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The Socialist 14 May 2014 |
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Ireland: Election campaigns "referendum on austerity"
Laura Fitzgerald from the Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland) spoke to the Socialist.
There is a massive anger among working class people in Ireland against all establishment parties. The memorandum signed by the previous government of Fianna Fail and the Greens with the EU/IMF has been carried through by the current coalition government of Fine Gael and the Labour Party. The Labour Party had a successful election in 2009 on the basis that they were going to ease austerity. But they carried through austerity.
While establishment parties, the media, and big business are talking about economic recovery, for working class and middle class people it's very different. The new property tax has been imposed. A water tax is planned, on top of a range of attacks on public services and wages. The prevailing mood is that we can't make ends meet.
Meanwhile the richest 300 people in Ireland own over €70 billion, up by €20 billion from 2010. Real corporate tax is just 5.2% and profits are up by 20%. In this way it's a neo-liberal recovery in which the race to the bottom is pursued relentlessly.
This is exemplified by JobBridge - a forced labour scheme that Labour Party minister for social protection Joan Burton has presided over. This means unemployed workers can be forced to work in this scheme for €1 an hour on top of their dole, replacing real jobs and driving down wages and conditions. Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy has played a leading role in exposing the JobBridge scam via the website (www.scambridge.ie) and campaigning.
The water tax is a central issue in the current European, local and byelection campaigns. Ordinary people fear that the water tax will sink their houses. It's another tax on working class people to pay for the banker's debt. Over time there will be a cost of €500-600 per household.
The Labour Party is under huge political pressure given the opposition to the water tax. There is a mood to punish Labour for what they have done under the current government.
This year's elections can be used as political pressure on the questions of the water tax and crucially to elect campaigners like Paul Murphy who stands for building a movement of non-payment like the campaign led by the Socialist Party in the 1990s, which successfully defeated water charges.
In the local elections the Socialist Party is standing as part of the Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA). This alliance grew out of a movement against the household and property tax in recent years. Many activists emerged from working class communities through this campaign who are now standing as candidates to challenge austerity in the local elections.
A strong showing for AAA and other anti-austerity campaigners in the local elections will be a big boost to building the campaign against the water tax.
Socialist Party activists Ruth Coppinger and Paul Murphy are real contenders in the Dublin West byelection and European elections respectively. We are campaigning to make this election a referendum on the water tax, on austerity and against Labour's sell-out of any remaining left roots.
Elections in Ireland take place on 23 May, check www.socialistworld.net for analysis