Labour succumb to neo-liberalism

Will the electorate be saying 'On yer bike?' to Environment Minister Alan Kelly at Election 2016? Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

Will the electorate be saying 'On yer bike?' to Environment Minister Alan Kelly at Election 2016? Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

Insider spotted Labour Galway West TD Derek Nolan out knocking doors the other evening. He can only hope Dep Nolan’s appearance on the doorsteps does not impact too negatively on the Yes vote for marriage equality.

If that equality amendment is passed, it will be the only piece of egalitarianism that has come out of the Fine Gael-Labour coalition - although, during the 2011 General Election campaign, Labour canvassers going door-to-door were singing a different tune to gullible voters. Punters were told it was vital to elect the then Cllr Nolan because only Labour could keep the neo-liberal Fine Gael in check.

Four years on, we now know that making empty promises is what politicians do at election time - and we do not need to hear that from Pat Rabbitte’s mouth, for it is plain to see. Labour’s somersault on its solid commitment to prevent any cuts to Child Benefit was perhaps the most obvious.

However, what we are dealing with here is more than just the breaking of election promises. Labour has accepted completely the whole neo-liberal agenda, which puts the interests of the rich - whether they are foreign or native - before the interests of the rest of us. It is the dominant ideology of the West and is assiduously pursued by the EU Commission and the ECB.

When it came to the issue of bailing out the banks, Labour did not argue for the burning of any bondholders, rather from day one the party saw the solution to our economic woes was the cutting of public expenditure, not repudiating the colossal private banking debt. The Labour Minister Brendan Howlin’s Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is disguised to suggest something quite innocent. However, the word ‘reform’ is actually a Kafkaesque euphemism for cuts.

The push for privatisation

The whole economic mindset of this coalition has been: Private Sector Good; Public Sector Bad. Of course, the Government parties prefer to ignore that it is the private sector - in particular, private banks and the greedy financial sector - that has got Ireland, and the rest of the capitalist world, into the present crisis, not the public sector.

That fact has not stopped the Government pursuing a typical, neo-liberal, or Thatcherite policy, of privatisation. Indeed, tomorrow – appropriately May Day - will see the first in a series of strikes to prevent the initial privatisation of 10 per cent of our public transport system.

This privatisation has nothing to do with efficiencies and cost reduction, it has to do with an ideological antipathy to all things public service. Privatisation will signal the start of the ‘race-to-the-bottom’ in the public transport system, as profits will only be achieved by cutting pay and conditions amongst the workforce. The trade union Unite has a wonderful blog, Unite’s Notes From The Front, on all things economic, including the reasons why it is wrong to support the part privatisation of Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann.

This neo-liberal abhorrence with everything public guarantees that the entity Irish Water will most certainly be sold off - and as we have seen in the past, not necessarily to the highest bidder. First though, Irish citizens will be forced to pay for the installation of water metering and the repair of the dilapidated water infrastructure, before Irish Water itself is dropped into the lap of some “deserving” company.

This is exactly what is happening to the Irish banks. The Irish people are saddled with a debt for 40 years, but once the banks are healthy they will be sold off at a cut-down price, as if it is a good deal.

Born-again Thatcherites

From the demeanour of the Labour ministers it is obvious they are convinced neo-liberals. The arrogance and studied gravitas of Brendan Howlin, when he holds court with the media before the weekly cabinet meeting, indicates he is a true believer in neo-liberal capitalism.

Insider is also sure that Minister Alan Kelly is a convinced Thatcherite. He seems to exude almost a belligerent contempt towards those people rightly objecting to have to pay for water, time and time again.

Readers can be assured neither man displayed such an attitude when they canvassed on the doorsteps at Election 2011. However, once in Government, both feel they have the right to admonish the very people who put them there. One thing is for sure, they will not be there after the next election.

Another indicator that Labour ministers are born-again Thatcherites is proved by an internal document circulating within Labour leader Joan Burton’s Department of Social Protection. Insider happens to have a copy of this internal document.

It boasts how the department has radically reduced the number of people in all its schemes between 2011 and 2014. For example, the numbers availing of Exceptional Needs Payments is down 53 per cent. No doubt those turning to unscrupulous moneylenders has increased correspondingly.

Another startling fact in this internal briefing is that the number of people receiving rent supplement is down 26 per cent. This is at a time when rents are spiralling due to the coalition’s refusal to build social housing. The combination of these cuts with a refusal to provide housing is a recipe for social deprivation. As Fr Peter McVerry, the anti-homeless campaigner, recently stated: “Probably for the first time since the Famine, we now have families sleeping in the streets, families with young children being told ‘There’s no accommodation available, you’re on your own’.”

Family homelessness is not exclusive to Dublin. In Dep Nolan’s own bailiwick, the homeless charity COPE carried out a one-day survey of homeless in the city. The Galway Advertiser reported that “11 families, including 23 children, stayed with family and friends due to being homeless on the night of March 3, 12 families, including 24 children, were accommodated in COPE Galway services on the same night, and 17 families with 50 children were in contact with COPE Galway services who were in imminent risk of losing their accommodation”.

There is no hope: in Galway the last social housing units were built in 2009. So much for the Labour canvassers’ mantra that Dep Nolan and co would keep the neo-liberals in check.

Independents holding Government to account

In fact, the most impressive TDs attempting to hold the coalition to account have been Independents. Deputies Clare Daly and Mick Wallace have fearlessly exposed layer after layer of corruption within this State, the chronic state of the health service and growing deprivation, and they are the only deputies to highlight Ireland’s role in the USA’s bloody wars.

Dep Catherine Murphy has quietly and effectively opened the can of worms of the golden circle known as NAMA, and Independent Donegal TD Thomas Pringle bravely tried, but failed, to prevent through the courts, another EU imposed burden on the Irish people - the European Stability Mechanism.

Sinn Féin, on the other hand, have been extolling to voters in the North of Ireland the virtues of the neo-liberal EU. It would not surprise Insider if Sinn Féin canvassers will be telling us at Election 2016 that only their party can keep the neo-liberal Fianna Fáil in check.


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