The fanfares for the minister’s budget speech in the Dáil are now over. It was a cleverly written speech, with lots of spin, incomplete figures, and a drip-feed of cuts in the days following it.
The orchestrated sound-bites are designed to cover what is yet another savage attack on the ill, the old, youth, women, and workers in general. It gives priority to private health over public health, so driving people to private insurers and monopoly health-providers. Cuts to the subvention to public transport will only benefit private transport operators.
The budget is a further consolidation of the drive to make Irish workers a reservoir of cheap labour and to make Ireland a zone of precarious employment and retain it as a tax haven. In particular, young people have been the main targets of this strategy. The attack on young people and the cuts they will be forced to endure, including “workfare,” have now effectually reduced the minimum wage for those under twenty-five to €3.50 per hour.
But this budget is not merely a set of cuts: it is also a further consolidation of the strategy of making austerity permanent and irreversible that is being imposed by both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, which are loyal lieutenants and handmaidens of the ruling economic elite and the interests of the EU.
The Labour Party is now beyond repair and is paying the price for propping up the establishment. Opportunist forces will, predictably, attack the Labour Party and its representatives in the trade union movement, solely for their own electoral advantage. For what is clear is that, for all their detailed criticism of the nuts and bolts and the percentages, their critiques are firmly within the framework of the system itself and do not pose any real challenge.
The EU, ECB and IMF will be happy enough with this continued approach of making working people pay the price for the crisis. There is a total commitment to paying the odious debt and, more importantly, servicing that debt to the tune of €8 or 9 billion per year. They are guaranteeing a permanent return to the holders of debt bonds and monopoly finance capital and a massive transfer of capital out of the country into their coffers, an outflow of the people’s money so necessary for proper economic and social development.
The majority of organisations in the so-called “social pillar” are hopelessly caught up in the food chain, silenced or muted by their dependence on dwindling government money.
The Trade Union Left Forum believes that only a politically and organisationally rejuvenated trade union movement will have the strength to mount any challenge to the present course. The basic question regarding this budget and the establishment’s strategy, when you strip away the spin, is, Who stands to win and who loses? The movement needs to realise which side it is on.
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