Monday, May 31, 2010

There must be consequences for Israel’s murderous attack on humanitarian aid flotilla

Israel is a rogue state. It has been flouting International law for decades. It is responsible for untold suffering to the Palestinian people. Thousands of Palestinians still languish in refugee camps as a result of the bulldozing of their homes and the building of Jewish settlements. Gaza has been under siege for years and is subject to an illegal Israeli blockade.

It is this blockade that the International teams of humanitarian workers were seeking to breach. They are trying to get much needed food and medical supplies to the besieged people of Gaza. Like so many aid workers they are not prepared to be bullied by oppressive regimes. They courageously sought to continue with their mission to get to Gaza.

They were met with murderous resistance from the leaders of a rogue state. It looks as though this cold and calculated attack took place in international waters, in breach of all international maritime laws. There must be action from the international community. Foreign Affairs Minister Mícheál Martin must summon the Israeli Ambassador and expel him from the Country. Furthermore the preferential trade agreement with Israel must be ended.

This was a humanitarian aid mission carrying 10,000 tonnes of aid to the besieged city of Gaza. The blockade of Gaza is illegal under International law.
At all stage of preparations to join the flotilla the organisers reiterated non-violent and peaceful resistance to any boarding by Israeli army. It seems the waving of the white flag means nothing to Israeli soldiers’ intent on murder. The Israelis had nothing to fear from this flotilla. Three Irish parliamentarians including Sinn Féin T.D. Aengus O Snodaigh were due to join the flotilla in Cyprus but were prevented from doing so.

The attack has left up to 20 dead and fifty injured as well as 10,000 tons of much needed aid wasted. My thoughts are with the families of those who died. They were courageous men and women as was each and every person on the flotilla. The Israeli Government should hang their heads in shame. I have tabled an emergency motion to Waterford City Council calling on the Government to expel the Israeli Ambassador. The Israeli Government must no longer be able to flout international law without facing consequences.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Government and main opposition parties sold the Irish people a pup

Last week we witnessed another attempt by the EU to move us closer towards a federal Europe. Proposals from the European Commission that would see draft national budgets submitted to Brussels for scrutiny and peer review by other member states means that the future sovereignty of national budgetary and fiscal decisions now hang in the balance. This is no surprise. We in Sinn Féin argued that this is precisely what would happen if the Lisbon treaty was passed. We are merely witnessing the implementation of the treaty itself.

What is interesting is Fine Gael’s response. They argued for the treaty. They sold the Irish people a pup. They falsely told us that Lisbon was good for Ireland, that it was good for smaller states and that it was good for democracy. The Labour Party even told us that it strengthened democracy within Europe. Both Fine Gael and Labour also connived with the Government by turning a debate on a complex and important treaty into one on jobs and investment. Remember the slogan – A vote for Lisbon is a vote for jobs and investment. So where are the jobs and where is the investment?

We in Sinn Féin argued differently. Locally I argued that if Lisbon was passed it would give greater powers to unelected EU bureaucracies to interfere in our affairs and that the EU was eyeing up greater control over the economies of member states. The ultimate prise is complete economic federalism with a harmonised taxation system across the EU. In my criticisms I am not projecting the EU as some sort of evil empire or monster. It is quite legitimate to politically argue for a federal Europe.

What is illegitimate is to persuade people to vote for a treaty which gives the EU more powers and complain about it afterwards. This is the cynical and hypocritical position adopted by Fine Gael. We in Sinn Féin are consistent in our analysis. We are not in favour of an EU superstate or surrendering what remains of our economic sovereignty to an unelected EU elite.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pension top-ups for senior bankers and pension cuts for senior citizens

Across the country people are adjusting to the new economic reality. Ireland is no longer awash with money. Cheap credit is a thing of the past. For most people it is a case of holding what you have at best. And these are the lucky ones! Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs. Thousands more have had their hours reduced, their salaries cut and their taxes increased. People on social welfare have not been immune. They had their benefits cut also. And all because of the reckless behaviour of a small group of politicians, bankers, speculators and regulators. The so called elite of this country, the golden circle, played fast and loose with our money and lost. And now we are paying the price – big time!

So it was with dismay and anger that we learned this week that Ireland’s senior bankers are unable to adjust to this new economic reality. Revelations that the major banks are using a cash allowance system to circumvent government tax on pension top-ups for the big boys is proof that the greed which almost collapsed the banks has not gone away. It seems taking the pain is only for the little people. In the meantime, the Government is warning us that billions more will have to be found through more cuts in pay and benefits. The Government axe may even extend to the old age pesnion.

It is not unreasonable to question the moral compass of our present Government and those at the top of our banking system. They are simply unable to do the right thing. How on earth can senior bankers justify the use of this cash allowance system? How on earth can the Government consider cutting the old age pension? Has Ireland really been reduced to this? And yes, I have heard the argument that we have to pay the most to get the best. But paying senior bankers 15 times more then the person who runs the country exposes the folly of that argument. The 'greed is good' philosophy is alive and well in the Irish banking and political establishment.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

City Council act on Ard Rí Hotel site

I welcome the move by Waterford City Council to enter the former Ard Rí Hotel Site on the derelict sites register. All fifteen city councillors have been pressing the council management for some time to deal with derelict sites in the city. The Ard Rí Hotel site was the most urgent given its strategic location and poor condition. The council set in train a process some time ago to deal with the site but the patience of the public was wearing thin. The former hotel has been badly vandalised and it cast a shadow over the city. I recently contacted the City Manager and urged him to make a full public statement on the matter to properly inform the public. I welcome his decision to do so.

I also welcome his commitment and that of the council to proceed with enforcement and if necessary carry out the remedial works. I am calling on the owner of the site to comply with any enforcement order and carry out the necessary work. Other site owners need to sit up and take notice and recognise that City Council will not tolerate derelict sites. I am confident that this instrument can and will be used again if other site owners do not get their house in order. I understand these are difficult times for property owners but the image of the city must come first. Dereliction simply cannot be tolerated. I offer my full support to the city manager in proceeding with this enforcement and if necessary carrying out the works. This will involve a cost to the council which will have to be recovered but we are left with no other option. We must put the image of the city first and I stand fully behind the manager in his efforts to deal with such derelict sites.

BNP must be defeated

As the British General Election campaign enters its final stage immigration has emerged as a major issue. The two main parties have been very defensive on the issue being conscious of public opinion. Working beneath the surface of mainstream politics is the British National Party seeking to exploit people’s concerns on the economy, rising debt and the M.P. expenses scandal. However it is on the issue of immigration that they seek to manipulate people’s minds with their cleverly disguised racist, vile and divisive policies. The BNP are a far right party which base their policies on Nazi ideology. They are anti-Semitists who foster racial hatred and division.

The BNP constitution states that the party is “committed to stemming and reversing the tide of non-white immigration and to restoring, by legal changes, negotiation and consent the overwhelmingly white makeup of the British population that existed in Britain prior to 1948." In other words they want a white only Britain. Its leader Nick Griffin was convicted on race hatred charges in 1998 and has shared several platforms with far right extremists, Nazi’s and members of the Ku Klux Klan. It is important that people in Britain and elsewhere separate what might be a legitimate concern on immigration from the hateful policies of the BNP. If the BNP do win seats on Friday it may act as a beacon of hope for likeminded individuals in Ireland. I sincerely hope that this does not happen.