Wednesday, 4 May 2011
EU-IMF Programme: Statements
Richard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
I am not making a cheap political point but given that we are discussing the issue that will dictate and dominate our economic future for many years into the future I am amazed that so few Members have bothered to attend this debate. The emphasis put by the Government parties in advance of the election was on how this was such a bad deal for Ireland and a bad deal for Europe, that it had to be renegotiated, that it was economic treason and would all be reviewed. We are here discussing the review of that deal, yet hardly anybody bothers to attend. I find that extraordinary. That is not a cheap political point. I understand that people cannot be here all the time because they cannot follow every Minister but I find it extraordinary that a significant number of Members did not bother to turn up to discuss a document that will dictate our future for years.
Perhaps the reason so few Members have bothered to attend this debate is because nothing has changed. The Minister said the EU-IMF programme was a bad deal for Ireland and for Europe and had to be renegotiated, that it was economic treason and that he would do something about it but nobody has turned up for this debate because it is clear that nothing has been done about it. Nothing has changed. The position is exactly as it was when the dirty deed was done by Fianna Fáil. The Minister has agreed to carry on with the dirty deed of essentially selling this country down the river to pay off the bankers and bondholders who caused the economic crisis in the first place.
Is it not the case that this unrevised and barely tweaked EU-IMF deal is nothing other than a cold-blooded decision by the European Central Bank and the big states in Europe to protect the bankers and bondholders who caused the crisis and whose greed and lending to the property sector here caused the property bubble and the economic crash, and to make ordinary working people pay with brutal austerity and cutbacks for that crisis? This is not just a programme to make ordinary people pay for the crimes of bankers. It is worse than that. It is a programme to take advantage of the crisis and do things that these same bankers, bondholders and corporate elites would not have got away with previously. They now believe, in the atmosphere of crisis, they can get away with it because hidden behind the innocuous "techno-babble" in the memorandum of understanding is a programme for the asset stripping of this country and even more brutal and savage attacks on ordinary people in the interests of the very same corporate elites and golden circles who caused the crisis in the first place.
The reality behind words like "fiscal consolidation" is continued bank bailouts, savage cuts, home taxes, water taxes, and increased taxes on the low paid. When the Minister refers to "labour market restructuring" what he actually means is to savage the pay of low paid workers and smash up sectoral agreements that have protected those workers who are the lowest paid in the country. We can expect vicious attacks on their already beleaguered incomes. What is actually meant by "structural reforms" is privatisation and the asset stripping of the public assets of this country and the State companies that could be the engine of economic rejuvenation, employment growth and so on. The reality behind language like "structural fiscal reforms" is about making ordinary people work longer for less in order to pay off the bankers. One of my favourites phrases is "social welfare reform and labour activation measures", which means to slash social welfare and then hound people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own but are unemployed because of the crisis created by others.
The appalling human cost of all of that was on show in this Chamber earlier when we were discussing education during Question Time. Parents of special needs children, some of the most vulnerable and innocent people in our society, were in the Visitors Gallery pleading with the Minister to take away the cap being demanded on special needs and education posts to ensure their vulnerable children could be provided with an education. Yet we were told by the Minister that it cannot be done because of the dictates of the IMF and EU.