Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Fine Gael/Labour response to housing crisis worse than pathetic

The Dublin Regional Homeless Executive recently announced its latest figures for homelessness in the capital. In February 2015 some 371 families with 803 children were in emergency accommodation provided by the Homeless Executive because the local authorities cannot provide houses or apartments. That is a 40% increase from June 2014. And as the crisis is getting worse we can safely say that, if it has not already been reached, we will soon reach the figure of 1,000 children in bed and breakfast rooms and hotel rooms in Dublin. These children have to go to school from rooms where families are thrown with no space, no way to cook for themselves and no privacy. Imagine trying to prepare children for school, get homework done and the many other tasks most people take for granted. The tragic death of a homeless man on the street close to the Dáil created a flurry of media interest and embarrassed the Fine Gael/Labour Government into putting in place a few half measures. The focus was on rough sleeping which, dire as it is, represents only the visible tip of the housing crisis iceberg. Below the surface and, most of the time ignored by the media, are the homeless in emergency accommodation, those waiting for such accommodation, those not on the official homeless list but in acute housing need and living with relatives or friends, those people who are years on Council waiting lists, those struggling with increasing rents and people on the brink of losing their homes because of mortgage distress. The most immediate factor pushing people into homelessness is the rise in rents in Dublin. In the Sunday Business Post on 29 March, David Ehrlich, the largest landlord in the State, chief executive of the Ires Reit property company, predicted that rents in the capital will rise by 20% before the end of 2016. Estate agents quoted in the same article speak of the rents they are "achieving". But they also speak of the shortage of housing, especially apartments, that is pushing up rents. In the face of this crisis the response of the Fine Gael/Labour Government is worse than pathetic. It is grossly negligent. They are simply taking no action to address spiralling rents. The Government has announced that it will not lift the cap on Rent Supplement payments, alleging that this would lead to further rent rises. But at the same time they are doing nothing to control rents. So as far as Fine Gael and Labour are concerned the number of families filling b&bs and hotel room can continue to increase. As at the time of the propoerty bubble, it is the property sector - developers, landlords, speculators - who are calling the shots. Like its predecessor, this Government has abdicated its responsibility to provide Council homes for rent and affordable homes to buy. 'Leave it to the market' is still the mantra, despite the abject failure of this policy. The estate agents quoted in the Sunday Business Post complain about the higher standards for apartment construction introduced by Dublin City Council, claiming that this is inhibiting construction. Again, this is a throwback to the property bubble when sub-standard apartments proliferated. We know the solutions to all this. The State must accept its responsibility, develop Council housing and take measures to ensure that affordable housing for rent and purchase is provided. The question is how do we push to the Government to do the right thing? We need to build a movement, firstly to assist people in the private rented sector who are being rack-rented into homelessness. People should be supported in staying in their homes. Rent control must be demanded. From there we need to expand it into an overall campaign for Housing as a Right.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Sean Sabhat Commemoration 2013

Seán Sabhat - Comóradh 2013
Sinn Féin Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha
A chairde agus a chomrádaithe,
Is mór an onóir dom seasamh libh anseo cois uaigh Sheáin Sabhait agus uaigheanna na bpoblachtánach eile atá curtha sa reilig seo. Is cuí an rud go dtagaimíd go dtí an áit seo chuile bliain chun Seán agus a chomrádaithe uile a chomóradh agus chun féachaint romhainn ar bhliain úr le fuinneamh úr chun an streachailt ar son an Poblachta a chur chun cinn.
I am honoured to join you today at the graveside of Seán South and of the other Republicans who are laid to rest in this cemetery. It is a credit to Republicans here in Limerick that you have maintained this annual tribute to one of the bravest and best of your sons who gave his all in the struggle for Irish freedom. On this occasion we remember especially the late Paddy Quinlivan, a lifelong and totally dedicated Limerick republican, and we extend continuing sympathy and solidarity to the Quinlivan family.
In 1957, after their deaths on New Year’s Day, the names of Seán Sabhat and Fearghal O’Hanlon quickly joined those of the executed 1916 leaders and of the many who paid the supreme sacrifice in the Black and Tan War, the Civil War and in de Valera’s execution yards in the 1940s.
The Ireland in which Seán and Fearghal grew up was far from the free and united and equitable Ireland envisaged in the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic. They saw that reality. They were determined to struggle to end Partition and to build the Republic. That determination led them to a tragic death in the Brookeborough raid at the start of the IRA’s Operation Harvest.
We know that Seán Sabhat lived and breathed everything Irish and applied all his energies and talents to the uplifting of the Irish people. Above all he was committed to the Irish language.
Bhí Seán Sabhat díograsach mar Gaeilgeoir agus mar gníomhaí a rinne éacht chun an teanga dúchais a chur chun cinn. Mar a dúradh anseo ag a sochraid, ba chóir dúinne mar poblachtánaigh an teanga a fhoghlaim, a labhairt agus a fhorbairt mar bun-chloch den sochaí nua atá á thógáil againn.
If anyone doubted that fundamental political change was needed in this country the events of recent years have proven it beyond any doubt.
We are now back to the emigration levels of the 1950s, the era of Seán Sabhat, with over 200 people per day leaving our shores.
That is a shocking indictment of the disastrous austerity policies commenced by the Fianna Fáil/Green Government that wrecked the Irish economy, and now continued by the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition.
The Budget imposed in December by Fine Gael and the Labour Party in pursuit of the doomed austerity policy represents nothing less than an attack on the Irish people, an attack especially on those on low and middle incomes. Here in Limerick the results of austerity are all too clear with higher levels of unemployment and deprivation and the abandonment of whole communities.
While we cannot compare the current recession with the scale and horror of the Great Hunger of the 1840s, there is one important similarity. At that time men like Trevelyan, sent here by the British government, were wedded to the doctrine of Laissez Faire economics, a doctrine that basically allowed people to die in hundreds of thousands rather than have a Government interfere with the Almighty Market. Today we have the doctrine of Austerity which condemns hundreds of thousands to poverty and unemployment and emigration. And in that sense the modern equivalent of Trevelyan is Minister for Finance and Limerick Fine Gael TD Michael Noonan.
What more evidence does Minister Noonan need that austerity is not working? He need only look at his own city. Limerick has the highest unemployment rate in Ireland (28.6%) and one of the highest in Europe. There is 50% youth unemployment. There are over 3,000 on the Housing Waiting List.
In Limerick City and in Dublin City, which I represent as a Councillor, we have local authority housing estates which were totally neglected during the so-called Celtic Tiger, which were promised major regeneration but have now been abandoned yet again. We pledge to stand shoulder to shoulder with these communities and with all communities throughout our country who are struggling as a result of recession brought about by corrupt bankers and corrupt politicians in Ireland, the EU and globally.
I salute the work being done by Sinn Féin in Limerick on behalf of your communities, especially the work of your City Councillor Maurice Quinlivan.
Those who looked to the Labour Party for hope in the last General Election have been cruelly betrayed. The very title of the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has become a sick joke. She and her Labour colleagues promised to protect the vulnerable and to ring-fence social welfare payments.
In Budget 2013 they slashed Child Benefit and Back to School Payments, in flagrant breach of their pre-election commitments. They cut the Respite Grant, raised PRSI and cut Jobseekers Benefit. They increased the cost of medicines and now they are preparing to take the medical card off thousands of families. They imposed the unjust Household Charge and now they are seeking to impose the even more onerous and inequitable Family Home Tax.
Shame on them!
Michael Noonan has admitted without a blush that he rejected the Labour Party’s call for a 3% increase in the Universal Social Charge for those on salaries of over €100,000 per annum because he was warned against it by the CEOs of multinational companies.
Far from cherishing all the children of the nation equally, this is the Government that cherishes all the CEOs.
At one time Fianna Fáil was known as the Legion of the Rearguard. Now we have the Labour Party – the Legion of the Mudguard – the Mudguard for Fine Gael.
For many of our people the economic and political situation is a cause of despair and hopelessness. It is our responsibility as republicans to lift their heads, to point out that there is an alternative, that a way forward is possible and achievable. Sinn Féin has presented that alternative in a series of comprehensive Alternative Budgets in recent years and in workable policy programmes to provide jobs and growth.
In 2013 we must promote those policies, campaign with communities against austerity, form alliances for change and build Sinn Féin across this island into an unstoppable political movement that will be the catalyst for real and fundamental transformation in our country.
2013 marks the centenary of the Great Lockout of 1913. The employers of Dublin, backed by the British government, tried to smash the Transport Union, but they were resisted by the workers in a mighty struggle. Out of that struggle came the Irish Citizen Army. Out of the struggle to assert Irish independence came the Irish Volunteers and Cumann an mBan – all within a few months in late 1913 and early 1914.
Today there is a new Lockout - our people are locked out of employment, locked out of liveable incomes, locked out of decent public services and, for over 200 people per day, locked out of their country through forced emigration. But just as in 1913, today there is resistance and the will to fight back. Ní saoirse go saoirse lucht oibre.
The Irish people have a tremendous tradition of resistance against national oppression and social injustice. Seán Sabhat and Fearghal O’Hanlon kept that flame alive. The struggle takes different forms now but, make no mistake, the struggle continues and will continue until we reach our goal.
The dedication of Seán and Fearhgal and their comrades stood in stark contrast to the political establishment in this State which talked about Partition but did little or nothing to remove it and paid scant attention to the unjust regime endured by nationalists in the Six Counties. That was made all too clear just a decade after the deaths of Seán and Fearghal when the Government of this State stood idly by as the Orange statelet and the British armed forces turned with viciousness against the nationalist communities of the North.
We may well ask how much death and suffering might have been avoided had the Irish Government of that time taken a firm stand for the Irish nation and against British imperialism. Instead they took the easy road of appeasement of the British government.
In the past week we had another example of how Irish governments failed dismally in their duty to the nation. After 40 years the families of those bereaved in the bombings of Dublin city and of Belturbet, Co. Cavan, in December 1972 and January 1973 are still denied truth and justice. It has emerged that the Department of Justice has refused Freedom of Information requests to release files on the Belturbet bombing of December 1972 in which teenagers Geraldine O’Reilly and Patrick Stanley were killed.
It is now widely accepted that there was extensive collusion between British armed forces and loyalist paramilitaries, including in fatal bomb attacks in this jurisdiction.  The Irish Government should be pro-active on this issue, especially given the international spotlight on collusion as a result of the recent report on the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane.
Patrick Stanley was from Birr, Co. Offaly, the constituency of Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan. Deputy Flanagan would better serve his constituents and his country by addressing the issue of collusion than by rehashing British propaganda from 1982 in an effort to denigrate Dessie Ellis, a Sinn Féin TD of the highest integrity.
The legacy of conflict must be addressed so that all bereaved families on all sides can have hope of truth and justice. Sinn Féin has urged the establishment of an International Truth Commission and we will maintain that call consistently in the future.
The armed conflict is over. There is no place for armed struggle in the Ireland of today. The IRA fought the British government to a standstill and forced them to the negotiating table. The time inevitably came when armed struggle had to be set aside because republicans, through their mighty efforts, had constructed a peaceful and democratic road forward. That is an achievement of which we can all be proud and the Peace Process remains one of the great achievements not alone of republicans but of the Irish people in our time.
To those who would attempt to shatter peace and to usurp the name of Irish republicanism our message is very clear. They represent no-one but themselves. They have nothing to offer and no way forward. True republicans never pursued armed struggle for its own sake. They always did so as part of a strategy agreed by a united movement and based on real engagement with a republican base throughout Ireland.
There is now a gaggle of micro-groups misusing the name of the IRA. It was put well by Pat Sheehan, Sinn Féin West Belfast MLA and former hunger striker, when he said:
“Some even say they are the IRA…There was only one IRA and the people out there can use whatever combination of letters or words they want to describe themselves but they will never be the IRA. They will never achieve what the IRA achieved and they will never have the support that the IRA had.”
Let us be very clear on another issue also. Sinn Féin will continue to call for the release of anyone unjustly imprisoned in the Six Counties and to work for their release. We will also continue to urge people, especially young people, to be wary of micro-groups using the plight of prisoners to promote futile armed actions.
None of this will distract us from the main task in hand and that is the continuing political struggle to end Partition and to build a New Republic on this island.
In 2013 Sinn Féin will renew our campaign for an end to Partition, for national reconciliation and unification.
The Peace Process and the republican peace strategy have removed many obstacles to unity.
The Orange state is no more. British military rule from London is no more and the RUC and UDR are bitter memories. The British government claim of jurisdiction in the Six Counties is reduced to a single constitutional thread and that is the vote of a simple majority in the Six Counties.
Sinn Féin will be campaigning for a referendum on Irish unity as provided for under the Good Friday Agreement, making the case for Irish unity on sound political, social and economic grounds.
But that is just one front in our campaign – because by campaigning on social and economic issues throughout the island we are pointing to and shaping the new United Ireland of Equals that we aim to achieve. The last thing we want is a replica of the failed politics of the 26-County state in 32 Counties.
We reject all forms of sectarianism and racism and we look forward, in the spirit of Wolfe Tone, to all who share this island sharing also the inclusive citizenship of a new Ireland, a new Republic.
Sín í ár gcuspóir. B’shin í an cuspóir a bhí ag Seán Sabhat. Ní fhaca sé lá na saoirse ach tá sé linn agus tá siad uile linn a fuair bás ar son na saoirse.
Bí cinnte de, a chairde,  go dtiocfaidh ár lá.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Slightly Pink Flag

The Slightly Pink Flag or the Legion of the Mudguard
Jack, Rabbitte
Air: 'The Red Flag' (with apologies to Jim Connell)

The Labour Party’s flag is pink but not as pink as you might think.
They do the best that they can do but their flag is quickly turning blue.
So raise the faded banner high, ours is not to reason why
It flaps around just like a tail - it’s being wagged by Fine Gael.

Of leaders past their praises sing - O’Leary, Rabbite, Quinn and Spring
Come workers raise your champagne glass and toast these heroes of our class.
And best of all in our own time, a leader steadfast and sublime
In letters gold in the Hall of Fame inscribe bold Eamon Gilmore’s name.

The party’s getting muddied like the mudguard on the Blueshirt bike
They carry on without a moan – they’ll never lose their faith in Joan
This saint and martyr in the fight she will defend against the Right
Cut off one arm instead of two  - be grateful she’s protecting you.

They’re doing what they have to do, it hurts them more than it hurts you.
They’re weary now the fight is done - their conscience lost and they have won.
So here ‘s to Labour’s sacrifice, the onward march of little mice
For  Ministers’ pay to hell and back, their motto is “I’m alright, Jack.”

Friday, 28 September 2012

Reilly-Shortall row highlights primary care scandal

When this row broke out between James Reilly and Róisín Shotall it was obvious that there was deep dysfunction at the helm of our health services. That has been borne out with the resignation of Roisín Shortall.
In her resignation statement she said: "The public have a right to expect that decisions on health infrastructure and staffing will be made in the public interest based on health need and not driven by other concerns."
The Minister added 15 primary care centres to the original list of 20; two of the 15 are in his own constituency. He added new criteria to the criteria based on urban and rural deprivation. He claims these new criteria are : existing health facilities; GP to population ratio; Pressures on services, particularly Acute Services; Funding options, including exchequer funded (HSE) build or lease, and implementability of a PPP (size, site and scale). But he hasn’t told us how these criteria match the chosen locations.
And, clearly, he failed to satisfy his own Primary Care junior Minister Róisín Shortall that his criteria for choosing locations were correct. Again to quote Róisín Shortall in her Dáil speech last week: “Decisions on where staff are allocated and where primary care centres are located must be transparent and objective based on health need and no other consideration.”
There is another issue here which has got little attention. Minister Reilly is proposing to develop these centres by Public-Private Partnership only. In her Dáil speech Róisín Shortall said that primary care centres, just like schools, are essential public infrastructure and should be provided on the same basis. We agree with that.
Instead Minister Reilly is determined to continue the policy of his predecessor Mary Harney of developing primary care centres by public private partnership (PPP) only, thus allowing developers and vested interests in private healthcare – which he knows a little about himself - to have undue influence.
We have seen in the Comptroller & Auditor General report this week the millions of  public money squandered on PPPs  that have never materialised – including €4.1 million for radiation oncology that is now to be provided directly – a scandalous waste.

Sinn Féin asked Minister Reilly in the Dáil this week if he has an up to date cost benefit analysis of primary care centre development by PPP as against development by HSE - he failed to answer the question. 
The bottom line is that the public need these primary care centres – and they need to be provided not in the interest of developers or GPs or anyone else but in the interest of patients.

Friday, 20 July 2012

The Household Charge & the Coalition's attack on Local Democracy

I am publishing here in full the letter received today by all Dublin City Councillors telling us of the cuts to funding for the Council being imposed by Minister Phil Hogan. They have tied local government funding to the unjust and uncollectable Household Charge.

Funding for Dublin and other councils is being slashed for the rest of 2012 based on the extent of non-payment of the Household Charge in our Council area.

This is pure bully-boy tactics from the Fine Gael-Labour Government. An unjust tax which was brought in by central government, not by councils, the Household Charge is being boycotted by around half of Dublin City households. Because the figure for those paying includes property owners with multiple properties, the real proportion of actual home-owners is not reflected in the 66% payment figure for Dublin City.

Nearly €4.7 million is to be slashed from Dublin City Council's Budget by Hogan. This will hit vital services such as housing, environment, roads, community services etc. It is a disgraceful development and was only revealed this week by Hogan because the Dáil goes into recess for the summer and so the Fine Gael/Labour regime hopes to minimise opposition. It is exactly what we in Sinn Féin said would happen when the Household Charge was imposed. But this attack on Local Democracy must and will be opposed.

To each Member of Dublin City Council
20th July, 2012

Re:      Local Government Fund Allocations 2012

Dear Councillor

I attach a copy of Circular 09/2012.  This has obvious implications for the Budget for the current year and we will discuss this at the September Council meeting.

In the interim, we will review options to align spending commitments to funding resources.

Yours sincerely,

John Tierney
City Manager

Circular Fin 09/2012

Dublin City Council

LGF General Purpose Allocations 2012
A Chara,

I am directed by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to advise you of the approach to payments to be made in respect of the provisional General-Purpose Grant allocation from the Local Government Fund for Dublin City Council for the year 2012. 

In considering the approach to the 3rd quarter GPG payment, the Minister has taken the following into account:

  • the overall level of funds available in the Local Government Fund;
  • the level of household charge compliance achieved to date;
  • the position of individual local authorities in terms of scale and financial resilience; and
  • the objective of providing general purpose grants to authorities that enable them to provide a reasonable level of service to their communities.

The approach adopted in each case takes account of relative household charge compliance while not seeking to apply the full (current) level of shortfall.  While national and local information/compliance campaigns at political and official levels have been critical to the compliance levels achieved to date, this approach recognises that the administrative follow-up by individual local authorities (based on the data-sharing work) will now only begin to have a real bearing on the remaining compliance levels in local authority areas.  Furthermore, this allows for local authorities to progressively recoup their original GPG allocation through improved household charge compliance.
Details of the basis for the calculation of your revised grant are set out below.

Revised 2012 Allocations

The revised allocation for Dublin City Council consists of the following elements:

  • the original allocation of €54,805,761;
  • less €4,691,839 reflecting an adjustment based on the level of compliance achieved to date of  66%.

25% of the above deduction will be offset against the Q3 payment (see summary table below).  The final amount of General-Purpose Grants available for 2012 will be revisited and reviewed in Quarter 4 to take account of the financial position including progress on securing an increased household charge yield.

Local authorities are reminded of the requirement to achieve a balanced budget, taking into account the reduced income, and should reforecast expenditure for the remainder of the year to achieve balance.

Pension Related Deductions (PRD) reconciliation

An adjustment has been made to the Quarter 3 payment to reflect the final reconciliation of Pension Related Deductions (PRD) 2009 – 2011.

The adjustment in respect of pension related deductions is 376,632.

Quarter 3 payment

GPG Q3 (based on original allocation)
Less Household Charge adjustment
Less Advance

Pension related deduction adjustment
Actual Q3 payment

Any queries in respect of this letter should be made to Emma Reeves at Emma.Reeves@environ.ie or 053 911 7417.

Mise, le meas,

Colm Lavery
Principal Officer
Local Government Finance

Monday, 14 May 2012

Enda's Vision of Hell on Top of Croagh Patrick

Enda Kenny recently climbed Croagh Patrick. This is the result.

My name it is Enda and I’m here to send a
Most terrible warning to you one and all
In this plebiscite you have to vote right
Or this land into Hell-fire it surely will fall.
Take heed when I threaten and don’t be forgettin’
The words that I speak from the County Mayo
For the end will come soon, so prepare for your doom
If the people of Ireland they dare to vote No.

On Croagh Patrick I’m standing and a creature is landing
Out there in Clew Bay and his wings they are black
His eyes are red coals and he’s hunting for souls
It’s the Divil himself and he’s here to attack.
He’s gathering sinners - especially Shinners -
For satanic rites never known in Mayo
Your souls will be toasted, your hearts will be roasted
If the Divil prevails and the people vote No.

The sharks will surround you, the ocean will drown you
And icebergs will sink every ship in the sea
The mountains will shake and the bogs they will quake
Volcanoes will burst from Carnsore to Kilkee.
The sky will fall earthward and suffocate Jedward
With arsenic and sulphur the rivers will flow
Six-kilo hailstones will fall down and break bones
If you secretly mark the square box that says No.

All your teeth will fall out, you’ll be riddled with gout
Your head full of lice and your bed full of fleas
Soup kitchens and breadlines from Rooskey to Rathmines
Plague, pestilence, pox and the Black Death disease.
No song you’ll be croonin’ when you meet Michael Noonan
Down a dark lane in Limerick as you freeze in the snow
Your eye he will pocket and come back for the socket
If you dare to defy us and choose to vote No.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The slave mentality

We have 30 days left to save what is left of economic sovereignty in Ireland, 30 days to ensure that the Fine Gael/Labour Government does not succeed in putting failed austerity policies into the Constitution, 30 days to defeat an Austerity Treaty that means more cuts, more stealth taxes, more unemployment and more emigration.

The campaign has hardly begun and already the 'Yes' side are resorting to their customary threats and bullying. This afternoon Finance Minister Michael Noonan threatened an even more savage budget in 2013  if the people vote 'No'.

The big stick being wielded by the 'Yes' side, of course, is that if we vote 'No' we will not have access to further emergency funding from the European Union. Where does this threat come from? The Government says this is in another Treaty, the ESM Treaty. But the fact is that this Treaty has not yet been approved by the Irish Government and has not come into effect. This ESM Treaty, if approved, would make ESM funding conditional on us approving the Austerity Treaty.

So, the threat is a bogus threat because the Government itself has the ability to block and veto the very source of the threat - the proposed ESM Treaty. Yet this Fine Gael/Labour Coalition wants the ESM Treaty to go ahead as is and to get the people to approve the Austerity Treaty. It's crackers.

Did they not even consider delaying the referendum until later this year in order to get a better deal? The Treaty may well be changed anyway as there is growing opposition to it across Europe. And it is far more likely that it will be changed or scrapped altogether if we vote 'No'. But if we vote 'Yes' we will be tying this Government and future Governments to austerity policies of drastic cuts to public services and huge tax increases for many years to come.

How could a Government be so submissive and so incompetent as to take such a position? Where was their backbone? The truth is it was removed years ago. Fine Gael and Labour have been bowing the knee to Brussels to decades. They never question anything that comes from the European Commission or the powerful EU member states. Remember the Lisbon Treaty when they told us 'Vote Yes for Jobs'? Where are the jobs?

I believe their submissive attitude goes far deeper, especially in the case of Fine Gael. There is within Fine Gael a strand of slavishness that goes back to the days of the West Britons, people who bent the knee to the British when they ruled Ireland from Dublin Castle. That was confirmed last weekend when a former Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader, John Bruton, unveiled a plaque at Woodenbridge, Co. Wicklow. Incredibly, this plaque was to commemorate the place where in 1914 Irish Parliamentary Party leader John Redmond made a speech urging the Irish Volunteers to join the British Army. Thousands did so, persuaded by Redmond to fight for the British Empire and then dying in a futile war between the kings, warlords and capitalists of Europe.

There was always a Redmondite strand in Fine Gael but what of the Labour Party that claims the legacy of James Connolly? They are on the coat-tails of Fine Gael, once again urging the Irish people to abandon their rights and sacrifice themselves for the good of the wealthy and powerful in Europe.

Give them all their answer - Vote 'No'.

John Redmond urging the Irish to join the British Army.