTU demonstration which clearly indicated there is mass opposition to the austerity cuts and to the whole strategy of the political and business establishment who have brought this unprecedented crisis on the state. Just before the demonstration, ICTU General Secretary, David Begg, said that the plan would "do precisely the opposite of what it is supposed to do - it will not lead to national recovery, instead it is a roadmap into deep recession."
He continued, "The proposed cuts are savage and will simply dampen down consumer demand further - which makes up 70 percent of our economy. Quite simply, they are penalising the poorest and the lowest paid and making them pay for the reckless behaviour of others. The trade union movement will mount a strong campaign of opposition to this plan. "The economy is already very fragile and some €14 billion has already been extracted. Taking out another €15 billion will likely push us over the edge. The projections for growth contained in this plan are a fiction and bordering on the delusional." Referring to the €85 billion bailout deal when addressing the mass demonstration, David Begg defiantly said; “We cannot pay that money, we will not pay that money.”
Open letter to the trade union leaders I completely agree and endorse the logic of that position. Not only is it correct that the Government and EU/IMF austerity deal will make the crisis and indebtedness much worse, it is likewise correct to draw the conclusion that this deal MUST be rejected and actively resisted. Since then, both ICTU and SIPTU have come out strongly against the reduction in the minimum wage which clearly indicates that war is being declared on basic pay rates as a mechanism to improve the competitiveness and profits of business. The ICTU has also highlighted that the austerity cuts will cause the loss of another 90,000 jobs. The question begged by the foregoing is, why wasn’t the demonstration on 27 November used as a platform to announce serious industrial action before the Budget as part of a "strong campaign of opposition" and the commitment that "we will not pay.” This was a major mistake. However, it is now nearly fifty days since the demonstration and well over a month since the initial vote on the Budget . Given the seriousness and gravity of
the situation, which Congress leaders have clearly outlined, the delay in organising any serious action to resist the austerity is incomprehensible. The inaction makes meaningless your stated intention of fighting the austerity programme and inevitably raises the question, why haven't you acted? There is huge frustration amongst working people up and down the country that nothing is being done. This situation was anticipated at the demonstration on 27 November by the unprecedented and generalised heckling and booing that greeted both the ICTU President, Jack O’Connor and David Begg when they addressed the crowd. The opinion polls indicate that the next government will be formed by Fine Gael and Labour. The fact that the Labour Party has committed itself to abide by the parameters of the austerity deal means that there can be no illusion that such a government will offer any improvement and emphasises even more the urgent need for the trade unions to take serious action, starting in my view with a one day general strike of all workers.
As an MEP for Dublin I represent thousands of trade union members and it is now a constant question why the trade unions aren’t taking definitive action. The very credibility of the trade union movement is now being questioned by many. As I understand it, the UNITE trade union has put forward positive proposals to ICTU for the immediate launching of a campaign of industrial action against the austerity plan. If ICTU does not move now to organise the opposition that exists to the crisis and the cuts and channel people’s anger into mass and democratic struggle, it is inevitable that the relevance of the trade union movement will be further undermined. We are approaching the 100th anniversary of the Great LockOut. No doubt ICTU will organise commemorations of that heroic movement. More importantly, however, should that approaching anniversary not remind us that it is through mobilisation and the use of worker power that working people can best resist being turned into vassals of the speculators on the world’s financial markets?
Socialist candidate for Carlow/Kilkenny
Health campaigner to run for Dail ONOR MAC LIAM is standing in the upcoming General Election for the Socialist Party and the United Left Alliance in the Carlow/Kilkenny constituency. He is known as a defender of public health services and a campaigner for the building of a hospice for Carlow/Kilkenny. He came to prominence with the death three years ago of his wife Susie Long, a public patient, whose diagnosis of bowel cancer was delayed for seven months whilst private patients were getting lifesaving diagnoses within days. Susie, Conor and their children experienced the consequences of the application of right-wing ideologies to healthcare in the most brutal way, and were convinced that many more lives would be lost unless the two-tier system was ended. Government policy means the public system is subsidising
Conor Mac Liam, Socialist Party and United Left Alliance candidate
private for-profit medicine and at the same is itself being starved of funds.
Even those who are terminally ill in the South-East are discriminated against. Susie had to go to
Pic: Derek Spiers
Dublin to die with dignity as there isn’t a single hospice in either Carlow, Kilkenny, Waterford or Wexford. Conor has since been campaigning as part of the Susie Long Hospice Fund for the building of such a hospice for Carlow/Kilkenny. Another urgent issue for him is the building of a day unit which could handle the need for colonoscopies in a timely fashion. Despite the promises made after Susie’s death, there are still public patients waiting over a year for diagnostic tests. The cutbacks in public health funding in the last three Budgets have been mirrored by savage attacks on ordinary people in almost every aspect of their lives – the loss of jobs, wage cuts, higher taxes, cuts to welfare benefits, increased student fees and education cuts. Kilkenny and Carlow have been hit with a spate of retail outlet closures – Byrne’s World of Wonder at the Fairgreen, Carlow, Tony & Guy’s hairdressers in Kilkenny and jobs threatened at Celtic
Bookmakers. In Carlow, the Sacred Heart home for the elderly is under threat as is the Fr. McGrath Community Centre in Kilkenny, both providing essential social services to their communities. The widescale and intensity of attacks led Conor to realise that the fight had to brought to a new level. Having secured the nomination from the Socialist Party and the United Left Alliance, the local branch held a meeting of supporters just before Christmas to plan a campaign. On 20 January, that campaign is to take off with public meetings in both Carlow and Kilkenny. On the bill with Conor will be Joe Higgins MEP, a representative of the People Before Profit Alliance (in Carlow), and Cllr Seamus Healy of the Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group (in Kilkenny). With excellent publicity work being done, it is hoped that the campaign will swell its ranks and go on to provide a real challenge and alternative to the existing rightwing TDs.
Newly qualified teachers told to work for free! By Kate Relihan, INTO (personal capacity) EVER BEFORE has the axe been hurled at the teaching profession in such a sinister manner. Last November, the government announced its plans to allow newly qualified teachers looking for employment to be placed and teach in schools, under a FAS scheme to work for free! It is a disgraceful position that has caused outrage amongst rank-
and-file teachers who have faced assault after assault to their pay and working conditions over the last two years. It is part of an agenda to cut costs and allow privatisation to prevail as quality and care are hammered out of our education profession. And there is another €9 billion in cuts to come. Furthermore, in September, all new entrants will begin on point one as opposed to three of the incremental scale and they will be working for 10% less pay. To add insult to injury, they will also face a whopping 30% cut in their pension.
They will, in effect, be paying in more than they will receive.
Add to this the 1,200 teaching posts to go come September, in classes already suffering from chronic overcrowding, plus the abolition of resource teachers for travellers, the phasing out completely of language support teachers and reductions in special needs assistants and a cap on the number of NEPS/psychological assessments for children and you can see a decimated profession and a wasted generation. It's no wonder our literacy and numeracy world ranking has plummeted from 5th to 17th and 16th to 26th respectively.
These horrific attacks have to be fought by our union. The INTO Special Delegate Conference in February to discuss these issues is welcomed and a strategy to fight back - up to and including industrial action in a nationwide and determined campaign - is the only way to defeat these appalling attacks. First it was nurses and it's now teachers who are expected to join the ranks of free labour for a septic system. Who'll be next? Certainly not the obscenely wealthy minority that are crippling this country.
opinion & news
Winter water crisis Upgrade the system - no to water tax By Councillor Clare Daly ENS OF thousands of householders across the country faced the start of 2011, as they did in 2010, deprived of access to water. Many residents were consequently unable to use their heating systems in the record sub-zero temperatures. In some instances, people were without water for 10 days. This is an absolute outrage in a supposedly advanced economy. It is true that the problems were sparked by unprecedented weather conditions and a huge surge in demand following the rapid thaw on St. Stephen’s Day when temperatures shifted from minus 15 degrees to plus 10 degrees in 36 hours. It is also true that council workers spent days and hours away from their families over the holiday period trying to restore the
supply. But the reality is that this situation could have been avoided. It is a direct consequence of decades of underinvestment in the water infrastructure network. It was the old asbestos concrete and iron pipes in the main, which burst as they cannot withstand the
pressure from ground movements caused by the freeze and rapid thaw, and in many cases are not deep enough underground. Also, cities like Dublin are operating with a mere 2% reserve capacity in the reservoirs, which is totally unsustainable. Paris has a reservoir reserve capacity of 35%.
Scandal grows of €7 million for Clonsilla school site
There are 9,100 kilometres of water main in the Dublin region which includes part of Kildare and Wicklow. Yet since 2006, Dublin City Council has replaced only 60 kilometres, a mere 10% of what is necessary in its area. Not a single kilometre of mains was replaced in Dublin in 2010 despite all the problems that occurred last winter. Rather than addressing these issues, media commentators and the business community are using the crisis to hasten in the introduction of water charges alleging that a new tax will reduce demand and force householders to conserve, reducing the pressure on the supply. This is pathetic. If anything, the recent debacle strengthens the case against a water tax. Between 22% and over 50% of treated water is lost through leakage depending on the area. Yet Minister Gormley proposes to spend €500 million on the installation of water meters in
Pyrite causes severe structural damage
By Councillor Ruth Coppinger
By Emmet Farrell
HE EXPLANATIONS given by Fingal Council management as to why over €7 million is to be paid to a developer for a school site are baffling. It now emerges that the price was “agreed” with the developer months before the land at Kellystown (Clonsilla) was even zoned for development. €470,000 per acre is being paid in this deal – Celtic Tiger land prices during a recession! Replying to questions on Fingal Council put by myself and Socialist Party Councillor Matt Waine, the County Manager says the price was negotiated back in late 2007 and early 2008 – three years before the site is being passed over and months before the vote to rezone Kellystown narrowly went through on the Council in July 2008. The County Manager and the Minister for Education (who will eventually pay for the land) must answer these questions to the taxpayer: ☛ Why would the Council agree to pay for land at much higher res-
OR DECADES, construction activity was such that existing quarries were adequate to supply crushed rock for fill under roads and buildings. During the boom, new quarries were opened to cater for the demand created by motorway, commercial and residential construction. In the rush for profit, it appears that there was inadequate testing of the rock in the quarries has left thousands of householders with another major problem on top of everything else arising from the criminality of bankers and developers. Thousands of houses built during the boom in North and West Dublin, Kildare and Offaly have suffered severe structural damage attributed to “pyrites” in the crushed rock under the ground floor slab of the house. Pyrite is a mineral which remains inert when bound up in rock. When the rock is broken up to be used as fill in roads or under buildings and is exposed to oxygen and moisture, a chemical reaction is initiated whereby the crystals in the rock expand. Under the ground floor slab of houses, the conditions exist to promote the expansion. Initially, the expansion proceeds to fill the voids between the rock particles and when the voids are filled, the expanding rock exerts large upward forces on the ground floor
Joe O’Reilly’s Castlethorn Construction gets a nice windfall from the State.
identially-zoned prices when the land was green belt at the time? ☛ Presumably, this figure was agreed on condition the land was rezoned, in which case, why didn’t the Manager use this leverage to get the site handed over for free or at least at green belt land values or at a nominal cost? ☛ Having seen the collapse of land and property prices subsequently, why didn’t Council management then go back and renego-
tiate the price downward? When precisely was the contract actually signed? It is amazing to see developers getting such lucrative sums still when it is their gambling and land speculation which has brought the country to its knees. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael – who led this rezoning – must explain to the community why protecting the public purse comes second to the further enrichment of a developer.
Scandalous Dublin 15 bus route cuts By Oisín Kelly UBLIN BUS have made drastic cuts to its services over the past months. There are now 130 fewer drivers and 100 fewer buses serving the city. New routes, less frequent services and long waiting times have been experienced by bus users. This can be seen very clearly in the Dublin 15 area. The 39 route serving Blanchardstown, Clonsilla, Hartstown and Ongar and the 38 route serving Mulhuddart and Corduff have seen dramatic
changes. The cuts mean that the new routes get caught in city centre traffic and passangers experience long dealys. It is not unusual for passangers to wait over one hour for a bus. The cuts have resulted in important parts of the area not being served by a route. Tyrellstown and Blanchardstown village have experienced dramatic cuts in service. Tyrellstown, an area with a large young school going population, have seen cuts in routes serving the area. Blanchardstown has seen buses removed from the village. The Socialist Party does not
accept there should be any cuts. In fact, there should be an expansion of public transport. Public transport has been inadequate even during the Celtic Tiger years. At the very time there are more people dependent on public transport, the Fianna Fáil/Green government are implementing cuts. Dublin Bus should be run as a public service that serves the community, and not as a company being primed up for privatisation. Socialist Party councillors Matt Waine and Ruth Coppinger are seeking a public meeting involving Dublin Bus management in the coming weeks.
every home. A meter doesn’t save water, it simply measures it. There would be a far greater impact on the supply if that money was used to replace to old water mains and introduce other measures to preserve supply. Already, the €300 million which was budgeted for upgrading the system will now be largely absorbed in patching up the leaks and paying for the recent crisis. It is totally inadequate. There needs to be a massive overhaul of the water infrastructure which requires massive investment beyond anything that has previously been paid. However, a mere fraction of what was pumped into toxic Anglo Irish Bank would allow these works to be undertaken and would provide jobs for thousands of people. This is absolutely necessary to make up for the years without investment and makes sound economic and environmental sense.
slab over. The slab “heaves” upward creating major stress in the load bearing walls which tend to crack at their weakest point over door and window openings and at the junction of different materials - plasterboard/timber/blockwork. The expansion and the cracking continue - the rate of expansion depending on the percentage pyrites in the rock. The only long-term solution is to take up the ground floor slab, remove the heave inducing material, replace with “good” material and replace the ground floor slab, repair the structural cracks and redecorate. Clearly, this is a very costly procedure. Some developers insured against structural damage - for 10 years after completion - with insurers backed up by Lloyds and other re-insurers. These houses are currently being repaired with the occupants being relocated during the works. The majority of houses are “insured” by the Construction Industry Homebond Scheme and householders have been offered less than two thousand euros as “full and final settlement”. Pyrite has been confirmed in some estates in Balbriggan and Rush but this is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg. Socialist Party Councillor, Clare Daly, has organised a public meeting to bring householders together to discuss the problem of pyrite on Wednesday 26 January at 8pm in The Hamlet, Balbriggan. Everyone is welcome.
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By Councillor Mick Barry OES SINN Féin represent a genuine left alternative for working class people in the General Election? This is a question that many workers and young people are now asking. Recent opinion polls have shown Sinn Fein support around the 1416% mark with the Red C poll for the Irish Sun before Christmas showing 22% support for the party amongst lower income working class voters, making it the most popular party in the state in that category. Despite the fact that 49% of voters say they would never vote Sinn Fein (many of them working people forever alienated from the party by its support for the IRA campaign), it is clear that Sinn Fein's opposition to the IMF deal and Fianna Fail/Green Party cutbacks has won it fresh support.
This is especially the case given that Labour have agreed to the IMF targets, advocated €4.5 billion cuts in the Budget debates and pledged not to reverse any FF cuts in the next government before being forced, to backtrack. In this context, Sinn Fein is winning support as a “left” alternative. The election of Pearse Doherty in the Donegal South West bye-election and the decision by Gerry Adams to contest Louth put the media focus onto the party. Sinn Fein has railed against the "cosy consensus" of the cuts here in the Republic. However, in the North, they have done precisely the opposite and signed up to supporting a vicious programme of antiworking class cutbacks. When actually in power, in the North, they have signed up to a draft budget which provides for: ☛ £4 billion in cuts over 4 years ☛ £500+ million privatisa-
tion sell-offs of state land and assets ☛ A pay freeze for 200,000 workers. Furthermore, Northern Ireland faces increases in the pension age and up to 30,000 public sector job losses as a result of cuts, the first tranche of which has now been accepted by Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein argue that the cuts originate with the British government and their £4 billion cut in Northern Ireland Exchequer funding, saying that they have little alternative but to pass them on. This is an entirely hollow argument. Fianna Fail could make a similar argument and say that the cuts in the Republic originate with the IMF and that they now have little alternative but to pass them on too. Sinn Fein have failed to definitively rule out coalition deals with Fianna Fail or Fine Gael after the election. Gerry Adams said recently: "We are involved in a historic
,200 PEOPLE joined the Live Register in December as unemployment once again jumped to nearly 440,000. These workers have been dumped on the dole not because there is no work to do. In reality, there is an enormous amount of work that needs to be done nationally. The Socialist Party has argued for the implementation of a national programme of necessary public works. In Dublin West, the Socialist Party has brought forward a jobs programme that could deliver the vital infrastructure and services that are needed and create thousands of jobs. Below, we outline some of our proposals. The recent crisis in A&E departments across the country put into sharp contrast the effects of savage cuts in our health services. Over
1,000 nursing positions have been lost, wards have been shut and hospital beds closed. We call for the cuts to be reversed and for the health service to take on thousands of qualified nurses who are currently on the dole. We call for the completion of the St Francis Hospice and for the construction of new primary health clinics to provide effective and affordable healthcare and to take the pressure off our hospitals. Our education system has suffered enormous cutbacks. Over 100 teaching posts have been scrapped in the last two years in Dublin 15 and with €800 million cuts this year, more job losses can be expected. Instead, we call for these cuts to be reversed and for the pupil/teacher ratio to be reduced to 15:1. Alongside that, we call for the immediate construction of new secondary schools for Kellystown, Tyrrelstown and Mulhuddart and
Residents in Dublin West cannot access the brand new Hansfield station because the link road and park & ride facility hasn’t been built. The Socialist party is calling for this, and many other projects, to be commenced to create thousands of jobs.
compromise in the North which is actually functioning. So we know about the art of politics and the art of compromise.....when you can do business with Ian Paisley you can do business with anyone." It is true that the party puts its emphasis on wanting a coalition deal with Labour. This is extremely unlikely given that Labour have ruled it out and are set on a deal with Fine Gael. However, would a Labour - Sinn Fein government represent Ireland's first Left governement? No. Both parties accept the
rule of the capitalist market and would operate within that framework. This would mean accepting cuts and tax increases and Sinn Fein would be prepared to accept this as shown by their policies in Belfast as would Labour as shown by their support for €4.5 billion cuts in Dublin. The genuine left alternative at the General Election, consistent in its opposition to cuts, tax increases on working people and privatisation, will be provided not by Sinn Fein but by the United Left Alliance.
Women’s rights not a political football:
A jobs programme for Dublin West By Councillor Matt Waine
Despite portraying as left, making cuts in North
for a permanent primary school in Tyrellstown. As a result of the mess created by developer-led planning, Dublin West has a serious traffic problem. The only way to resolve this is to invest in a quality public transport system. This means reversing the job cuts and curtailed service provided by Dublin Bus. It means fasttracking the roll out of Metro West and building the Hansfield train station link road. We can’t rely on private builders and developers to deliver the services we need. Instead, we believe the state and Fingal County Council must start to deliver the projects we need. For example, we believe Fingal County Council should extend the home energy and insulation scheme to insulate all council homes including replacing windows and doors, and energy efficient and environmentally friendly heating systems. There are nearly 900 vacant properties in Dublin 15 - a legacy of the property bubble – while over 5,000 people languish for years on housing waiting lists. We believe these empty properties should be seized by the state and used to house people on housing waiting lists. Fingal County Council should also commence a house building programme to end waiting lists. All these projects would deliver the services and infrastructre we need. But it would also create thousands of jobs. By taking thousands off the dole, not only would millions be saved for the exchequer, but it would also have a knock-on stimulus through out the economy and could be duplicated in every constituency in the state
Legislation on abortion needed now By Fiona O’Loughlin N 16 February 2011, it will be 19 years since the X case which made legal history in Ireland came to light. Following a public outcry, the Supreme Court ruled that Ms X, a 14 year old rape victim, should be allowed to have an abortion as she was suicidal. Nineteen years later and following two referenda on the issue, the legislation required has still not been passed due to the political cowardice of all parties that have been in government throughout that period. The hypocrisy of the political parties on this issue has been highlighted by the recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights. The court found that in the case of one of the applicants Ms C (who had cancer), that her human rights had been violated. She was unable to find a doctor willing to make a determination as to whether her life would be at risk if she continued her pregnancy to term. The lack of legislation on this issue has left the medical profession unable to make medical decisions due to the fact that they could find themselves criminally prosecuted under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. The legislation required from the ruling in the X case should be passed immediately. However, this would not be enough to solve the problem for the majority of women who face a crisis pregnancy and may decide to have an abortion for a myriad of reasons. The Socialist Party has always campaigned and argued for free abortion on demand, available
through the health service, with proper medical after care and counselling when required. We reject the argument that legalising abortion would lead to an increase in the number of women having abortions. Abortion is a reality in Ireland as thousands of Irish women travel to Britain and other European countries every year to have abortions they are unable to access at home. The decision to have an abortion for women is not a decision taken lightly. A crisis pregnancy is a difficult emotional time. Women in this situation do not need the added problems of travel and the expense, aftercare if required is more difficult when the operation is not performed locally. Many women make the decision to have an abortion due to their economic circumstances and if anything, the recession will make it more difficult for women with crisis pregnancies. More support for women with children need to be put in place. The recent cuts in One Parent Family Allowance and Child Benefit should be immediately reversed. There should be investment in community childcare facillities and after school clubs. Children in Single Parent Families are more likely to be raised in poverty. The hypocrisy of the right wing political parties regarding their so-called concern for the “unborn” is graphically exposed by the appalling way it treats children in society, particularly working class children. Women in Ireland have waited long enough for reform on the issue of abortion, this is a real issue for women in crisis, not a political football.
Sinn Fein: a genuine alternative?
UNEMPLOYMENT, POVERTY AND ECONOMIC CRISIS Gael and Labour, is having a major deflationary impact on the economy. All of the main establishment parties support the four year austerity plan to reduce the budget deficit to 3% of GDP by 2014/15. This strategy is having a disastrous impact on society and has directly lead to mass unemployment and a return to mass emigration.
Where are the jobs
By Stephen Boyd HE BUDGET cuts are hitting families all over the country this month. For the poorest and most vulnerable, social welfare and child benefit cuts have made the struggle for survival all the harder. The basic social welfare cut of €416 a year is massive, a loss of more than two week’s income for people who struggle to make ends meet is draconian. The Budget impacts most on the poorest and the lowest paid in society. The reduction in the minimum wage of nearly 12% means that a full time worker on the minimum wage will get €2,080 a year less! Even before the current cuts, the government’s austerity programme has already had a dramatic impact. According to the EU survey on income and living conditions, the data for 2009 shows a 25% increase in consistent poverty. The EU estimates that the health effects of inequality account for 20% of healthcare costs and 15% of social welfare benefits. That’s a cost of €5 billion a year in Ireland. The changes to tax credits, tax increases and bringing more of the lower paid into the tax “net” is again hitting those who can least afford it the hardest. Whilst the richest in society in percentage terms will pay the smallest tax increases, big business and the multinationals got away with no tax increases at all.
A budget for the rich ACCORDING TO TASC, (an independent think tank), a self-employed person who earns more than €201,000 a year will see their income
rise because of the Budget, whilst PAYE earners on around €25,000 will suffer the biggest reduction in income, about 4.6%. A so-called “average family” with two earners on the average industrial wage will lose between €3,000 - €3,500 a year when everything is added up. The new Universal Social Charge has increased inequality in wealth distribution. This new tax applies to incomes starting at only €4,000 (2%) and increases to 7% at €16,000. This means that someone on the minimum wage is paying the same level of USC as a person who earns €200,000 or €2,000,000. There is a genuine struggle in hundreds of thousands of households just to pay for the basic neccesities. Bord Gais have stated that 20,000 of their customers have “entered the disconnection category”. Bord Gais disconnected 125 homes in November and in the same month, the ESB disconnected 500 homes and Airtricity, 118. Disconnections were suspended because of the freezing temperatures which gripped the country in December. However, disconnections have recommenced. Reflecting the significant decrease in many household’s, incomes because of unemployment, pay cuts and tax increases, 150,000 have signed up to payment plans with the ESB. The Society of St Vincent de Paul has outlined the ridiculous and insulting position of the government who increased fuel allowances to the poorest families by €40 million in the Budget but who with the other hand took back €30 million off these very same families in cuts to their social welfare payments! The government has claimed that the Budget cuts won’t hit so hard because prices have fallen back to
2007 levels. But as Conor Pope in the Irish Times (20 December 2010) explained, “The notion that consumers should be celebrating because prices have returned to the levels they were in 2007 is a bit rich. Back then, we were all complaining loudly about rip-off retailers and service providers who were making us pay over the odds for virtually everything money could buy”. It is far too simplictic to say that deflation has had a uniform impact on household expenditure. The price of some products in supermarkets have come down but overall there hasn’t been a dramatic fall in the cost of people’s shopping baskets. Mortgages are set to rise with a prediction of a 1.5% increase in the next 12 months. Insurance – car, home and life have all gone up. The VHI charges are up between 15 – 45%. Education costs are up 25% and if you have two children going to creche, it will cost you nearly €2,000 a month.
Consumer spending THE IMPACT of four austerity budgets, pay cuts and mass unemployment has had a significant impact on “consumer confidence”. The Consumer Sentiment Index has fallen for five of the last six months. And after the last budget, the survey showed that 71% believe their household will be worse off in 2011, and more than 70% had seen a fall in income in 2010 while 74% expect the Irish economy to get worse this year. Consumers are now spending 25% less than they did in 2008. This is bad news for the Irish capitalist class but is not surprising. The economic strategy of the government, which is broadly supported by the “government in waiting” of Fine
THE MAJORITY of people’s “barometers” for economic recovery will not be based on small increases in GDP growth but on serious job creation. Seventy percent of Ireland’s economy is based on domestic demand which has fallen dramatically because of the impact of the recession and directly because of the four austerity budgets. The government’s policy “has choked domestic demand for three years by cutting current public spending drastically; cutting public sector wages; cutting welfare for the poorest; and the minimum wage” – Paul Sweeney, ICTU’s economic adviser. The cuts and tax increases imposed so far are the biggest imposed by any government in the “developed world” since the Second World War. National income has fallen by 21% since 2007, with GNP down from €161 billion to €127 billion. This fall in annual income of €34 billion is more than the whole tax take of €31.5 billion for 2010. In a capitalist system, investment is crucial for job creation - the Celtic Tiger would never have happened without massive FDI from the US in the 1990s. Yet investment has plummeted from €50 billion to only €18 billion. Any economic recovery is dependent on a recovery in the domestic economy and there is no sign or no short term prospect of that happening because of the government led IMF/EU backed deflationary economic strategy. By 2014, €29.5 billion will have been taken out of the economy by the austerity programme - that is a recipe for continued mass unemployment, mass emigration and economic stagnation. Debt default is a virtual certainty and the national debt is set to soar by 2014 to between €183 billion to €230 billion. According to the economist Constantin Gurdgiev, by 2014, the national debt will be €180,000 for every tax payer and the interest repayments may be as high as €20,000 a year for every tax payer. The only serious committment that Fine Gael and Labour have given is to pursue the IMF/EU austerity agenda of making working class and middle class people continue to pay for the economic crisis. All of these cuts still aren’t enough
to satisfy the parasitical markets. After the December Budget, Moody’s downgraded Ireland’s credit rating to just three “notches” about junk bonds! But there is an alternative.
There is an alternative INSTEAD OF bailing out the banks, the bondholders should be “burned” and the money should instead be invested in creating jobs and providing for the needs of the majority in society. Gaelscoil Philib Barún in Waterford has been holding its classes in prefabs for 25 years! They are not alone. There are 1,200 other
schools on a list to get permanent buildings. Building these schools alone would create thousands of jobs. Every community in this state is crying out for more facilities. An emergency programme of necessary public works could develop a proper broadband infrastructure, the extra hospital and healthcare facilities that are desperately needed, a proper public transport system, community, youth and sports facilities. We need more nurses, teachers, doctors, social workers, community workers not less. Hundreds of thousands of jobs could be created by using the “bailout” money for the
needs of society instead of the profits of the super-rich. The policies of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour will guarantee nothing but a decade of economic stagnation. It is not just the economy that is broken, the political system is broken as well. Capitalism has failed and the Socialist Party and the United Left Alliance have begun to build a serious alternative to that failed political system, the beginning of a mass political movement whose aim is not to bailout the rich but the creation of a democratic socialist society that will put the needs of the majority before the profits of the few. ■
Don’t believe the lies - Ireland is still rich By Paul Murphy AN ESSENTIAL ideological pillar of the attacks on workers and unemployed people over the past number of years is the idea that Ireland is broke. The impression is given that the wealth created during the Celtic Tiger (where the top 1% of the population gained €75 billion) has simply disappeared. Some recent research by CIT economist, Tom O’Connor, updating the 2006 Bank of Ireland report, “Wealth of the Nation”, detailed the ongoing wealth of the super-rich in Ireland. In 2006, the 33,000 millionaires in Ireland held a total wealth (not including their primary homes) of €156 billion. As a result of the collapse in the property market, this wealth has declined, but O’Connor still estimates that they still hold €121 billion. The US Treasury released figures identifying the location of major holders of US debt in the form of bonds. Irish residents held $50 billion worth of US Treasury securities – almost as much as Germany and twice as much as France! In total, $1.3 trillion is held in securities and foreign equities by Irish resi-
dents – over $250,000 per person in Ireland! This figure includes holdings of companies as well as individuals resident in Ireland, and may have gone down slightly, but nevertheless gives lie to the notion of Ireland being poor! Another major source of wealth in Ireland is the gas and oil found under Irish waters in the Atlantic Ocean. The government’s estimate is that there are 10 BBOE (billion barrels of oil equivalent) in the Rockall and Porcupine basins, off Ireland’s west coast. At the current price of $100 a barrel, this works out at $1 trillion, or about €750 billion. This figure could prove to be an underestimate, as it does not include reserves off the south coast! So while the average major oil producing state has a stake of 68% in oil and gas finds, the Irish state has a 0% stake, having given away our natural resources to the likes of Shell! Countries like France, Norway and Switzerland have 1% wealth taxes – such a tax would raise over €1 billion in Ireland, while a steeper wealth tax of 5% would generate €6 billion - the total of the cuts and tax increases in the Budget.
Who are the IMF?
Joe Higgins, Socialist Party MEP speaking at an anti-IMF/EU Bailout protest.
By Stephen Rigney THE SIGHT of the International Monetary Fund's head-of-mission, Ajai Choppa, being treated like a celebrity by the media and the political establishment must have made for grotesque viewing to those living in the developing world where the IMF has long been a household name. But then again, the vast majority of those people are trapped in such severe poverty, much of it caused directly by the vicious austerity programmes of the IMF, that they would have been spared that horrific sight. While Chopra and the IMF are touted in Ireland as the only men to do the job, internationally, ordinary people have quickly learned that so-called “bailouts” are nothing more than high-interest loans subject to what the IMF calls “conditionality” – aid is only given if the country accepts the Fund’s diktats in relation to de-regulation, privatisation and cutbacks. When Hurricane Mitch wreaked havoc across Nicaragua in 1998, the government requested assistance from the IMF – debt relief of $4.4 billion and $47 million in aid annually for three years. The IMF was only too happy to help but with one condition – the privatisation of the state’s telecom industry. In Russia, following a catastrophic collapse of the economy in the late 1990s, the IMF offered a bailout, but with over 200 strings attached. Russia was forced to make significant changes favouring bigbusiness to its taxation policy, slash government spending and significantly, to drastically reduce its regulation of the financial industry. The media has been quick to point out Chopra’s
Mortgage timebomb threatens new bank crisis By Paul Murphy
35 BILLION!!! That’s par for the course, Brian
cartoon: Conor Burke
role in “sorting out” the crisis that surrounded the Asian Tigers in 1997 but for ordinary people, the crisis was only made worse by the IMF. Two years later, unemployment was three times higher than before the crisis in South Korea and Thailand. At one point, over 300,000 people were losing their jobs each month in South Korea as the government removed laws preventing mass redundancies, sacked 30% of the banking workforce and slashed spending on the public sector at the behest of the IMF. In Irish terms, that would mean nearly 20,000 workers being thrown on the dole each month! In total, 24 million jobs were lost across the region by 1999 while the IMF was “sorting out” the crisis. In Latin America, a former senior economist with the IMF and an architect of its “Structural Adjustment Programmes” for the developing world, Davison Budhoo, described their policies there as “privatise or die”. The World Bank, the IMF’s sister organisation, forced Bolivia to privatise its water sector in return for renewing a $25 million loan. Water prices quickly tripled to $20 a month in a country where the minimum wage was less than $70 each month. Mass demonstrations and a general strike eventually forced the government back. While some people see the IMF as a “lesser evil” and believe they can no worse to the Irish economy and the working class than Fianna Fáil did, they will soon learn that the €85 billion “bailout” is more like a €85 billion noose around the throats of ordinary people. The support that the IMF has given to the government’s austerity budget should leave no illusions in what is to come in the future.
2011 WILL see a major crisis for tens of thousands of home owners across Ireland. Many will be unable to pay back their mortgages and their homes will be threatened with repossession. This will in turn have ramifications for the banking system, which may need another substantial bailout. At the end of last year, Morgan Kelly, writing in the Irish Times argued that “at least 100,000 mortgages (one in eight) are already under water, and things have barely started.” Brian Cowen suggested that this figure was too high and there were only 70,000 mortgage payers in serious trouble. Given Cowen’s record on figures, it isn’t unreasonable to presume that Kelly is right. Either way, it is clear that there are tens of thousands who are facing real trouble paying back their mortgages. 36,000 are in arrears of more than four months. On top of that, 45,000 borrowers have renegotiated their mortgage, for example negotiating interest-only repayment. Aside from that, an estimated 200,000 homeowners are in negative equity. With house prices likely to fall further this year, many more will enter negative equity. The combination of increasing unemployment,
decreasing incomes, falling house prices and rising interest rates is a toxic one that will result in a massive crisis. The Financial Regulator, Matthew Elderfield, last year rejected any government help for these people, talking about the fact that many have “gritted their teeth and are meeting their obligations”, implying that others should simply do the same! Brian Lenihan has ruled out support for a debt forgiveness scheme, instead backing a “deferred interest scheme” whereby lenders will be asked to allow homeowners to repay 2/3 of mortgage interest and defer the rest for up to five years. In reality, this will only help some borderline cases, and even in those cases, they will still have a huge amount of arrears hanging over them. Yet the state now has effective control of the banking system. The nationalisation of the banking sector should be completed, with the banks brought into democratic workers’ control and then control of the banks should be used to assist those who are the victims of this crisis. The repossession of primary homes should be banned. Mortgages on people’s homes should be reevaluated and adjusted downwards based on the true value of the property. Interest rates should be lowered to meet people’s ability to pay.
Austerity Budget means
Clondalkin students show the way
School strike against fees & cuts Student revolt in North and Britain
By Shane Donnelly ITH THE introduction of college fees, along with the minimum wage being slashed, it is clear that this government sees young people as an easy target. That is why I decided to organise a union in my school, which most of my students signed up for. First thing we decided to do was organise a walkout on Budget Day. On the day of the walkout, we passed leaflets around the school and within minutes I was in my Principal’s office. When the lunchtime bell rang he asked; ''Are you going to call this off or should I call your mother now then?'' and all I could reply was, ''You do what you wish, I’m doing what I believe is right''. With that, I walked to the sports hall where students were being kept. I knew something extreme had to be done to boost their spirits. So I forgot the shy reserved person I was and stood on a table to make a speech. After that, I marched to the fire exit with a
School students must get organised against cuts
crowd of 50 students which rapidly swelled to 400. We found the fire door locked and blocked by two teachers. So we had a sit down protest were we began chanting ''Shame on you!'' This eventually led to the girls’ school (who had also organised a walkout) marching up to our school chanting ''Let them out!'' A teacher opened the door and the students stormed. Sadly only 20 got out before the door was re-locked. We marched to the local Fianna Fail TD's office and made speeches and chants about the IMF/ Fianna Fail cuts. The next day I met with the Principal where I was threatened
with expulsion. I was told I couldn't be in the school because of my political views and I was called a violent anarchist who wanted to smash and burn everything! After getting national media attention, the Principal began to backtrack. He had no hope in implementing the threat of expulsion as my friends started a Facebook campaign, organised a silent sit down protest in the school while I was suspended, and people contacted the school with hundreds of emails, letters and phone calls from around the world against any disciplinary action on myself and other students.
NORTHERN IRELAND and Britain have been hit by a serious new wave of student protests in the last few months, in opposition to the hike in tuition fees to a staggering £9,000! University and school students have displayed a heroic amount of determination and energy in the course of their battle with the hated Con-Dem coalition. Occupations and walkouts have taken place across the UK. In Belfast, 2,000 students from many different schools organised a walkout on 9 December. This action was taken as part of a national day of protest against the attacks on education. In London 35,000 students marched on parliament. In scenes that were reminiscent of the recent student protest in Dublin, the police came down with brutal force injuring many students with batons and the use of the kettling tactic – keeping students “pinned down” surrounded by the police for hours on end. Despite the assault by the state and the lack of leadership from the leaders of the National Union of Students, the student movement in Britain and the North will not be suppressed – the students are adamant that this is just the first step!
As Cowen’s pay is cut by 6%... minimum wage is slashed by 11%! By Eddie McCabe HERE’S NO credibility left in this government. Their old lies and propaganda doesn’t wash with people like it used to. Nevertheless, they continue to carry on the pretence of “sharing the pain”. Brian Cowen’s much hyped “contribution” in the form of a 6% pay cut was particularly hard to swallow for workers trying to scrape by on the measly minimum wage – who have now been subjected to an 11% pay cut! The obscenity of such blatant inequality is obvious. However, critics of the Taoiseach’s attempt at “showing leadership” were dis-
missed as begrudgers! It’s worth pointing out that of the EU member states, only the leaders of France and Germany are paid a higher wage than Brian Cowen (€214,000), after his pay cut. Comparatively, the minimum wage in Ireland is also third highest in Europe, that is until purchasing power is taken into account which then shows that Ireland is actually in 6th place – behind the UK. This assault on the lowest paid section of society, made up mostly of young and migrant workers, is a perfect example of the political establishment acting on behalf of the employers’ organisations, IBEC and ISME. It’s also an example of the continuation of the mentality
that fuelled the disaster of the Celtic Tiger – a blind drive for short term profits at the expense of everyone except a tiny elite. To put it simply workers make up the vast majority of the market and this attack will mean less spending by workers so more businesses go bust. All wages are benchmarked against the minimum wage so this is an attack on all workers and should be vigorously opposed by the trade union movement. Young workers must get organised to oppose any cuts in wages and to fight for decent pay and conditions. The Socialist Party and Socialist Youth want to assist any such young people who want to get organised – contact us today.
Plans to lower age of consent By Aine Nic Liam HE GOVERNMENT is planning to publish a new proposal to lower the legal age of sexual consent in Ireland from 17 to 16. Minister of State for Children Barry Andrews, has said that the current laws on the age of consent were “inappropriate” and out of touch with the modern reality of sexual relations between young people. While Socialist Youth welcomes this decision as being more in line with the reality of young people's lives, these proposals do not go far enough. While the age of 16 is more realistic, teenagers often engage in sexual relations at a younger age.
The question must be asked is criminalising consensual sex between peers i.e., two 15 year olds or a 15 and a 16 year old really the best solution that we as a society can design? Teenagers should not be criminalised for engaging in consensual sex. The experiences of teenagers engaging in sexual activity is greatly varied. While some teenagers can and do have positive experiences, it must be acknowledged that many young people feel forced to engage in sex prematurely, whether this pressure comes from the young person's peers, their boyfriend/girlfriend or from other sources. Simply lowering the age of consent will not deal with these issues.
Further steps must be taken. A nation-wide sexual education programme should be brought into all secondary schools as a matter of urgency. Such a programme would encompass not only education on sexual health and contraception but should provide a safe environment for teenagers to talk about their problems and questions in an open and honest way. It would also concentrate on building self-esteem in teens thus giving them the tools to enable them to decline involvement in sexual relationships until the time when they are ready. We need real public investment education, not cuts, and the genuine separation of church and state – secular education – for this to happen.
Cian Prendiville 21 year old Socialist Party election candidate spoke to the Socialist THINK young people are repulsed by official politics – the lies, the wheeling and dealing and abandoning of principle to get into power and the greed of politicians. That’s not the politics I think young people should get involved in. That’s the politics young people should get involved in fighting”. “What we need is activism, and real change. Even if young people ignore politics, it won’t ignore us. All that will do is let the fat cats off the hook, so they can continue with the education cuts, hikes in fees, cuts in the minimum wage and destruction of our future. We can’t let them get away with it, so we have to stand up and
fight back”. The government is closing off every way forward for young people - closing off education, cutting jobs, and halving the dole for us. They want us to leave. They fear a revolt of young people, like France, Greece and now Britain have seen, so they want to get us out of the country, so they can get on with the business of defending the rich”. “Well, I for one am not leaving. This crisis, and the dictatorship of the rich at its core, is international, you can run from it, but you can’t hide. Instead what we have to do is stand and fight, for a decent life and future here in Ireland, that’s why young people should get active in socialist politics”.
Laura Ashley striker speaks out INTERVIEW
S: WHAT DO you think the bank bailouts and IMF/government cutbacks say about the way Ireland is run? LW: Ireland is run by a government that support the wealthy elite, and this is proven in the way they have attacked the working class with the austerity measures introduced in the last budget. The attack on the minimum wage, social welfare cuts and an increase in college fees will have a massive impact on people who can least afford it. While the bankers and the speculators that caused this recession receive massive bailouts, the ordinary working class people are left to struggle
look. Having experienced firsthand the way a profitable company like Laura Ashley can get away with treating workers in such an appalling manner has made me question the society we live in. The capitalist system allows companies to take advantage of workers and resources and when these businesses feel that they are no longer making enough profit they will take their money and move on with absolutely no concern for the workers or communities they leave behind. From my recent experience, I firmly believe that socialism can offer a real and viable alternative to the current system.
If the trade union leaders showed an ounce of the determination of the Laura Ashley strikers, the budget cuts and the government could be defeated.
with these cutbacks in order to facilitate paying back these debts. TS: What do you think of the response of the leadership of the trade union movement has been to the cutbacks? LW: I believe the leadership of the trade union movement is far removed from the real crisis that
faces its members on the ground. Earning large salaries and having become comfortable during the Celtic Tiger has lead to a bureaucracy within the unions that leaves the leadership completely detached from the people they are supposed to represent. They have shown themselves unwilling to be a real voice of the people by refusing
to call strike action and by showing practically no opposition to the cut in the minimum wage. TS: How have your experiences of being on strike impacted on your political outlook? LW: Being on strike has profoundly affected my political out-
TS: What made you decide to join the Socialist Party? LW: I believe there is something fundamentally wrong with the capitalist system. A system that allows greed and corruption to go unpunished, while ordinary workers face the disastrous consequences of the actions of the wealthy elite. The idea of solidarity and a genuine concern for the interests of workers has made me want to become a part of something that can affect real change within society.
Build a national trade union activist network
SIPTU/Impact: Come to the forum on 5 February Firefighters and paramedics breakaway By Stephen Boyd RIAN LENIHAN has issued a threat to all public sector workers who are in unions that haven’t yet signed up to the Croke Park Agreement. Either accept the deal and the government’s counter-reform programme or risk having your pay cut or losing your job. He also issued a threat to public sector workers who are in unions that have accepted the deal that if the government didn’t get the cuts it wants, it will implement further pay cuts. Thousands of trade union members and activists across all unions are disillusioned by the rightwing union leaders who have shown they are more interested in assisting the government manage the economic crisis rather than defending the jobs and pay of their members and fighting the austerity programme which is devastating public services and working class people’s living standards. The four year austerity programme backed by all of the establishment parties and the IMF/EU will inflict an unprecedented assault on the rights and living conditions of workers and trade unionists. No job is safe and the pay and conditions of all workers in the private and public sector are under threat. Most trade union leaders have shown that they are out of touch. A majority are unelected and paid three, four or five times the average wage of the members they are meant to represent.
By Michael O’Brien
HE SCALE of the sell outs by the SIPTU and IMPACT leadership around the Croke Park deal has provoked the first serious rank and file breakaway initiative in the trade union movement in over a decade. Those behind the breakaway are hoping that 2,500 firefighters and paramedics will leave SIPTU and IMPACT and join the newly formed Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association (IFESA) and the National Ambulance Service Representatives Association (NASRA). They have affiliated to the Psychiatric Nurses Association which operates outside ICTU and is therefore not party to the Croke Park Agreement. These developments have occurred not just because of the impact of the pay cuts and pension levies but also because the Croke Park Agreement has facilitated further cutbacks in the essential services provided by these workers which will cost lives. Other factors such as the poor level of service from officials, the non-processing of claims and a general lack of democracy in IMPACT and SIPTU have also contributed to the breakaway. So far, hundreds have joined the leaders of the NASRA and IFESA who are confident that many more will follow them out of SIPTU and IMPACT. The fact that the PNA, like the
Activists and members in every trade union are unhappy and want the unions to take action to stop the assault from the government and the employers. We need to campaign for greater trade union democracy. The members should democratically control the union, not unelected or unaccountable officials. Trade union officials should be elected on a regular basis and paid the average wage of the members they represent to keep them in touch with the lives of ordinary workers. Joe Higgins, Socialist Party MEP and leading trade union activists have issued the call for the formation of a national trade union activist network. We believe that such a network can play an important role in building an opposition and an alternative to the likes of David Begg, Jack O’Connor and
other pro-partnership union leaders. The network could also coordinate the building of support in the unions for a campaign of opposition and industrial action to fight the cuts and counter-reforms in the public sector and organise solidarity work and campaigns for workers on strike and involved in struggles to defend their jobs and pay. A forum is being organised to discuss the establishment of a trade union activist network. All trade unionists are encouraged to attend to participate in an open and democratic discussion on the establishment of the network. Spread the word – Forum to discuss the establishment of a trade union activist network - Teachers’ Club, Parnel Square, Dublin, 11am – 1pm, Saturday 5 February. For further information, phone the office of Joe Higgins MEP, 01 6795030.
Gardai and armed forces were not party to negotiating the Croke Park deal sellout does not mean that they escape its consequences which means that from their birth, NASRA and IFESA have a fight on their hands. Socialist Party activists in the trade unions alongside others have advocated that all the unions which opposed the Croke Park deal including those like the CPSU, TUI and ASTI which remain affiliated to ICTU need to link up to fight the attacks on their pay and conditions. Leaving unions like IMPACT, INTO and SIPTU whose leaderships delivered yes votes for Croke Park and going forming new unions or join other unions is not an appropriate step in all circumstances. The task of taking on the rotten leaderships of these unions remains. The hundreds of thousands of ordinary members who remain in these unions need to be won to a fighting perspective that involves replacing the current crop of “leaders” with real fighters. That means that the genuine activists who are still in those unions need to expand the activists groups that exist and create ones were there are none. Socialist Party members in the unions will play an active role in this process. In the meantime, we wish the NASRA and IFESA success in organising the fightback of Ambulance drivers and Firefighters against the government’s cut back agenda.
THE SOCIALIST spoke to LAURA WATERS, a shop steward and Laura Ashley striker who has just joined the Socialist Party
DUP & Sinn Fein implement Tory cuts
Fight the Assemly’s cuts By Gary Mulcahy HE BUDGET being prepared by all the parties in the Assembly Executive is truly shocking – the scale of the cuts will result in tens of thousands of jobs losses, closures of schools, hospitals, cancer units, cuts to bus routes, transport for the elderly, the disabled and children, the introduction of charges in the health service, increase in fees in further and higher education, less teachers, less classroom assistants for special needs children in schools, school bus services scrapped, school meals funding cut, thousands of hospital staff sacked, fire stations and fire brigade services downgraded, pay cuts for civil service workers, increased parking charges, privatisation of car parks, bus and train routes cut, higher train and bus fares.... The Budget is a declaration of war – on one side lies the Tories / Lib Dems and their obedient sup-
porters in the Assembly who have committed themselves to implementing savage cuts. On the other side is the workers, elderly, children, students and the unemployed who face being made pay for an economic crisis not made by them but by the powerful superrich speculators, stock market gamblers and greedy bankers who have been bailed out to the tune of billions. What a cruel irony it is that the very same gangsters who have shipwrecked the economy and destroyed so many jobs find themselves being bailed out with our money and awarding themselves with higher profits and huge bonuses. These very same top bankers who have sacked thousands of bank workers are about to pay themselves £7 billion in bonuses on top of their fat salaries. Barclays Chief Executive, Bob Diamond, is set to be paid £8 million in bonuses this year – on top of his basic salary of £1.35 million!
A Budget for the rich THE RICH in Northern Ireland are also celebrating. ALL the parties in the Assembly Executive
have agreed to increase household rates by at least 8% over the next four years – but not for all. While most of us will be expected to pay higher rates for worse services, see our wages come under attack and struggle with increased VAT – the rich in the North who live in properties valued above £400,000 will see no increase in rates! In fact, the Stormont parties are to draw up legislation in order to protect the well-heeled from rates rises. Big business is also partying as a result of the Budget – manufacturing companies have been told they only need to pay 30% of their rates!
called on the trade union leaders to co-ordinate ballots and set a date for a one-day public sector strike before the local and Assembly election in May. This should be the start of a serious mass resistance to cuts, which should also be co-ordinated with workers across Britain and workers in the South who are fighting t h e same battle
Fight the cuts The fact that it took the parties so long to reveal the details of the Draft Budget is proof that they are not confident. We can defeat these cuts if people get organised in our communities, workplaces, schools and colleges. The trade union movement has a crucial role to play in fighting the cuts. The Assembly’s cuts can be defeated if decisive action is taken. The Socialist Party has consistently
against cuts. The Stop the Cuts Alliance, which the Socialist Party helped launch, is linking up with campaigners across Northern Ireland in a united movement to resist all cuts. Meetings are to be held to prepare to fight the cuts and will develop democratic means to build a mass movement. There is now more than ever before a burning need for a political opposition to the cuts of the main parties. The trade unions must begin to support the creation of a new political party to represent the united interests of working class and young people. The Socialist Party will be fighting in the elections to put an alternative to the cuts agenda of the main parties in May. We appeal to all readers to join us and fight the cuts!
Social workers set for strike action against cuts A Belfast social worker AMILY AND childcare social workers within the Belfast Health and Social Services Trust have taken the courageous step of voting in favour of taking industrial action, including strike action, against cuts in services to the most vulnerable families and children in the Belfast area. According to the Department of Health’s own figures, family and childcare services are 30% underfunded compared to anywhere else in Britain. On top of that, the amount of childcare cases in the Belfast area have
Social workers protesting at Stormont in 2002.
increased by 25% over the past year, yet the Trust are cutting millions out of these essential services and putting the burden on social workers.
NIPSA, the trade union which represents the vast majority of social workers in Northern Ireland, has been in dispute with the Belfast Trust for over one year because of
the Trust’s decision to save millions of pounds from family and childcare services to meet financial targets linked to what is known as the governments “efficiency savings” – in other words, cuts. Well-known tragedies such as the Baby P case in Britain have exposed the chronic underfunding of social care. In the event of a tragedy, the responsibility does not lie with social workers struggling to meet additional demand but rather the responsibility lies with the Minister for Health and the Chief Executive and Chair of the Trust who have corporate parenting responsibility within the law. This is the first industrial action by any group of workers so far since the package of cuts were introduced by the Northern Ireland Executive. This stance taken by social workers in Belfast should be applauded and supported by both the community and all
other trade unions across Ireland and Britain. This action by social workers is even more commendable because it is not based on any personal gain by individual workers but on the need to provide the necessary resources to service children in Belfast most at risk. For this battle and for that matter, all other battles against cuts in public services to be successful, NIPSA needs to put all its energy and resources at its disposal behind this fight. Should there be no resolution to this dispute by the time of the Assembly elections, a question may need to be posed - should social workers in the forefront of this battle against cuts allow the politicians responsible for these cuts a free run in the election? That question must be given serious consideration in order to maximise the pressure to secure appropriate funding for family and childcare services in Belfast.
School student walk-out across the North BELFAST: Chris Loughlin N 9 December, 2,000 students from all levels of education congregated at Belfast City Hall, in what was a carnival atmosphere, to protest at the vote in Westminster. The protest was more like a summer music festival, than a demonstration. The mood, however, was also one of overwhelming anger at the prospect of £9,000 fees for university and the removal of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) from all young people. As protesters were begin-
ning to disperse, a group of 300 moved to protest peacefully blocking the street. Despite the provocative, and at times heavy handed actions of the police, those who sat or stood on the road continued to protest peacefully. Eight people were arrested and two of these are being prosecuted. Queen’s Student Union refused to support, and the President of the union even condemned, the protesters. This highly successful and militant protest by young people is being consolidated by the setting up of a school student body named the Northern Ireland Student Assembly. This protest looks set to become the starting mark in a wider battle between cutters, privateers, and Tories, versus young people, workers,
and those who wish to see decent public services for all.
DERRY: Kevin Henry The day after thousands protested in Belfast and London against tuition fees and education cuts, over a thousand Catholic and Protestant school students organised walkouts across Derry to send a message to the politicians that the fight to defend our education system is not over! School students met at the Guildhall before marching to Columba Hall and back to Guildhall, where school students marched into the Guildhall and had a mass occupation shouting “EMA, EMA, EMA” The following week, despite exams and
several schools making it tougher for school students to walkout, hundreds attended a protest which incidentally coincided with the reading out of the Draft budget. While the DUP, Sinn Fein, UUP, SDLP and Alliance MLAs were signing up to a draft budget of cuts across the public sector (including £67 million in education which Sinn Fein will be responsible for), members of Sinn Fein, including councillors, displayed a large banner “Derry Sinn Fein Says No to Tory Cuts.” Many on the protest responded to this insult with the chant “No ifs, no buts, no Tory Stormont Cuts.” Socialist Youth was the only group to intervene politically with leaflets and political material outlining how to develop the movement.
HE SOCIALIST Party is the Irish section of the socialist international organisation, the CWI (Committee for a Workers’ International), that is organised in over 40 countries, on every continent of the world. During the 10th World Congress of the CWI that took place in December, one of the discussions focused on the crisis of capitalism in Europe and the growing workers’ movement. LAURA FITZGERALD, who was an Irish delegate to the Congress, reports on this discussion.
UROPEAN CAPITALISM is in the throes of a profound crisis, a crisis that threatens the future of the euro currency, and indeed the EU project as a whole. When the crisis hit a number of years ago, the predominant reaction from the stronger capitalist economies of Europe, was to implement stimulus measures and res-
cue packages in an attempt to stave off economic collapse. The emblem of the new phase of the crisis is the Tory-led coalition government in Britain, heralding an “age of austerity” for Europe. Neither approach has averted the crisis and in fact, the savage cuts being implemented can have a deflationary impact on the economy, worsening the crisis. EU/IMF interventions into Ireland and Greece in 2010, and now the threat of similar interventions into Portugal, Belgium and Spain, point to the contradictions within the eurozone. The crisis threatens the EU ruling elite’s agenda for further European integration and the development of a capitalist “United States of Europe” to rival US imperialism as the ruling class of each nation state is being pushed to defend it’s own interests. What can become the most significant threat to the European elite’s pursuance of its agenda and interests emerged in 2010 with the piercing resonance of protestors’ whistles and the swishing of trade union flags, and with the vision of homemade placards satirising and reviling the greedy and reprehensible bankers, politicians and super-rich of Europe – millions of European workers moving into action. In Portugal, there was 85% participation in the largest strike and mobilisation since the 1974 revolution. In France, the workers and youth involved in the mass movement against the pension “reform” and Sarkozy’s right-wing government displayed such ingenuity and determination in their struggle, that memories of France 1968 were evoked, much to the ire of Sarkozy and his right wing government that came to power promising to banish this memory. In Spain, there was 80% participation in a 10 million
Attacks have met resistance accross Europe
strong general strike. Throughout Europe, the trade union bureaucracy has accepted the ideology of the market and the need for some form of austerity. Therefore a key task facing the workers’ movement is to build a members based opposition to challenge the union leaders and reclaim the trade unions as genuine vehicles of working class struggle. The fact that such significant strikes and mobilisations of workers took place in Europe in 2010 is a testament to the tremendous pressure exerted on the trade union leaders from below. In Spain for example, the call for a general strike by large swathes of the organised working class was so strident, that the union leaders despite their utter aversion to such action, were indeed forced to call a general strike. The CWI is in favour of the building of new mass parties of the working class to be a voice of opposition and as a vehicle to build a mass movement of opposition to the attacks from the establishment parties. The CWI has enthusiastically participated in new left formations throughout Europe. However, major lessons can be learnt from these experiences. From Syriza in Greece, to the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste in
France, to Die Linke in Germany, there has been a tendency to shun raising strong left and socialist demands and policies, as well as a very narrow focus on the electoral plane of political activity as opposed to building parties organically linked to the movements and struggles of the working class and youth. For example, Syriza’s failure to raise the demand that the working class should refuse to pay the debts built up by the super-rich in early 2010 made it irrelevant and no different to establishment parties in the eyes of the best Greek workers and young people. There is tremendous potential for the United Left Alliance (ULA) in Ireland to emerge as the real opposition to the new government after the next election and could become a potential launch pad for a new mass workers’ party. Lessons from the experiences of the new left formations in Europe are vital to take on board in order for that potential to be realised. The rightward trajectory of many of these new parties and coalitions squandered an opportunity to inject socialist ideas into the movements that developed across Europe in 2010. Workers throughout Europe are anti-banker, loathe and despise to an historic degree in some
instances, their respective governments and political establishments, but are unsure as to what the alternative is to the capitalist crisis. This can pose a difficulty in fighting back, as illustrated by the fact that many of the general strikes in 2010 were of a defensive character and didn’t manage to decisively defeat the attacks. The potential for the redevelopment of a socialist consciousness amongst workers in Europe is inherent in this crisis particularly as increasing sections of the working class move into struggle. The potential for the building of a socialist movement in Europe in the next period is embodied in the tremendous struggles of young people that were a most vital, lively and inspiring feature of 2010. In France, in Greece in the latter part of the year, and in Britain, young people have served to reinvigorate the movement and inspire and boost the confidence of the broader working class. The youth movement that has developed in Britain over hikes in tuition fees and cuts to the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) is the biggest in 25 years, the second wave of which saw a bursting onto the scene of a new generation of school students as young as 13 and 14, taking on the Tory/Lib Dem Coalition in the face of state repression with initiative and gutsy determination. This reflects a broader radicalisation and politicisation of young people who feel the system is blocking their right to education, a job and a future. 2010 was a turning point in the economic crisis with Europe at the epicentre of economic catastrophe, as the indomitable emergence of the European working class’ response began.
Tommy Sheridan trial: guilty verdict is a sham Statement from Socialist Party Scotland (CWI) FTER A 12-week trial on charges of perjury - the longest and most expensive case of its kind in Scotland Tommy Sheridan was found guilty by a slightest majority of the jury. He will be sentenced to a period of imprisonment in late January. Tommy Sheridan is Scotland's most high profile socialist. He was a leader of the mass campaign that defeated Thatcher's hated poll tax in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As an elected socialist Member of the Scottish Parliament for eight years between 1999 and 2007, he fought for the interests of the working class and lived on a worker's wage, donating the rest of his salary back to the socialist movement. This outcome represents a blow to Tommy Sheridan, his family, friends and comrades. But it will also be widely regarded as a politically driven prosecution achieved through an unprecedented vendetta by the state against Scotland's best-known socialist. The verdict follows four years of a thinly disguised vendetta against Tommy Sheridan, his partner Gail Sheridan, and other members of
Guilty verdict is a sham
the socialist party, Solidarity. The prosecution of Tommy Sheridan was only possible through the actions of an unholy alliance of the police, the legal establishment, Rupert Murdoch’s News International and, incredibly, the leaders of the Scottish Socialist Party (the party that Tommy Sheridan used to lead). The perjury investigation came after Tommy Sheridan had won a famous civil defamation victory over Rupert Murdoch's News of the
World newspaper in 2006. After calls for a perjury inquiry by the judge in the 2006 case, the leaders of the Scottish Socialist Party who were applauded by the Murdoch owned Sun and the News of the World (NoW), handed in socalled minutes of a party meeting to the police in August 2006. A SSP member, George McNeilage, sold a video to the NoW for £200,000 that was designed to implicate Tommy Sheridan in perjury. McNeilage claimed he sold the
video to assist the SSP leaders. We would like to know: How much of that £200,000 went to the SSP? The SSP have attempted to justify it’s actions by claiming they were trying to “save the party” and on a desire to 'tell the truth'. And yet it was the SSP leaders, by their actions, who rather than welcoming the defamation victory in 2006 as a defeat for the News of the World, threw themselves into the arms of the enemies of socialism to “get” Tommy Sheridan. Their actions triggered a perjury inquiry for the first time ever following a civil case. More than £2 million of public money was spent by the police, which usurped tens of thousands of hours of police time. Tommy Sheridan may have been found “guilty” in a capitalist court of law. But for socialists he is innocent of any crime against the interests of the working class. This prosecution has only been achieved through an unholy alliance of the might of News International, the capitalist legal establishment, the police and the leadership of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP). Moreover, many will contrast the treatment of Tommy Sheridan with
“In all my years as a lawyer, I have never known a case where the successful side in a civil action was prosecuted for perjury. Scottish justice has notched up another political miscarriage of justice alongside that of Al Megrahi and Muir of Huntershill” Ian Hamilton QC the way that the prosecutors and the police have allowed Andy Coulson and the News of the World to avoid charges over widespread illegal phone hacking. Socialist Party Scotland has supported Tommy Sheridan over the last six years in his battle against those powerful forces ranged against him. We will continue to give our full support to Tommy Sheridan, Gail, his family, friends and comrades, in the continuing battles that lie ahead. For more on the Tommy Sheridan case, see www.socialistpartyscotland.org.uk
Europe: Millions of workers & youth resist austerity attacks
WHAT WE STAND FOR Workers’ rights
PAPER OF THE SOCIALIST PARTY
School students all out on 26 January
JOIN THE NATIONAL WALKOUT For a day of protest against college fees & education cuts By Ann Orr HE FINANCE Bill, which will put into effect many Budget measures, will be debated by TDs in the Dail on 26 January. To coincide with this, a national walkout has been called by School Students
Against the Cuts in the wake of local walkouts that took place on and around Budget day, to protest against the registration fee hike and education cuts. "My parents won't be able to afford to send me to college next year", was the way most students who walked out in Clondalkin, Dublin, on Budget Day summed up why they were out. The government's latest plans are only going to make matters worse for young people. College registration fees are being increased yet again by the government, and this won’t be the last increase either if they get their way. In fact, it is a joke that the government still claims college education is free. For a lot of young people, the €2,000 registration fee will be a real barrier to going to college and many simply won’t be able to afford it. Those whose grants cover the fee won’t be any better off either as their grants will be cut by a minimum of 4%. Other changes will see those living within 45 kilometres of their college, as well as mature students, losing a far higher proportion of their grant. At the same time, Leaving Cert students face increased competi-
tion for college places as the recession is pushing more and more people back into education because they can’t find jobs. An increase of 30% is expected over the next few years in the number of college applicants. This is leading to points jumping higher and higher and therefore even more pressure being piled on leaving cert students trying to get into college. Clearly the government doesn’t care about the future of school students. Backed by big-business and the heads of the universities, they are set on introducing full fees. The Hunt Report, another costly report in support of this idea came out only recently. It advocates a student loan system which will mean graduates will be faced with a minimum debt of €25,000 which will take on average, ten years to repay. Some courses will also require the payment of fees in advance. All of these proposals and the increase in registration fees are coming on top of the effects of the past three Budgets which are being felt by students and staff in schools across the country. Young people are seen as an easy target by the government. However, a strong campaign by young people would force the gov-
ernment and establishment to back down. In the UK, thousands of students have taken part in demonstrations and occupations and the shock waves are being felt by the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition government. School students may not be allowed to vote in the upcoming general elections but they can still make their voices heard and put the government as well as Labour and Fine Gael, who are most likely going to form the next government, under huge pressure. Fine Gael is in favour of a loan system and Labour hasn't ruled this out either. While both oppose up-front fees, their alternative isn't acceptable and will impact especially on young people from working class backgrounds. The national walkout on 26 January will be the first step in the building of a campaign that can force this and future governments to back away from attacking education and from introducing fees. For this to work, students need to get organised in their schools and come together for the best effect we can have on the day. If you want to help organise the walkout in your school please contact the campaign by texting your name, address, email and the name of your school to 087 3141986.
school student walkout aGainst fees & education cuts
protest January 26 More info: Cork 087 6257806, Limerick 086 8064801, Galway 086 1729599, Dublin protest outside the Dáil, 12:30pm more info 087 314 1986.
n A guaranteed right to a job or training with decent wages and full workers’ rights. n For a minimum wage of €12 an hour tax free with no exemptions. n For a 35 hour week without loss of pay. n For a decent social welfare payment, linked to average earnings. n Free childcare for all.
Reclaim the trade unions n For democratic trade unions to fight in the interests of their members on pay, conditions and job security. n Full time union officials should be regularly elected and receive the average wage of those they represent. n Scrap the anti-union laws. An end to "social partnership".
Health n For a free public national health service. No to private health care.
Education n Free, quality education for all from primary to university, with a living grant.
Housing n Nationalise the developers’ empty residential properties and use them to eliminate the housing waiting lists.
Privatisation n No to privatisation, public private partnerships and private finance initiatives. n All publicly owned services and companies to be run under democratic working class control.
Equality n An end to discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability and to all forms of prejudice. n For the right to asylum and the scrapping of racist anti-asylum and immigration laws. For the right to work, with full protection, for immigrant workers.
Local taxation n Scrap the bin charges - no to double taxation in any form. Local authorities to receive proper funding from central government funds.
Waste management n For major investment into a publicly owned recycling service to combat the waste crisis. No to waste incinerators.
International n Oppose the big business dominated European Union. No to the militarisation of Europe and to a European Army. n For solidarity of the European working class. For a socialist Europe. n No to imperialist wars. End the occupation of Iraq. For a socialist Iraq.
Northern Ireland n Build a real peace process based on uniting the working class communities, not on bringing discredited sectarian politicians together. n Joint trade union and community action to counter all forms of sectarianism. n An end to all activity by all paramilitaries, loyalist and republican. Complete demilitarisation.
Socialism n Capitalism is the cause of poverty, inequality, environmental destruction and war. We need an international struggle against this system and its effects. The working class can build a socialist world in which the resources of the planet are used to satisfy the needs of the mass of the people not the thirst for profit of a tiny minority of super rich. n Take all major industry, banks and financial institutions into public ownership and place them under the democratic control and management of working class people. n For the working class to democratically plan the economy to provide for the needs of all, and to protect our environment. n For the building of a mass political party capable of uniting the working class in the struggle for socialism in Ireland. n For a socialist Ireland as part of a free and voluntary socialist federation of England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland.