By Padraig O’Mara
We are heading for a hung Dáil and chances are for a returned Fianna-Gael coalition. A catastrophic outcome for most Irish people.
The country is essentially cut in two, and it’s clear which half Fine Gael has sided with: the group that has felt some sort of recovery and for which it’s important “to keep it going” as was repeated over and over in the past three weeks.
But this group is a minority. It can afford private healthcare. It does not need Social Housing, free education, a better minimum wage or subsidised childcare.
Most of the population (91.4%) has a direct income of under €70,000 per year, and more than half (60%) under €30,000 (NERI). It is for these people that any notion of a recovery is a fabrication.
Ireland has become more unequal after the crash of 2008, and most of the population was sacrificed to neoliberalism. None more so than young and educated Irish people who left the country in droves.
For those left behind, it is sink or swim.
1.3 million people in Ireland are experiencing deprivation, an increase of 215,000 since this Government came to office in 2011. This is a staggering 30% of the population.
Three quarters of a million are in poverty. 230,000 of them Children. The homeless crisis is getting uncontrollable as more and more families are finding themselves without a roof:
While these numbers are for Dublin, the scenario is the same all over the country. The number of Homeless people in Cork has tripled since 2011.
The government has abdicated its responsibilities and removed itself from protecting the most at risk in society. Enda Kenny blamed most of the current lack of Social Housing on Fianna Fail but they were able to provide funding to local authorities to build thousands of units. The sharp decline in provision becomes apparent from when the coalition took office in 2011, to a near complete halt in 2015, at a time it has never been so needed.
Safety nets were removed in the name of austerity, and laissez-faire economics were left unsupervised in the name of free-market ideology. A double sentence with catastrophic consequences.
For example repossession orders are up 80pc:
This is certainly consistent with news in late 2015 that the Government had ordered county registrars to lay off on evictions until after the election, for fear of a voter backlash.
On last night’s leaders debate, Enda Kenny said if his party was given a second term in office, the challenge would be to ensure that the recovery was brought to every home in the country.
It might well prove to be an irremediable challenge, as bringing a US-style income tax plan will only exacerbate those inequalities.
What most commentators missed or refused to realise was how dead-set the party is on applying Troika-inspired politics of dismantlement and drive them even further.
These policies are no happenstance.
Journalists challenged the Taoiseach on housing and health, but failed to question the simplistic justifications that “Fianna Fail left it in a bad state” or “we did not have the funds available”
Take the Exchequer funding of Irish Water against cuts applied to the health system in the same period for instance:
Funds could have been made available but were not. And this was set as policy. The coalition sees more urgency in implementing the Troika’s demands for a water utility than servicing an ailing health system, even as the trolley crisis heightened.
It sees more urgency in letting NAMA sell hundreds of apartments half-price to equity funds than funding Social Housing, even in the worst housing crisis the country has seen.
It recently sold 13,000 Irish families mortgages in arrears to vultures at knocked-down prices and even blocked them from bidding on their own mortgages, what TD Stephen Donnelly qualified as “an outrageous act of vandalism”
The symptoms of these actions are visible all over housing, health, education and infrastructure, where the level of public investment in 2013 was the lowest in 50 years.
For the period 2016–2020, we’re still spending only half of what we should be doing, and once again this is set as policy.
Rory Hearne highlighted the following: “The government appears intent to pursue a neo-liberal model that is reliant on and encourages private commercial investment in public services and infrastructure through Public Private Partnerships”
Most commentators also failed to challenge the opportunist assertion that Fine Gael had spearheaded the economic recovery. For the former head of IMF’s mission to Ireland, it had nothing to do with the Government. And Joseph Stieglitz, Nobel Prize-winning Economist, observed that “in the years since the financial crisis hit in 2008 Ireland had, overall, low or no growth”
Cutting the USC will only make matters worse. Much worse. But given everything we’ve seen so far, hardly surprising. Especially as it is set to benefit high earners the most:
Over 46 percent of USC revenue comes from those earning €70,000 or above, or the 8.6 per cent of the population highlighted in the first table, those who felt the recovery. Even conservative IBEC is bewildered by the move:
But as auction politics go, it was one of the last items that could be offered to voters, even if 90% of them won’t benefit a lot from it. But someone on 200,000+ would get a €16,000 annual tax cut.
Perhaps one of the biggest failures of this campaign was to clarify all of this for the electorate. The media was too busy scaring the shit out of everyone and warning us all of impeding doom with Sinn Fein.
Fine Gael wants another term for all the wrong reasons. To finish dismantling Irish Society bit by bit and avoid any scrutiny on how it came about doing it. (Banking inquiry, the run on the Pension Fund, NAMA, IBRC & Siteserv inquiries etc etc)
Fianna Fail has no vision. It simply wants the power back for power’s sake.
Put the two together and there will be nothing left.
You have a choice. Be with the 10pc and dismantle public services.
Or be with the rest of society.
Header image by Jim Sheridan
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