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Household Tax RTE Prime Time 15/12/2011 (mp3)

Environment, Local Issues, Uncategorized


Clare Daly on Fingal Community TV re: Rush Super Sewerage Treatment Plant [5:05] (click on the green cue point)

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The developments over the weekend at the Franco-German summit have raised the possibility of changes to the treaty and a consequential referendum here. I would like to put on record my disappointment with the Taoiseach’s comments over the weekend that such a referendum would not be welcomed. I can fully understand that it would not be welcomed from his perspective because if there was such a referendum there is absolutely no doubt it would be defeated. It would give a chance to the Irish people to voice their opinions on an agenda of selling off State assets and the prospect of cuts of a billion euro to social welfare, which was announced today.

I like the Taoiseach’s diversionary tactics, but the reality is — that people in this country are entitled to a referendum should changes be proposed to the treaty.

I also note the Taoiseach said he would not like to see a two-tier Europe. It is a bit late for that. He may aspire to sit there as an equal, and his chair might be the same size, but he is definitely not a member of the top table. The real divide in the eurozone is not between the big countries and the small countries, although that exists, but between the big transnational business interests and the ordinary people, no matter where they are, who are paying the price through austerity. What we really have here is a crisis of the economic system and a crisis of neoliberalism.

In July, the Taoiseach and the other eurozone leaders told us they had a package that would stabilise the Greek debt crisis and avert a default. Now the Council meeting has been delayed because the troika report is not ready; they have not decided what verdict will come from their visit. Incidentally, it is an important lesson for Irish people to consider what has been foisted on the Greek population through the additional austerity measures: a property tax, more public sector job losses on top of the plan to sack around 150,000 civil servants, draconian wage cuts and so on. These policies can only result in economic and social catastrophe. The Greek economy is contracting. The question the Taoiseach needs to ask is when will the lunacy stop. Austerity is not working in Greece. How will it yield different results in Portugal, Ireland or indeed Belgium, where the newspaper headlines this morning are about the Dexia bank crisis?

The only solution the eurozone leaders are putting forward is more of the same. The six-pack measures are an anti-democratic attempt to ram through, over citizens’ heads, more vicious austerity. As other speakers observed, this approach ignores the reality that Greek debt is unsustainable and a default inevitable. Strategists close to the investment banks and other financial interests are clear on that point. The solution is not a recapitalisation which protects bondholders and speculators but rather genuine, democratic accountability and public ownership of the banks which gives citizens a proper say in how resources are invested. They must be invested in people, not profits and speculation. Full debate.

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There is no doubt that it is a little cynical of Fianna Fáil to table this motion and wax lyrical about the further closure of Army barracks when the party stood over the destruction of 11 barracks in the last decade of its reign. However, that is not an excuse to allow this Government to deflect attention from or escape responsibility for this serious attack. I oppose the closure of more Army barracks throughout the country.

I am from an Army background. I was reared beside the Curragh Camp and there is no question about the stimulus the Army provided to the local economy. It was absolutely vital and essential. It would be total lunacy on the part of this Government to ignore the role of the State in achieving balanced regional economic development, especially at a time of austerity and job losses. When many rural communities are being decimated in that regard, the role of the State is even more important. The towns involved are the towns where people bought homes for record prices during the boom. They are now in serious negative equity but they are shackled there through 30 and 40 year mortgages.

Another reason I consider this issue very serious is based on my experience of living beside areas where the closure of an Army barracks was handled poorly, particularly Magee Barracks in Kildare. It was closed over a decade ago but it has been an utter disaster. Closed without a plan, the barracks are lying derelict after being scavenged and looted. It is an eyesore for residents and a haven for anti-social behaviour. We must consider the current decision to close more barracks against the backdrop of our experience to date.

While it might have been possible to secure alternative viable uses for the barracks during the boom, those days are gone. These are potentially valuable State resources and nothing should be done to jeopardise them. There is no basis for an alternative use and no logic has been put forward to support that argument. Those facilities must be protected and the best way to do that is by maintaining them in use. The Government has not explained the purpose of its decision or the advantage in further closures. No evidence has been submitted.

The Government says this is not about reducing numbers in the Army, but one must seriously question that. It clearly will not improve morale or soldiers’ conditions. Instead, the 200 soldiers from Mullingar and the 140 from Cavan will be fighting with the ones who have already been transferred from Longford for accommodation in Athlone, even though the taxpayer has paid to upgrade the facilities, accommodation, roads, gymnasium and so forth in the facility from which they are moving. It is absolute lunacy. In addition, they will be forced to travel to Athlone each day when there is no viable bus service and against the backdrop of decimated pay and conditions on foot of the austerity that has been unleashed on public service workers.

Clearly, families will have to move out of the areas and towns in which they live. That will have a major impact on schools, local businesses and so forth. No viable reason been put forward, nor is there any identifiable alternative use. The only figure I have seen is a net saving of €200,000 in the case of Mullingar. That is a pittance; it would not even cover a banker’s bonus or offset the cost of securing the barracks. It is ludicrous. In fact, it will cost money. It will certainly cost the towns money and result in more jobs losses because personnel do not have the money to spend in the local economies. This lunacy must stop. The Government must see sense.

Our armed forces personnel need trade union rights. I salute the efforts of the Army wives who have highlighted this. I voted for an Army wife in the first election in which I voted. However, PDFORRA and the Army personnel should not have to rely on their spouses to articulate their cause. They deserve trade union rights so they can defend their jobs and conditions like every other worker. Full debate.