“Get a mandate!” barked Labour party Rottweiler, Councillor Billy Cameron. This verbal was directed at Dette McLoughlin, the chair of Galway’s United Left Alliance. However as quick as you could say travel expenses, McLoughlin replied: “You have no mandate to implement a household tax, nor to rob the poor to help the rich. If you had any principles you would resign from the Labour Party!”
And Insider thought that is what Labour deputies Tommy Broughan and Patrick Nulty did in protest at Budget 2012. This little clash is what makes it worthwhile to occasionally observe demos at City Hall like the one held recently against the household charge.
Insider knows many people are really suffering. It would appear Galway’s Labour councillors are comfortable with that. Acquaintances, a young couple – both unemployed through no fault of their own – with four children have been devastated by the Budget. The cuts have combined to reduce this family’s income by €60 a month. They do not know how they will survive.
To add insult to injury Labour’s Joan Burton, Minister for Social Protection (sic ), has said living on social welfare is “a lifestyle choice”. Of course, she knows there are no jobs out there for anyone, but such statements help to cause pernicious divisions in our banana republic (just like the other artificial divisions being created between private and public sector workers ).
Then there is the creation of 3,000 social welfare investigators clearly showing where Labour’s priorities lie – attacking the poor, not the well heeled.
Indeed, watching RTÉ’s Oireachtas Report last week this point was underlined by the sartorial elegance of Labour leader and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore. It is rare to see someone wearing cufflinks – but there he was in all his splendour. How reminiscent of a certain Charles J Haughey.
Insider wonders if Dep Gilmore too has a predilection for Charvet shirts. He also believes like Charlie did that: “We are living beyond our means.”
Galway ULA v Galway Labour
Fair play therefore to the ULA and Dette McLoughlin for their Trojan work in running meetings against the household tax across the city and county. The Government claim the household tax is a property tax. It is not. It is a tax on the home. So too is the septic tank tax, opposition to which is garnering huge support.
These two taxes are the only ones people can refuse to pay to challenge Government policy and that is why it is so important to say No. If the Government wants a property tax then institute a wealth tax. Let them tax their wealthy supporters.
The ULA through its campaign hope to emulate the Workers’ Party in the 1980s and Joe Higgins’ Socialist Party in the 1990s. This could see them make an important breakthrough into electoral politics at the next local elections in 2014.
Indeed Insider considers that McLoughlin would be an excellent candidate in the Knocknacarra area. She is articulate, a principled socialist, and a hard worker. If she were to run, Neil McNelis’ Labour seat should be under threat.
In the present economic climate Sinn Féin are bound to do well too. They are without doubt the most impressive performers on the national stage: they have a host of formidable TDs in the Dáil who cut through the guff and misinformation being propagated by the Government and RTÉ.
And let us not forget Independent city councillor Catherine Connolly: she has worked selflessly on health issues and her campaign to save St Francis’ home, to prevent our elderly being turned into commodities for private nursing homes, shows she is on the side of working people.
In contrast, Labour’s Galway West TD Derek Nolan defends the closure of the St Francis facility and has either become the invisible man or when he does appear is simply a parrot for austerity.
Insider recalls last February young ones from Ballybane saying they were voting for Derek as he is “one of us”. He is now “one of them”. Nolan is not as cute as Michael D!
However austerity is simply a symptom of a much bigger issue – the loss of economic sovereignty, which began with us joining the euro in 1999. The Republic’s economy had from 1995 experienced substantial growth, because we had floated the Irish punt. This helped make the economy internationally more competitive and sustainable.
The advent of the euro changed all that. Interest rates were decided not in Dublin, but in Frankfurt by the ECB in the interests of Germany and France. Ireland’s property bubble was fuelled by low interest rates and cheap money from abroad; private banking loans that we, the Irish public, are foolishly paying back. The economist David McWilliams – who has accurately read this crisis from the start - has argued that leaving the euro may be our least extreme option.
Alas, our political leaders – messenger boys – and the Department of Finance clowns are tugging their forelocks to their betters in Berlin and Brussels. They want to push through the Fiscal Stability Treaty, which will keep our economy in permanent austerity mode.
The treaty dictates that we have a structural deficit of 0.5 per cent - a target we could not achieve in the boom times. How can we achieve it now in a time of recession? Constantin Gurdgiev has described this treaty as “economic suicide”.
The Government wants to force this treaty through without a referendum. President Michael D Higgins, if his words mean anything at all, should refer the treaty to the Supreme Court. But will he? Insider knows, however, that those who want to regain our independence are already in consultation with their lawyers to lead a Supreme Court challenge.
If we can achieve our democratic right to a referendum, then it is vital that all those forces opposed to this crazy treaty – from SF, to the ULA, to the Independents – work hand-in-hand. Will any Labour politician put his/her head above the parapet? Perhaps Cllr Colette Connolly?
And what about Cllr Billy ‘Mandate’ Cameron? Unlikely. Ironically, he is the bolshie councillor who proudly hoists the banner of Cuban socialism in Galway. The grapevine has it that Comrade Cameron’s revolutionary fervour is so hot that he is seeking to have a statue erected to Che Guevara in Salthill – the mind boggles.
One wonders how Che would have responded to Cllr Cameron’s “Get a mandate” bark. Somehow, Insider feels Che would have reached for his revolver!