Payment of over €700 million to unsecured Anglo bondholders is an obscenity
United Left Alliance calls for ‘No’ vote in Dáil Inquiries Constitutional Referendum and Yes vote on Judge’s Pay
United Left Alliance calls for ‘No’ vote in Dáil Inquiries Constitutional Referendum
United Left Alliance calls for a ‘Yes’ vote on Judge’s Pay referendum but reiterates call for salary cap for senior public servants
The United Left Alliance TDs, Richard Boyd Barrett, Joan Collins, Clare Daly, Seamus Healy and Joe Higgins are calling for a ‘No’ vote in next week’s Dáil Inquiries Referendum.
The need for an efficient, fair and transparent system for holding inquiries that throws a light on the workings of the state and its agencies, including the Gardaí as well as how the rich and powerful operate in this country and where appropriate bring out evidence and findings that could be used to prosecute wrongdoing is not contested by the United Left Alliance. The Tribunals of Inquiry we have seen over the last two decades have often fallen short on all of these counts.
In that sense the government’s proposal that is being put to a referendum is a missed opportunity. In fact if it is passed the powers that will be bestowed upon the government to hold inquiries into any matter of its choosing and make findings against an individual or individuals is open to abuse.
If this amendment is passed it will be up to a Dáil majority – in effect the Government – to decide on the subject-matter of an inquiry and the balance between the rights of individuals and the public interest. This power should not be entrusted solely to the government of the day. A more independent mechanism could have been proposed, such as Article 44 of the German Basic Law i.e. “[The Bundestag] shall have the right, on a motion of one quarter of its members, to establish an investigative committee, which shall take the requisite evidence at public hearings”.
In a briefing on the referendum by senior officials in Minister Howlin’s department to ULA and Technical group TDs and staff it was confirmed that no legal aid provision would be made to an ordinary citizen being compelled to appear before an Oireachtas inquiry as a witness or as an accused person. In other words only the rich and powerful would have the wherewithal to try to contest through the courts an attempt by an Oireactas enquiry to compel somebody to attend and be adequately represented in an inquiry scenario.
The reality is that there is no equality before the law or in this case before an Oireachtas inquiry. In both cases ones ability to acheive justice or defend oneself depends to a huge degree on the representation one can afford, if any.
Referendum on Judge’s Pay
Regarding the referendum on Judge’s pay the United Left Alliance advocates a Yes vote from the point of view that we oppose the special status afford to the judiciary, as high paid public servants, regarding matters of salary. In calling for a Yes vote we also take the opportunity to reiterate our opposition to the massive pay differentials that exist in Irish society, both public and private sector.
Yesterday in the Dáil during the debate on reforming public sector pensions we reiterated our call for a salary cap of €100,000 across the public service. This coupled with a steeply progressive system of income tax which would go some way to addressing the massive pay inequality that exists in this country.
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.