Dishonest Politics

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Who has the right to comment on the Croke Park Public Service Agreement?

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore says that political parties should not ‘interfere’ in what is a matter for public sector workers. They should be left in peace, he says, to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the agreement and make their decision accordingly.

I don’t agree.

The Croke Park deal is not just a matter for government and public sector workers.
Yes, it is an agreement about the pay and conditions of public sector workers but it is also an agreement about how the government intends to spend public money and the range and quality of public services to be provided with this money.

On this basis, the content of the Agreement and its success or failure is a matter for all citizens who pay taxes and use public services. This makes it a deeply political matter and the electorate have a right to know where political parties stand on the issue.

Of course it is not hard to understand Labour’s discomfort with the Agreement.

Party strategists will be deeply concerned that taking a definitive position either way will alienate existing or potential voters. The fact that a significant proportion of their support comes from angry public sector workers makes opposition to the deal rather tricky.

Opposition to the deal would provide them with a strong stick to beat the government and satisfy the left of their activist and electorate base. However it would also create potential difficulties with more cautious, and better paid, public sector workers.

Opposition to the deal would also create a significant policy rift with Fine Gael, which would be exploited for all it is worth by political opponents in the coming election.

Supporting the deal would create exactly the same problem but in reverse, alienating the left of the party and demonstrating beyond reasonable doubt that in the coming election a vote for Labour would be a vote for Enda Kenny and Fine Gael.

So Eamon Gilmore is left with a fudge, or more accurately an avoidance strategy.

This is a far cry from his Ard Fheis speech in April when he told delegates that he wanted a government that would both “change the way the system works and be prepared to change the system if necessary”.

The Croke Park Agreement is a bad deal for taxpayers, public sector workers and users of public services. It is part of the government’s campaign of cuts. It leaves in place the Government’s recent assault on low paid public sector workers. It will lead to the loss of up to 14,000 public sector jobs. It will undermine the states already fragile social infrastructure.

As with everything else the Government touches, it will be the low paid, the poor and those in greatest need of public services that will suffer the most.

Eamon Gilmore’s argument that political parties should not ‘interfere’ in the public debate on the Croke Park Agreement is not only absurd, it is downright dishonest.

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6 Responses

  1. William Wall

    May 28, 2010 6:12 pm

    Agreed on all points. I thought Labour was hoping to lead a left alliance into the next Dáil. It looks instead like the usual head-down-lads approach that sees it taking a centre-right agenda into negotiations with a right-wing party. In which case we might as well all emigrate.

  2. Pope Epopt

    May 29, 2010 1:35 pm

    I’ve tried to write them off in my head, but it’s hard not to feel a twinge of despair, when I see how Irish Labour’s ambition doesn’t extend beyond being a junior partner to Fine Gael.

  3. CMK

    May 30, 2010 12:53 pm

    I think you’re all being a bit too harsh on the poor ‘oul Labour Party.

    They’re basically a harmless, middle-of-the-road, centrist political outfit who feel they are having unfair expectations thrust upon them as a result of an economic crisis not of their making.

    What the crew of sixty-somethings at the helm want more than anything else is to round off their careers with a decent ‘go’ at government. Nothing will be allowed jeopardise that.

    All this having to take a clear position on enormous structural changes in the economy and public sector is the last think they want to do. Whatever you say, say nothing, if you want a quiet, but rewarding, life; that seems to me to be Labour’s motto.

  4. Pope Epopt

    May 30, 2010 8:53 pm

    @CMK

    I suppose you’re right. They have laboured long in the committee rooms and TV studios.

    It’s just that the word Labour has semiotic / synaptic connections in my brain that I can’t quite expunge. With notions like ‘movement’, ‘class’ and ‘struggle’.

  5. Donagh

    May 30, 2010 10:19 pm

    It’s just that the word Labour has semiotic / synaptic connections in my brain that I can’t quite expunge. With notions like ‘movement’, ‘class’ and ’struggle’.

    Unlike senior members of the Labour Party for whom the word has no such connections. Someone told me once that they were staying at the D4 Hotel, formerly Jurys which didn’t become Ireland’s Knightsbridge. He was in Dublin to attend various meetings. At one he met a senior Labour person and he mentioned that he was staying at D4 etc and how cheap it was. The Labour person then said, yes, its terrible, we really should try and do something about it (as in hotel’s aren’t able to charge high prices any more). He thought but didn’t say – “SHOULD you be worried about it? The clue is in the title of your party – LABOUR, not CAPITAL”.

  6. CMK

    May 31, 2010 1:08 pm

    @Pope Epopt

    Your predicament is entirely understandable. I have those same reflexes myself. I suppose it’s like that strange phenomena where an amputee can still get some sensations long after the limb has been removed.

    The biggest favour Labour could do the Irish electorate would be to change their name from ‘Labour’ to the ‘Liberal Party’ or ‘Liberal Democrats’ or some such. It would not only be a fairer and more accurate description of the contemporary party, but it might also allow for the emergence of a real Labour party, you know, one concerned with advancing the welfare of workers.

    Or better still they could call themselves the ‘Neo-Liberal’ party, possibly more accurate still.