Questions Galway’s Labour candidates must answer

This election marks the end of an era for Galway Labour. Michael D Higgins is hopefully heading for the greener pastures of the Phoenix Park. What may prove to be a gain for Ireland is certainly a loss for the Labour Party. For many on the Left Michael D represented the party’s “conscience”.

His departure means the party’s policies will come under greater scrutiny on the doorstep. There is one make or break question that should be posed to Derek Nolan, Colm Keaveney, and Lorraine Higgins - and to all candidates:

Q1: Do you agree with the Irish people having to pay for the private debts of the banks: estimated between €100 billion and €285 billion?

The answer to this billion euro question will decide whether Ireland is bankrupted or not. If we are forced to bail out the banks and the irresponsible bondholders, the Irish State will go bankrupt with dreadful consequences for us all.

In the Galway West constituency only Independent candidate Catherine Connolly and Sinn Fein’s Trevor Ó Clochartaigh are calling for the repudiation of the banks’ debts.

Labour and Fine Gael try to avoid answering this question by saying they want to renegotiate the interest rate of the EU-IMF deal to bail out the banks. They still, like Fianna Fáil, want to cover the banks’ private debts – so our little republic will soon be bust.

Insider is only echoing the views of Nobel prize-winning economists Paul Krugmann and Joseph Stieglitz, as well as the likes of Morgan Kelly and David McWilliams.

Should not banks and their bondholders be responsible for their own debt, not the people? In the last week foreign speculators who gambled in Anglo were paid back a whopping €800 million! How many jobs would that have created, how many fewer people would be on hospital trolleys? It is capitalism for you and me and socialism for the rich! People are already experiencing the hardship caused by the last budget in their pay packets, their pensions, and their social welfare payments.

Q2: Will Labour in government reverse the austerity measures contained in the Budget and instead introduce a wealth tax and close the tax avoidance loopholes exploited by the very wealthy?

If they go into government with Fine Gael, whose coffers have been filled by the very rich in this country, there is no chance Labour will abolish the cuts. Which leads to another question for councillors Nolan and Keaveney, and Ms Higgins.

Q3: Why is Labour seeking a coalition with the conservative Fine Gael – whose policies are a mirror-image of Fianna Fáil’s - rather than aiming to change the face of Irish politics by offering an alignment of the Left?

At a local level in Galway there has been considerable evidence of a strong conservative streak in Labour. Recently, on two separate occasions some Labour councillors have been involved in an alliance with FF, FG, and ex-PDs in an inexplicable rezoning frenzy in the city that was opposed by local planners.

Q4: Why did Labour councillors vote for the rezoning of large areas of the city as ‘commercial’, at a time when the city is inundated with empty commercial premises?

In the area of our natural resources Labour is also towing the line of the conservative parties. The oil and gas off our west coast is worth some €600 billion. However, under the deal struck by one of Fianna Fáil’s finest, Ray Burke, the Irish people will gain nothing from Shell exploiting our gas fields. This deal was later compounded by two other Fianna Fáil ‘Greats’ - Frank Fahey and Bertie Ahern.

Labour is not for renegotiating this very questionable contract. Back in 1975 Justin Keating, then the Labour Party minister responsible for our natural resources, stipulated that the Irish State would acquire a 50 per cent stake in any commercial oil or gas find, would apply a 50 per cent tax on the profits of the oil and gas companies. (By the way, the Green Minister Eamon Ryan last year gave away free exploration licences for 250,000sq km on our continental shelf! )

Q5: Why is Labour following in the footsteps of Fianna Fail’s Ray Burke by refusing to call for the renegotiation of his scandalous deal with the oil and gas companies?

Harnessing our natural resources in the interests of the Irish people would seem an obvious way to boost our economy and create employment. Another natural resource that is being plundered is our fishing.

In 2010 €1.18 billion worth of fish was caught. The Irish share was a miserable €0.18 billion while 90 per cent was caught by foreign boats. Our fishing industry has died a slow death. As Catherine Connolly has been arguing, we need to reclaim our fishing rights from the EU and create sustainable employment.

Gilmore is not capable of standing up to the EU. We saw it during the undemocratic re-run of the Lisbon referendum: pressure from Brussels forced him into a U-turn to support Lisbon II. It has to be said Labour’s present election propaganda about creating jobs is very reminiscent of all the broken promises of certain jobs if the Irish voted for the Lisbon Treaty. So another question:

Q6: Are the jobs now being promised by the Labour Party as fictional as the jobs they promised during both Lisbon referendums?

Another issue with an international dimension is Ireland’s neutrality or quite specifically the use of Shannon Airport and Irish airspace by the US war machine and its torture jets. This leads to the final question to councillors Nolan and Keaveney, and Ms Higgins.

Q7: Will Labour, if elected to government, ban the US war machine and the CIA’s torture flights from Irish airports and Irish airspace?

Insider knows the answer to this question will be “No”. It might have been a different story were Michael D still the party’s “conscience

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