Sunday, May 22, 2011

Appointment as Group Leader in the Seanad

I am extremely proud and privileged to have been selected as the Sinn Féin Group leader in the Seanad. I will join Kathryn Reilly from Cavan and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh from Galway as part of a strengthened Sinn Féin team in the Seanad and the Oireachtas. We will do our best to provide robust opposition and effective leadership.

In a few short months Sinn Féin has fought a number of elections North and South. We now have 1 MEP, 5 MP’s, 29 Assembly members, 14 TD’s, 3 Senators, an Udarás member and hundreds of city, county and town councillors across the Island. We truly are an all-Ireland party.

I also welcome the announcement of the Taoiseach’s 11 nominees and I am looking forward to the opening of the 24th Seanad on Wednesday. I am glad to see that the nominees are drawn from important sectors in Irish society but disappointed to see no one from the unionist community in the North on the list. Perhaps this was an opportunity missed by the Taoiseach.

As Sinn Féin said during the visit of the British queen to Ireland, gestures must be matched by real political action. I also welcome the Taoiseach’s assurance that the 11 nominees would be independent and that their votes in the Upper House would not be under the party whip.

Sinn Féin has proposals for the reform of An Seanad, but there is no doubt that the addition of such figures as Dr Martin McAleese and senators representing the arts, sport and social activists and campaigners will enrich the Upper House. Those of us who wish to see an upper house remain need to work doubly hard to make the Seanad relevant. However this is impossible without genuine reform aimed at democratising the Seanad and making it fit for purpose. Maybe the people will act where the politicians have failed.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

29 Assembly Seats, 14 Dáil Seats, 3 Seanad Seats and 400,000 first preference votes – the success of an All Ireland Party

In the course of the last few months Sinn Féin has achieved significant electoral success. The General Election in February saw the party triple its Dáil representation and win 14 seats. This was followed by a successful Seanad election last month with the party winning 3 seats. The Northern Assembly elections have brought more success with 29 seats in total. All of this is a vindication of hard work and political leadership.

Winning seats though is not enough. We need to continue the process of change. There is still considerable unfinished business in relation to the peace process and implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Issues in relation to education reform, the Irish language, a Bill of Rights and greater North-South co-operation need to be addressed. The transfer of policing and justice powers needs to be followed by full fiscal powers to the Northern Assembly.

Across the Island far too many people live in poverty. Hundreds of thousands of citizens across the island are out of work. The social and economic challenges are great but not insurmountable. I genuinely believe that there has never been a greater need for real republican politics of fairness, justice and equality. I also know that a better Ireland is not just possible but deliverable. I look forward to being part of the Sinn Féin all-Ireland team as we continue in our good work in the weeks, months and years ahead.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Labours way or Frankfurt’s way – I guess its Frankfurt’s then

One of the most crucial issues in the recent election campaign was the banking crisis and its effect on the economy, our public finances and the people of this state. Austerity budgets, cutbacks, higher taxes and job losses are all a direct result of a flawed banking strategy that saw hundreds of Billions of taxpayer’s money put into the black hole of Anglo and other stricken banks. This disaster is undoubtedly the primary reason for the collapse of the Fianna Fáil vote.

The contrary position adopted by Fine Gael and Labour of wanting to see ‘burden sharing’ and of ‘not one more cent’ undoubtedly won seats for both these parties. Almost six weeks on from the election and the manifestos of the Government parties are being consigned to history as little more than mere pre-election promises.

The Labour Party’s pre-election stance was clear and unambiguous – it is Labours way or Frankfurt’s way. With the announcement of €24 billion more of taxpayers’ money going into the banks to pay back in full investors and speculators it is clear that the Frankfurt way has prevailed. The Irish taxpayer has again been shafted to protect German, French and British banks. Most of the €24 billion the state will put into the banks will be borrowed money. This makes it worse as our national debt is spiralling out of control.

One simple fundamental economic truth seems to evade our politicians. They don’t seem to realise that the more blank cheques they write to shore up the European banking system, the more they are burdening us with future taxes. This burden causes the economy to contract more. Writing cheques to bail out Europe’s banks won’t help anyone, apart from the creditors of the banks – who should suffer anyway. What we are witnessing is the new Government embracing the failed policies of the past.

The choice for the Irish state is clear: we need to impose aggressive burden sharing on un-guaranteed bonds. We need to go after bondholders. While the focus of the Government and the EU has been on banking stress tests, not one person in Brussels or in the Cabinet has had recourse to a stress test for the wider economy or for hard-pressed working people in this state, the unemployed and those on social welfare. While election promises are broken and speculators and investors are refunded in full, all of those families struggling to cope will be asked to pay more. We are being let down once again.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Reform must start with the Dáil

Today I joined Sinn Fein’s team of candidates in the upcoming election in launching our national campaign. The party is standing 41 candidates in 38 constituencies. In every constituency where we are standing, Sinn Féin is going out to win. Every TD elected for Sinn Féin means a stronger voice for citizens, for working families, for the unemployed and those struggling to make ends meet.

The more Sinn Féin TDs elected the louder the voice for those they represent. A vote for Sinn Féin is a vote for real change.

As the only all-Ireland party Sinn Féin is standing on a platform that is underpinned by our republican principles. We are seeking a mandate for:

- Root and branch reform of the political system to produce a genuinely open and accountable form of government that empowers citizens and ends the notion of political elites

- The protection and creation of jobs

- An end to the two-tier health and education systems

- The proper use of Ireland’s natural resources for the common good

- Continued support for the Peace Process and the Good Friday Agreement

Sinn Féin is the only party to spell out clearly that we will put those on middle and low incomes first and that we would reverse cuts to public services and social welfare introduced in Budget 2011. In Government we would:

- Reverse budget cuts, specifically to public services and social welfare

- Reverse the cut in the minimum wage

- Abolish the Universal Social Charge

Sinn Féin would end cronyism. Reform must start with the Dáil — that means cutting the wages and expenses of Ministers and TDs. Next week we will launch our full manifesto setting out in more detail our specific proposals.

Monday, January 31, 2011

I believe there is a better way

Tonight I attended the launch of my and Sinn Féin's election campaign in Waterford. 300 people packed into the Granville Hotel to hear Mary Lou McDonald and I set our Sinn Féin's policy platform. This is one of the most important elections in the history of this state. I seek election to the Dáil so I can be part of the national debate on how we solve the big problems facing our country and county. We are putting forward economic polices that will deliver growth and jobs. We are seeking a new beginning in banking that delivers for citizens and business. We seek to reward and encourage innovation and enterprise. We want a deficit reduction strategy that is realistic and deliverable. We want a fair and just taxation system. We also want to end the madness of the tax payer being saddled with private banking debt. We want an economy that serves the people and all the people.

Sadly this Government has ruined the economy. The Government policies we warned against in the 2007 election have brought about economic chaos. Our public finances have collapsed, our banking system has caved in under its own greed and we have record high unemployment. 14,600 people in Waterford are out of work with thousands more having emigrated. We need to change course.

I and Sinn Féin are arguing for a more realistic deficit reduction strategy. We are calling for a six year plan and one that reduces the deficit by protecting middle and low income families and targets high earners and wealth. We have published comprehensive taxation alternatives which are fully costed by the Department of Finance. No individual who earns under €100,000 or family earning less than €200,000 a year is affected by our proposals, They include a third rate of tax of 48% on individual incomes in excess of €100,000 a year, standardising all tax relief’s, the introduction of a 1% income linked wealth tax on all assets in excess of €1million and modest increases in capital gains and capital acquisitions tax.”

We are also arguing for a three and a half year €7Billion stimulus plan funded from the National Pension Reserve Fund. We are opposing the IMF/ECB deal which sees the state borrow €35 billion to pay for private banking debt. We will stand up for Ireland’s interests and not those of international investors who took a gamble and lost. Working families who are getting hit hard should not be saddled with more private banking debt. It is morally, socially and economically wrong. It is time to make the decisions that our in Ireland’s interests and we in Sinn Féin stand ready for that challenge.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Who Mr Gilmore, is guilty of economic treason now?

With an election clearly on the horizon the cut and thrust of the campaign has started in earnest. However there is a rather familiar tone to the content of the establishment party arguments. Rather then attacking the policies of Fianna Fail and the Greens - Fine Gael and the Labour Party have turned their attentions to Sinn Féin. They are engaged in a game of smoke and mirrors as they attempt to misrepresent our position. They see the threat and are attempting to create fear. This is nothing new, we have had all this before.

In 2007 Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour united in attacking Sinn Féin. They dismissed us as economic illiterates. They proclaimed that Sinn Féin in Government would see the collapse of our economy and predicted economic Armageddon if we held the balance of power. The phoney war with Fianna Fáil was put to one side, Sinn Féin was the real target. They then tried to out bid each other in the worst case of auction politics this state has ever seen. When Fianna Fáil and the PD’s promised tax cuts, Fine Gael and Labour promised more. It was Sinn Féin alone who refused to engage in such shameful antics.

Three and a half years later, let’s examine the evidence. The banking system has collapsed, hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs, working people are getting hammered through cuts and tax increases and our economy is on its knees. And guess what – Sinn Féin was not in Government. Our warning of the dangers of a property bubble, unsustainable public finances and light touch regulation in the banks has come to pass. This gives us no satisfaction but I am simply setting the record straight.

It is against this backdrop that we find ourselves here again. It is the political equivalent of ground hog day. Again Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour contrive to attack Sinn Féin and undermine our credible alternatives just as they did during the Lisbon campaign. The Labour Party is now defending everything they berated the Government for. They are facilitating the passing of the Finance Bill and Decembers Budget, have done a u-turn on the bank guarantee by making the taxpayer pay for private banking debt and are supporting the IMF/ECB bailout which will see this state borrow €35 billion on a high interest rate to put into wayward banks. Who Mr Gilmore, is guilty of economic treason now?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A national Republic is still the big prize

Today I gave the main oration at the commemoration of the 90th Anniversary of the Pickardstown Ambush in Tramore, Co. Waterford where volunteers Michael McGrath and Thomas O Brien lost their lives. Over 300 gathered to remember their sacrifices. 

Full test of speech below..

I am proud to be here with family members of Michael McGrath and Thomas O Brien who died in pursuit of Irish Independence 90 years ago today. They did so to help establish a national Republic and to bring to life the proclamation of 1916. They were not prepared to accept second class citizenship and they believed in a Republic where all of the children of the nation are treated equally. We remember their sacrifices with pride.

We also rededicate ourselves to the ideals which underpinned their actions. Ireland is again at a cross roads. The current economic, social and political crisis has its roots in greed with establishment politicians turning their backs on genuine republican principles. The interests of the few were put ahead of the many. Bankers, developers and a wealthy elite were protected in the good times and the bad. Tens of billions of taxpayers money has been put into wayward banks as ordinary people see their incomes slashed. 460,000 people are without work with a 100,000 more having emigrated.

The first tranche of the EU/IMF loan will be paid out to Ireland on Wednesday 12th January. The interest rate being charged on this first part of the loan is scandalous. The EU is set to make a tidy profit of 3% on this loan, pushing up the cost of this intervention to an already beleaguered Irish economy.
We must strongly question why this Government has entered the Irish people into such a bad deal and why the European Commission, in their misguided attempt to help the Irish economy, are actually taking advantage of an opportunity. It was bare-faced profiteering that brought about this crisis and this same profiteering will only make the Irish situation worse.
“This transfer of loans next week is the final nail in the coffin of Irish economic sovereignty. The conditionality attached to this loan, as seen in the memorandum of understanding will hinder economic growth and cripple the economy, throwing the economy into a self-defeating policy spiral.
The State’s structural deficit is fixable. It is the insistence, by the commission and the IMF, that bank bondholders must be honoured that is plunging us into crisis. Remember this is the Commission that are telling us what to do while conversely penalising us through inflated interest rates on this same policy.
We need to burn bank bondholders, introduce a stimulus package, overhaul the taxation system and eliminate wasteful spending. This approach will deliver recovery, not EU/IMF loans with thick strings attached.
The people of this State need to be consulted on this monumental decision. This Government has no mandate to accept these funds, not least when many of the same figures who voted for this loan are refusing to go before the people at a general election to defend this position. We in Sinn Féin will continue to pursue a genuine national Republic where people are put first.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Budget tax hikes hitting working people hard

We all knew December’s budget was savage and harsh. We knew working families and the unemployed were hit hard. However the severity of the tax increases has taken many by surprise. Married couples on the average Industrial wage are down over €80 a week. This is aside from cuts in child benefit and increased service charges. Only yesterday VHI had announced an increase in their premiums putting a further burden on hard-pressed families.

The reality is that this budget has made it expensive to work. Those on average incomes have no medical card, no income supports, and no mortgage relief and are finding it difficult to cope. Many bought properties at the top end of the market and are saddled with huge mortgages. Those working in manufacturing plants such as GSK in Dungarvan and Genzyme in the City who depend on overtime will see most of it go on tax and levies.

The reality is that this Government had alternatives. We in Sinn Féin produced a fully costed pre-budget plan that would have taxed those on high incomes more and protected working families struggling to pay bills. We proposed a third rate of tax of 48% on incomes in excess of three times the average industrial wage (€100,000), an income linked wealth tax of 1% on all assets in excess of €1million and increases in Capital Gains and Capital Acquisitions Tax. These and other proposals were ignored in favour of tax hikes on those already struggling to survive and the unemployed. The quicker we have an election to kick out this incompetent Government the better.