The year 2010 will forever be remembered in the Republic Ireland as the year in which our national sovereignty was ceded to the European Union / IMF and the rights of the Irish people were set aside in the interests of international capitalism and the financial, business and banking elites who have used the economic crisis to tighten their hegemonic control over the world.
As we say goodbye to 2010, we in the Workers’ Party of Ireland face into 2011 with an ever stronger determination to oppose capitalism in all its forms and expose it and its crimes in every way possible.
The past year has seen ever more punitive austerity measures taken against ordinary Irish working people and their families. The working class are being made to pay for capitalism’s crisis and we now have almost 450,000 people unemployed in the Irish Republic. Added to that has been the return of emigration with tens of thousands of Irish people, most of them educated and talented young people, forced to travel abroad to find work in countries far from home and each of which has their own employment problems. The current government of Fianna Fáil and the Green Party with the remnants of the ultra-right wing Progressive Democrats has presided over wholesale cuts in public services with vicious measures being taken in the areas of healthcare, education and local government.
Despite the fact that there are some 300,000 empty houses and apartments, many of them in so-called ghost estates which have been left unfinished and unsold due to the crash of the artificially inflated property market, we still have the spectre of 100,000 individuals and families on local authority housing lists, desperately hoping that they will be housed. There are at least 10,000 people in the Irish Republic living homeless on the streets, half of them in Dublin, living in cardboard boxes or depending on charitable night-shelters.
This picture of Ireland is a depressing one, yet alongside this poverty, suffering and pain for working class people, there is a small but immensely powerful elite of bankers, speculators and rancher-capitalists who patronise a bloated political cabal populated mostly by the clientelist hereditary deputies of the two major parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. These two parties have ruled over the state since 1922. Fianna Fáil in particular has been in power for 53 years out of the last 84 years.
The Republic of Ireland has 33,000 Euro millionaires and hundreds of billionaires. Many of its wealthiest citizens use legal loopholes to avoid paying tax in Ireland.
The current economic crisis has exposed for all to see the utter corruption of Ireland’s main political parties and of Fianna Fáil in particular. While we have not seen the same level of public protest at the austerity and the IMF/EU deal as there has been in other countries, particularly Greece, there is a growing level of anger among the Irish people at the gross mismanagement of the economy and the decision of the government, supported in most respects by the main opposition party, to bail out the banks.
In recent years the emphasis has been on pandering to capitalism and a strong begging-bowl mentality with parties fighting over which one of them can get the most money from Europe, the United States or elsewhere. A close connection between big business, particularly in relation to property and private housing development has grown up and has led to increasing corruption in politics here. Over many years, the Workers’ Party has, through its party paper and other publications, attempted to expose this corrupt relationship between the major parties and big business but they have been shielded by a compliant and venal media.
The party will be contesting local government elections in Northern Ireland which are due to be held in May 2011.
The Workers’ Party will be contesting the forthcoming General Election in the Republic of Ireland which is expected to take place sometime in the first three months of 2011. We will be putting forward a clear platform of socialist policies and fighting the elections with determination and purpose. Ireland has historically not been a fertile ground for socialist politics. Its history and the overshadowing “national question” has militated against the growth of a strong left and has instead produced a political culture based on parties competing on grounds of nationalism with a strong hint of populism and clientelism.
We believe that there will be a significant move to the left in the forthcoming election.
What is needed is not just a change in government but a fundamental change in political direction.
In spite of Ireland’s current economic woes, the country is known to have vast natural resources including natural gas, oil and mineral wealth. The present government and its predecessors have embraced multinational capital concerns and have done deals with companies such as Shell, Marathon and others to exploit these resources. This has been done to the benefit, not of the Irish people who own these resources, but of the multinationals and of those government ministers who made these deals.
In this election we will be campaign for radical change and we will be putting forward a range of progressive polices. These are encapsulated in the following Ten Point Programme:-
1. A complete change in the political system which has allowed corruption, cronyism and economic ruin to flourish.
2. A commitment to revisit the IMF / EU deal which has no democratic mandate.
3. A commitment to bring back into the public exchequer the billions which bankers and developers immorally accumulated.
4. A commitment to hold a referendum on the banks.
5. A taxation system which ensures that billionaire tax exiles pay up and that those who can afford the most pay the most.
6. A commitment to introduce a stimulus package which grows the economy, creates jobs and badly needed public infrastructure and generates tax revenues.
7. The development of our vast oil and gas resources in the national interest and not private profit.
8. The revamping of our state and semi-state companies under democratic control and accountability, as the engine of economic growth and recovery.
9. A commitment to reverse the cuts introduced in Budget 2010 to protect those on social welfare, the minimum wage, the working poor, the elderly and those on pensions.
10. The introduction of a wealth tax, a levy on banks and use of the National Pension Reserve Fund to fund a National Economic Recovery Programme.