To mark Pride Week, Solidarity–People Before Profit Paul Murphy joined representatives of LGBTQ groups in Ireland to appeal to the Toaiseach not to hold up the Sex Education Bill which would remove religious ethos from the RSE curriculum.
The legislation, which is at the committee stage, is a private member’s Bill – providing for education about consent, contraception, abortion, sexuality and gender issues – and will perish without mainstream political support.
Above from left: Director of Shout Out Bella Fitzpatrick, UCD Students’ Union LGBTQ Coordinator Adrasteia Hughes, VP Dublin Region USI Aisling Cusack , Paul Murphy, Radical Queers Resist’s Erin Sterling and Act Up’s Davy Sulivan.
From top: The Launch of Generation Precarious yesterday; Paul Murphy
Varadkar’s Republic of Opportunity sloganeering hides the reality of a Republic of Precarity for many workers.
The process of increasing ‘flexibility’ in the labour market has intensified over the course of the crisis and its aftermath. It is yet another indication of Naomi Klein’s ‘shock doctrine‘ in action – with a crisis of neo-liberal capitalism used to further embed that model.
It should be indisputable that precarious work in its myriad of different forms has increased dramatically in Ireland, as it has in western Europe and the US in the context of the economic crisis.
It takes multiple forms, from the ‘bogus self-employment’ to the widespread existence of zero hour or ‘if and when’ contract workers, as well as the spread of temporary and part-time contracts and agency workers and unpaid internships.
Side by side with that, corporate profits have gone through the roof – having doubled from €75 billion in Ireland in 2011 to €150 billion in 2015. These come at the expense of workers working harder and longer for the same wages.
The ‘gig’ or ‘contingent’ economy is presented by right-wing economists as being an opportunity for freedom and choice. In reality, it is a tool for reducing the cost of labour and increasing the rate of exploitation by denying legal rights that employees with permanent contracts would be entitled to. It represents a partial return to early 20th century working conditions.
A number of useful reports and studies have recently been published into the expansion of precarious employment in Ireland by TASC and ICTU. Some of the key features which emerge are the fact 12% of workers are now self-employed with no employees – in other words, likely to be effectively in bogus self-employment.
Some 7% of the labour force is working in temporary employment, with half of them (70,500 workers) in temporary employment because they could not find permanent work – a 179% increase on 2008.
Over the course of the crisis, there has been a significant increase in the number of workers who are employed part-time – with 456,200 workers, almost a quarter of all employees.
The fact that there are around 110,000 less workers in full-time permanent employemnt than there were in 2008 is a striking illustration of the changed nature of the labour market.
Just over 8% of workers usual hours varied considerably from week to week or month to month, meaning they probably have zero hour, low hour or if and when contracts.
The evidence illustrates that these precarious contracts are concentrated in certain sectors – such as hospitality, care work as well as construction. It is disproportionally young workers and women who are affected.
These statistics translated into the daily lives of workers means massive instability in people’s lives. It means an inability to plan for next week, nevermind next month, because you don’t know what hours you’ll be working.
It means being unable to get a mortgage because you can’t point to a guaranteed number of hours and income. It means a significant increase in mental health problems caused by such an unstable existence.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. The historic #McStrike in Britain won the biggest pay rise for workers at the company in 10 years. Deliveroo workers, who are a classic example of ‘bogus self-employment’ have also been getting organised.
Six years ago, we launched the ScamBridge campaign and website, which contributed to the public awareness of the reality of JobBridge exploitation which ultimately led to the scheme being abandoned by the government.
Yesterday, we launched Generation Precarious with the aim of doing something similar to tackle the much bigger issue of precarious work.
The campaign has a two track strategy.
Firstly, to raise awareness of the reality of precarious work and the impact it has on people’s lives and to push for government action to eliminate precarious work, through the banning of zero hour and ‘if and when’ contracts, the introduction of ‘fair scheduling’ and for the outlawing of all unpaid work along with a series of other demands.
Secondly, to highlight and expose particularly exploitative employers, as we did with ScamBridge. We want people to contact us with their stories.
In the coming weeks, we will be selecting our first employer to target for protest to expose their treatment of workers. Crucially, we will be working with those affected by precarious work to try to assist them getting organised into trade unions, which is ultimately the best way to ensure better working conditions.
Paul Murphy is Solidarity TD for Dublin South West and member of the Socialist Party. Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulmurphy_TD
Great news! Solidarity’s Objective Sex Education Bill has been passed at the first stage vote. It will now go on to be debated at Committee stage. Thanks to everyone who contacted their TDs to support it. #SexEdBillpic.twitter.com/nEHLB7K1Xv
From top: a still from a Catholic sex education video made for an Irish audience in the 1980s; Paul Murphy
“We were basically told we should wait until marriage to have sex. To emphasize this point, the teacher took a piece of sellotape, stuck it to her hand, ripped it off and showed us the bits of dirt now stuck to it.
She likened this piece of tape to each girl, and her sticking the tape down to her skin as each boy the girl kissed. She kept repeating this action, basically showing us that kissing many boys made you very dirty.
When the tape lost its stickiness, she proudly used this as an example of how we became emotionally unable to ‘stick’ to one person if we keep ‘kissing all these different boys’. I found this absolutely unacceptable and honestly am still shocked that I was actually told this.”
Paul Murphy TD writes:
When Solidarity announced we were proposing a Bill for Objective Sex Education, Sarah was just one school student of many who emailed us about the backward nature of the sex education they received.
Niamh, another student, explained that:
“I vividly remember the teacher referring to contraception as ‘the C-word’. She didn’t like saying it in the classroom as it was against the ethos of the school.”
This anecdotal evidence of entirely inadequate sex education chimes with recently published research by NUI Galway on ‘Smart Consent‘.
An online survey completed by over 1,000 NUIG students on consent found that 76% of students believed their school sex education “left out a lot of important and crucial information” and only 23.8% declared themselves satisfied with the sex education they received.
“Any attempt to communicate ‘the facts of life’ as mere facts without reference to the religious and moral dimensions of human sexuality and without reference to the pupil’s need to grow in maturity would be a distortion. Scientific facts are not the whole truth about human sexuality and reproduction.”
The sex education that most school students receive is grossly distorted by the religious ethos of their schools. In many cases, Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) is provided by outside religious agencies, including Accord, a Catholic organisation which refuses to deal with same-sex couples in marriage counselling.
The result is that often LGBTQ+ people are not mentioned, contraception is barely referenced and consent does not feature. The so-called ‘gatekeepers’ model is taught in many schools, where girls are warned about sexual activity and boys get no real education on consent.
This contrasts starkly with the attitudes of young people, where there has been an awakening in awareness of the problem of sexual harassment and a real understanding of consent as something that needs to be explicit, mutual and continuous.
This was seen in the last weeks on the streets across Ireland with big protests about how rape victims are treated in the legal system. In the wake of the #MeToo movement and the #WeStandWithHer protests, the Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, announced a review of sex education.
However, importantly, he did not say that it would remove religious ethos from the teaching of RSE, which is a central problem. There is no point in reviewing how it is taught if schools will still be allowed to ignore it if it doesn’t fit their religious views!
The Solidarity ‘Provision of Objective Sex Education’ Bill would remove those religious barriers from the teaching of relationships and sex based on mutual respect.
It will be debated today and if it becomes law, would ensure that all school students receive factual and objective sex education.
This would be sex education which has consent at its core, which teaches about methods of contraception and the termination of pregnancy, is not gender normative and is LGBTQ+ positive.
The Bill is being supported by a wide range of organisations including the Rape Crisis Network Ireland, National Women’s Council of Ireland, Shout Out, BelongTo, USI, Irish Family Planning Association, Atheist Ireland, LadyBirds, and the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.
Because of pressure on the establishment parties at this stime, the indications are that the government is not opposing the Bill and it will pass second stage.
However, those who want to retain religious control over our schools and prevent young people being educated about sex will try to resist this change. The Catholic Primary Schools Management Association has come out in opposition to the Bill and incredibly claims that the current sex education programme is “working quite well”!
The next step of the battle will be ensure that the government doesn’t leave it languishing in committee, as they have done with so many opposition bills and it actually progresses to become law that transforms our sex education.
Paul Murphy is Solidarity TD for Dublin South West and member of the Socialist Party. Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulmurphy_TD
The #SexEdBill is being debated on Wednesday 4pm-6pm. So far media seem to be avoiding mentioning it despite it being very important Bill that can open the door to the best possible sex education for our young people. #dubw#Dail
From top: Independent TD Paul Murphy and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
During Leaders’ Questions in the Dail.
Solidarity–People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy recalled the “Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All” campaign previously launched by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
Readers will recall how at the launch of the campaign, Mr Varadkar – then Minister for Social Protection and not leader of Fine Gael – stated a range of anti-fraud and control measures in the Department of Social Protection saved taxpayers more than €500million in 2016.
The campaign was later referred to as a ‘mistake’ by the Secretary General of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection John McKeon.
He said since the ’employment activation programme’was introduced in July 2015, €84million has been paid to two companies Seetec and Turas Nua.
Following on from this, Mr Varadkar spoke about welfare fraud and criticised the “hard left”, again.
Paul Murphy: “‘Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All’ you said, Taoiseach, in a campaign now universally recognised as being based on false figures which your own department questioned. You cynically used public money to enhance your appeal to Fine Gael members.
“That campaign may now be largely forgotten but the agenda behind it remains. It was more than just a dog whistle campaign for votes. It was part of an ideological assault on social welfare…”
“140,000 unemployed people have been turned into opportunities for profit for private companies. In the process without significant debate the provision of social welfare has been partially privatised. I’ve spoken to a number of people who’ve been through JobPath, they say they’re not given any real training, they’re just supervised while looking for jobs on a computer meaning that it’s pointless travel for many, they describe it as demeaning, as patronising, as infantalising.
“And what hangs over all of their interactions with private companies is the threat of having their social welfare cut by more than €40, leaving people to try to survive on €150, or less, a week.
“Since JobPath has been introduced, the number of people who have had these so-called penalty rates applied has increased from 5,000 in 2015 to 16,000 last year. That is in one year alone. Some 6,500 JobPath participants have had their dole cut.
“On the other hand, €84 million of public money has been paid to just two companies, SeeTec and Turas Nua. They get money each time someone signs a personal progression plan and they get paid job sustainment fees.
“Both SeeTec and Working Links, which is one of two companies behind Turas Nua, have been accused of fraud in the operation of similar schemes in Britain. Last October in the Dáil, Deputy Catherine Murphy raised a very serious case of fraud by SeeTec in Ireland.
“All of that has been justified up until now on the false basis that the system works and gets people into employment. That has now been completely exposed by the Government’s own figures which came out three weeks ago. Only 18% of those who engage in JobPath end up in full-time employment.
“Some €84 million has been given to these private companies to get people jobs which they would have got themselves. Will the Taoiseach now read the writing on the wall for JobPath? Will he agree that the scheme needs to be scrapped and that instead of handing money over to private companies, he should invest in proper education and training and in real jobs for unemployed people?”
Leo Varadkar:“Welfare fraud is very real. And it is a real problem in this country and in every western society. Even if we take the lowest estimate of the scale of welfare fraud in this country, it is about €40 million a year.That is a lot of money in my view. Let us not forget that people who engage in welfare fraud are not the poor and vulnerable. They are people who are pretending to be poor and vulnerable. They are people who are working and claiming.
“They are people who are working, not paying their taxes on that work, and also claiming welfare at the same time. I do not believe that is defensible or acceptable. There are people who are pretending to have a disability they do not have or pretending to care for someone for whom they are not caring.
“People are claiming to be somebody they are not to claim pensions for people who are long dead. It really disappoints me to hear left-wing politicians in this country constantly defending fraudsters as though they are entitled to the benefits that they are stealing. They are not — to prevent and crack down on welfare fraud in any way we can.
“One only needs to look at the court reports every other day to see the detail of some of those cases and what people have been doing to defraud our system. The reason we cracked down on welfare fraud is not ideological. The reason is that fraud is wrong, whether it is tax fraud or welfare fraud, and we act against it.
“In doing so, we ensure that the welfare budget is protected for those who are entitled to it, including our pensioners, people with disabilities, carers, the unemployed, lone parents, blind people, widows and others. As a result we have been able to increase in two budgets in a row the State pension, payments to carers, payments to people with disabilities and payments to people who are unemployed. It is Government policy to crack down on welfare fraud in order to protect the welfare budget for those who need and deserve it, particularly pensioners, the disabled, carers and people who are unemployed.
“I am very disappointed to hear politicians on the left continuously equivocating on this issue and not condemning welfare fraud. I note that the Deputy did not do so on this occasion. Tackling unemployment is one of the areas in which everyone acknowledges we have seen a real turnaround in recent years.
“Unemployment peaked at 15% and is now down at approximately 6%. Long-term unemployment is down to 3%. That is not just because of a recovering economy. Unlike many recoveries, we saw unemployment fall rapidly once our recovery started. That is not the norm in recoveries. There is usually a lag. The reason unemployment fell very rapidly in Ireland once the recovery started is the kind of active policies in which the Government engaged both on the enterprise and welfare sides.
“Had we listened to the Deputy and had we pursued the policies which he advocated, which have been attempted in Greece, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and other countries, not only would we have mass unemployment, but we would have a mass refugee exodus from this country similar to the current exodus from Venezuela to Colombia.”
Murphy: “It is like Deputy Enda Kenny is back. The Taoiseach managed not to answer the question at all. Instead he attacked something which I did not say and then went on an ideological attack about Venezuela. I think he might have even referenced Colombia and Greece.
Varadkar: “Colombia is where the refugees are.”
Murphy: “Let us go back to the question. The question is on the Government’s JobPath scheme, which has failed in its stated aim of getting jobs for people. That is what the facts now demonstrate. Only 18% of participants get jobs, which is no higher than the rate for people who do not have access to JobPath.These companies have been accused of fraud in Britain. What is the Taoiseach doing to make sure that they are not engaged in fraud here? To deal with the curveball which the Taoiseach has thrown, which is that he will stand over and double down on his rhetoric about welfare fraud, the Taoiseach gave the figure of €40 million two minutes ago, but his advertising campaign said €500 million. Which is it? Who is engaged in fraud here?
Mattie McGrath: “It is the spin machine.”
Murphy: “The Taoiseach is engaged in fraud against unemployed people and is using public money to demonise them in order to drive precarious employment. He is continuing in that same Thatcherite vein here. Will he please answer the question asked in respect of JobPath?”
Varadkar: “I said that even the lowest estimate is €40 million. I note the Deputy has not refuted that.”
Eoin Ó Broin: “What is the actual figure?”
Varadkar: “The figure of €500 million was what it said on the tin, that is fraud and control. Fraud and control. They are two different things.”
Pearse Doherty: “It was the Department’s Brexit bus.”
Varadkar: “On the whole issue of JobPath, we must look at the counterfactual analysis. People who are long-term unemployed can be referred down a number of different routes. They can have assistance through the Intreo service provided by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection; they can be assisted through JobPath, which is outsourced to two companies; or they can be referred to bodies such as local employment schemes, for example. It is interesting to compare counterfactually how people perform under those different headings. There is a complaints procedure in place. If participants feel that they are not getting a proper service from JobPath, they can make a complaint directly to the company. If they are not satisfied with the response, they can go to the Department and make a complaint through its procedures.”
McGrath: “They would be wasting their time.”
Varadkar:“It is important to note how the companies are paid. They get a registration fee per client referred to them but after that they only get paid if the person gets a full-time job and sustains it. The incentive is there for the companies not just to get people into any old job, but to get them into full-time jobs which they can sustain for more than 13 weeks.The longer the person keeps that job, the more the company gets paid. Its strength is in its results. Unemployment is now falling below 6% and long-term unemployment is now below 3%.
Murphy: “The Government’s own figures dispute that.”
Varadkar: “Where would we be today if the policies of the hard left had been followed in this country?”
Murphy: “We would not have vulture funds dealing with public banks.”
Varadkar: “There would be mass unemployment and mass emigration.”
…. Confidence in the Garda Siochána is not an optional extra. It is the bedrock of public compliance and a properly functioning society. As a succession of scandals wash over the force, it is essential the public are assured that when gardaí give evidence in court, they speak nothing but the truth in accordance with their best recollection of sometimes fraught situations.
A Garda statement, saying a senior officer was conducting a review of organisational practices and policies arising out of Jobstown and “other issues of note”, may also have created the misleading impression that it would include evidence given in court. The Garda Commissioner made clear yesterday that this was not the case. A full Gsoc investigation is needed and Paul Murphy, if he is serious about anything other than crass political advantage, could usefully seek it.
“It started with politicians. It started with a Labour minister a few hours after the protest, saying it was false imprisonment. It was followed by the Taoiseach saying that it was kidnapping. It was followed by the now Taoiseach saying it was thuggery. It was followed by our lost colleague Noel Coonan describing it as the same as Isis, and it was echoed by large sections of the media.”
“Now Taoiseach, politicians, not courts, politicians have to deal with the consequences. If you believe it’s serious chance, as there is, that the gardai gave false evidence on the stand, will you accept that we have to have an independent, public inquiry.”
In response, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says:
“Deputy, you had a fair trial. It went on for nine weeks. Your peers heard both sides of the case, the prosecution and the defence and they reviewed the evidence and they acquitted you of false imprisonment. You’re not a victim here…”
A gathering to protest the ongoing trial of several men, including Paul Murphy TD (pic 1) and Barry Williams (pic 3, with daughter Niamh) charged with the false imprisonment of former Tanaiste Joan Burton and her advisor, Ms. Karen O’Connell at a Right to Water protest in the area in 2014. #NotDregs refers to remarks Ms. O’Connell made while sitting in a car with Ms. Burton.
From top: Garda Tony Golden; Screengrabs from last night’s RTE Investigates
Paul Murphy, of RTÉ’s Investigates, revisited the shooting of Garda Tony Golden and Siobhan Phillips by Adrian Crevan Mackin in Omeath, County Louth, on October 11, 2015.
Father-of-three Tony died in the shooting while Siobhan was left blind in one eye. Adrian, aged 25, took his own life shortly after the shooting.
Mr Murphy outlined the following events concerning Mackin.
2008: Mackin received probation for criminal damage.
2012: Mackin received a suspended sentence for possessing 23 images of extreme pornography.
December 2013: Mackin received a three-year suspended sentence for possessing a gun and ammunition
January 2015: The FBI informed gardaí from the Special Detective Unit on Dublin’s Harcourt Street that Mackin was buying weapons online. The FBI gave gardaí a list of weapons that Mackin bought over a two-year period.
Following this, the gardaí obtained a warrant stating they believed Mackin had six guns in his possession and other material to make explosives.
It also stated:
“Mr Mackin has also made enquiries with undercover agents in the FBI, USA to import Ricin, a highly toxic poison, with the intent of killing a Social Services Officer from Northern Ireland.”
January 16, 2015: At least 16 gardai from the Special Detectives Unit, some or all armed, went to Mackin’s house in Otmeath to execute this warrant. The gardai found material for making pipe bombs and gallons of sulphuric and nitric acid.
Mackin was taken into custody and, according to transcripts of the Garda interviews obtained by Mr Murphy, Mackin was asked if he was a member of the IRA, and he said ‘No, I’m not’. He was then asked if he has ever been a member of the IRA and he said, ‘No’.
Mackin was then asked another 27 questions about the IRA and he responded, ‘No comment’.
In a second Garda interview, Mackin was asked had he ever prepared explosives in his home and if he knew what a pipe bomb was. He answered ‘No’ to both questions.
January 17, 2015: Then, during the fifth Garda interview, as gardai showed him a list of paypal transactions, Mackin admitted to buying bomb-making materials over the internet, including the sulphuric and nitric acid.
He also admitted to buying parts for six guns online. And when he was asked if he bought them for IRA use, he said ‘No’.
He maintained he was not a member of IRA.
However, the DPP ordered that Mackin be charged with membership of the IRA, and not with any firearms offences such as gun possession, or importing weapons parts – which he admitted.
He was sent to Portlaoise Prison to await bail. His initial bail was cut from €20,000 to €5,000 and, ten days after he was arrested, he was out.
After this point, Mackin’s mental health deteriorated, and he started to assault his girlfriend Siobhan Philips regularly.
In addition, Mackin told his sister that he was ‘a marked man’ and that ‘it was only a matter of time’. He believed dissident republicans believed he was an informer.
October 9, 2015: Mackin beat Siobhan intermittingly over 12 hours, cutting her arm and legs with a bread knife.
The next day, Norma Phillips – wife of Siobhan’s father Sean – collected Siobhan from her workplace. Norma told Mr Murphy that Siobhan said she was afraid Mackin was going to kill her.
Norma and Sean took Siobhan to Dundalk Garda station but a garda there said he wouldn’t take a statement as Siobhan could have had a ‘brain injury’. He then told them to go to Otmeath station. The guard also said he’d arrange a meeting between them and Garda Tony Golden for the following day.
October 11, 2015: Siobhan went to Otmeath station where she gave a statement to while Norma and Sean waited outside. At this point Garda Golden said it was time for Siobhan to get her stuff from her and Mackin’s home and leave him.
Siobhan went with Sean to the house – a two minutes’ drive from the Garda station – while Garda Golden drove up separately.
Siobhan spotted Mackin’s car outside the house. Garda Golden and Siobhan got out of their respective cars and went into the house while Sean waited outside.
Sean said as the door was open, he could hear what happened. He said Mackin asked them what they were doing at the house, Garda Golden said they were there to collect Siobhan’s stuff and then Mackin shot Siobhan four times, shot Garda Golden and then turned the gun on himself.
Norma Phillips told Mr Murphy:
“I certainly can’t, at any level, accept that Tony Golden knew what lay ahead for him or would have had any knowledge that this guy had guns or access to weapons.”
But, Mr Murphy said, other gardaí did.
“Nine months earlier, during questioning Mackin told detectives that he had access to weaponry including parts for two Glock pistols, the model used to kill Tony Golden. He even admitted to storing guns at a derelict cottage in Louth a few hundred yards from the Border.”
Mr Murphy explained that Mackin told his sister and solicitor that he showed gardai his cache of weapons parts and guns, partly in exchange for not being charged with firearms offences and only being charged with IRA membership.
From top: Anti Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit press conference yesterday with from left: Ruth Coppinger, Richard Boyd Barrett, Brid Smith and Paul Murphy; Paul Murphy
Today’s budget debate will largely be a charade.
Paul Murphy writes:
‘Fiscal space’ – it is a trick of misdirection worthy of Houdini. What one issue stood out most in this year’s pre-budget discussion? A debate about whether pensioners or people with disabilities or carers deserve a €5 increase more.
This is the fiscal space and neo-liberal economics in action – artificially creating scarcity and pitting people against each other to fight over who gets what.
It has served to focus discussion on how to share out the relative crumbs of €1.2 billion instead of the total cake of over €230 billion of economic output or a discussion on what kind of economy or society we want.
Years of austerity and regressive budgets have driven inequality to a point where the richest 10% of the population now control 54% net wealth, leaving just 5% for the bottom 50% of the population. Workers’ wages remain lower than in 2008 and have fallen as a percentage of GDP from 53% in 2008 to a projected 40.1% next year.
At the same time, corporate profits rose from €35bn in 2009 to €51bn in 2014 and €75bn in 2015. That is austerity in action – shifting wealth from wages to profits. The fiscal space straitjacket is designed to ensure that continues.
The consequence is a cost of living crisis for workers who are faced with low wages, soaring rents and underfunded public services resulting in unaffordable prices for necessities like childcare.
On the other hand, corporations with soaring profits are guaranteed by Michael Noonan that their tax rate on profits “never has been and never will be up for discussion.”
Instead of tinkering at the edges, we set out to outline how vast resources and wealth exist in this country and could be used to transform Ireland from a fiscal paradise for corporations into a socialist green economy that could work for all.
The centre-piece is the need for a break with the capitalist developmental model based on attracting foreign multinationals with low or non-existent corporation tax, low regulation and wages.
That failure is clear when nearly 60 years after attracting foreign capital with tax breaks was presented as a temporary measure to give the economy a boost,
Michael Noonan is still talking about FDI as the “seed potatoes” of economic development. It has resulted in a weak domestic private sector and a basket case economy – where growth figures have no relationship to the reality of the economy or people’s lives.
While the government and Fianna Fail fought over how to spend €1.2 billion, we proposed raising an additional €25 billion in tax and spending an additional €24 billion.
We targeted the raising of at least an additional €4 billion from corporations through a combination of closing tax loopholes like the ‘Double Irish’ and the ‘Knowledge Development Box’ and increasing corporation tax rates.
Although it has largely fallen out of public debate, the question of odious unjust debt and the need to burn the bondholders hasn’t gone away.
The state continue to spend €1 in ever €10 in tax raised on debt servicing – for debt that largely arises from the banking crisis and is not ours. We put forward a strategy of debt repudiation, which would conservatively save at least €3.22 billion.
To fund the scrapping of austerity taxes for working people – water charges, property and the USC, we put forward a series of other taxation measures.
These include the introduction of a Millionaire’s Tax of 2% on net assets exceeding €1 million, which would raise €2.92 billion, a Landlord’s Tax on non family homes, which would raise €450 million and a High-Income Social Charge and new rates of marginal tax on high levels of income to replace the Universal Social Charge and raise €2.33 billion.
In addition, we pointed to the almost €9 billion available in NAMA and the Irish Strategic Investment Fund. These are funds that are not allowed to be invested because of the ‘Expenditure Benchmark’ Fiscal Rule.
That rule must be broken and those funds used to fund major capital programmes – in housing, renewable energy, water, health and childcare.
While the government continues to treat the housing and homeless crisis as a market problem that needs a market solution, planning to bring in a new first time buyers grant, we took a completely different approach. The state should simply use €4.5 billion of those resources to build 20,000 and acquire 30,000 vacant units and use them as public homes to tackle the housing crisis.
Instead of treating our two-tier health service as an inevitability, we advocated spending an additional €3 billion on health in 2017, as part of developing a National Health Service in Ireland.
That would fund an additional 1,000 acute beds, 5,000 additional healthcare workers, the abolition of prescription charges and the allocation of an additional €200 million to mental health, alongside many other measures.
Instead of subsidising private childcare, we argued for €2 billion investment in the building of a public childcare service, free at the point of access. In addition, we called for additional investment of more than €1 billion into education, providing genuinely free education at all levels, with free school books, an end to voluntary contributions and all third level fees.
In addition, we budgeted €2.19 billion for an end to pay inequality in the public sector between older and more recent entrants and an immediate restoration of pay to 2008 levels.
Finally, as a crucial part of a strategy of transforming the economy along environmentally sustainable socialist lines, based on public ownership, we argue for investment of €3 billion directly by the state in renewable energy, water infrastructure, forestry and green agri-food.
All of this can seen a bit fantastical and undoubtedly will be portrayed as such by the media, if they bother to look outside the fiscal space. It is designed to provoke – to push the boundaries of debate out of the fiscal space and to illustrate the immense wealth that does exist.
The central point is that the obstacle to resolving the many social crises in Ireland is not an absence of resources – it is the fact that their ownership is concentrated in the hands of the big corporations and the super-rich.
The financial resources that could be raised through the taxation measures mentioned are only a small fraction of the resources that could be utilised by a left government with socialist policies to transform people’s lives. For example, using the banking system as a democratic public utility could mean a transformation in terms of public investment.
Public ownership of the key sectors of the economy would enable a paradigm shift to an economy based on renewable energy and sustainable growth – a socialist green economy.
Today’s budget debate will largely be a charade. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil both invited Ireland’s very own Donald Trump, Michael O’Leary, to give them anti-worker, pro-big business addresses.
They will pass a budget that serves his interests. Labour will feign opposition to the very approach it was implementing one year ago. Sinn Féin will oppose much of the budet, but its acceptance of the parameters of fiscal space and the rules of capitalism means they cannot offer a radical alternative.
The outlines of such an alternative is offered in the AAA-PBP budget statement. It requires a mass movement of the left in Ireland to make a left government with radical socialist politics a real possibility.
Paul Murphy is a TD Anti Austerity Alliance. Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulmurphy/AAA