Posts Tagged 'solidarity'

Fresh Perspectives: New TDs on the development of a more social Europe – Mick Wallace TD

This is one of a series blogs by new TDs to encourage an active debate between political representatives, EAPN Ireland members, and the broader public on the future of the European Social Agenda, and the role of the new Dáil in debate on Europe.

Mick Wallace is an Independent TD for Wexford. He was elected for the first time to the Dáil in 2011 and is a member of the Technical Group.

With a population of 4.6 million and a GDP of €150 billion, Ireland is a relatively small player in Europe (the EuroZone countries alone have a combined population of 330 million and a GDP of €9,200bn), so it can be difficult for us to make our voice heard – however, it is important that we play our part and as a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee of European Union Affairs. I hope to make a constructive contribution by scrutinising legislation and proposals emanating from the EU as well as making sure the government is held to account in its dealings with Europe.

Today, one in five people in the European Union is at risk of poverty or social exclusion and 40 million people are living in a condition of severe deprivation. Although the media discourse about Europe is primarily concerned with banks and bondholders, the devastating social consequences (felt across Europe) of bowing to the interests of financial institutions and private speculators is what makes the financial crisis a reality for ordinary European citizens. Cuts to social welfare, education, and health in conjunction with tax increases and rising unemployment are the hallmarks of a European response to the crisis that is not only failing but making things worse. Here at home almost 100,000 children live in consistent poverty and nearly 230,000 live in relative poverty. Despite these shocking figures, the Fine Gael/Labour coalition is committed to implementing the policies of its predecessor which specifically target those who are already vulnerable. In education the cuts coming into effect in September 2011 will have a devastating impact on children with special needs and learning difficulties, Traveller pupils and the children of non-nationals as well as having a knock-on effect across the education system.

In working towards a more social Europe it is important that our focus is on protecting the interests of ordinary European citizens as opposed to those of banks or private companies. In this regard, a key area of concern is the proposed reforms to the Common Fisheries Policy. In Ireland alone the Seafood Industry contributes about €700 million annually to national income and employs somewhere in the region of 11,000 people – it is also a valuable industry for many of our European neighbours providing jobs not only on fishing vessels but in processing operations, in distributing and marketing seafood as well as other areas. In its proposals the European Commission has called for the introduction of a system of transferable fish quotas – this is worrying as it may lead to a situation where multinational companies acquire an unfair proportion of quotas resulting in an effective privatisation of the quota system with the knock-on effect of job losses in fishery-dependent communities. Coastal communities across Europe must not be sacrificed for the profits of multinational companies.

I welcome the acknowledgement a few weeks ago by IMF deputy director Ajai Chopra that the problems that Ireland faces are not just an Irish problem but a shared European problem. And whilst Minister Noonan jokes about ordering t-shirts with the words “Ireland is not Greece” printed on them, many of us outside government circles realise the importance of promoting solidarity between Irish citizens and our European counterparts. This is not about pitting Irish people against Greek or Portuguese citizens, just as domestic debate should not be stifled by creating an artificial divide between public sector and private sector workers. This kind of discourse is initiated and nurtured by governments in conjunction with a complicit media with the aim of dividing citizens and conquering dissent against austerity measures and socially unjust policies.

We were informed in the past that the European Union was supposed to be a family of nations and that we would all look after each other. The EU was founded on the principle of solidarity between the nation states of Europe, and their citizens. These ideals have fallen to the wayside as austerity gains a deeper foothold. It is our task as European citizens to restore our shared values of equality, solidarity and fairness to the centre of the European project and ensure that these principles are not consigned to the pages of history as elements of a bygone era.

Mick Wallace TD

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Fresh Perspectives: New TDs on the development of a more social Europe – Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD

This is one of a series blogs by new TDs to encourage an active debate between political representatives, EAPN Ireland members, and the broader public on the future of the European Social Agenda, and the role of the new Dáil in debate on Europe.

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn is a Sinn Féin TD for Donegal North East. He was elected to the Dáil for the first time in 2011 and is the Sinn Féin spokesperson on European Affairs, Foreign Affairs and Trade

Current EU economic strategies are driving more and more people within the European Union into poverty. It is estimated that eight per cent of working European citizens are now at risk.  The privatisation of public services, the free market and de-regulation have all contributed to bringing Europeto the edge.
 
The European project is being undermined by right-wing policies which are impoverishing more and more people.  Wages are being driven down. Job security is being undermined and welfare and social benefits are being attacked.

The debt problem is pan-European and requires a European response. The impact of deep austerity combined with the lack of a major investment plan will clearly negatively impact on growth across Europe. 
 
Sinn Féin advocates a policy of critical but constructive engagement with Europe. However, because the EU has become a dominant force in the political, economic and social life of this State, we must support or oppose each of the EU’s complex developments on its own merit.   
 
We have consistently supported EU measures that promote and enhance human rights, equality and the all-Ireland agenda. These measures are an example of the EU at its best. But we have also never been afraid to stand up against EU measures that damage Irish interests.
 
Now, more than ever, is the time to stand up for these ideals.
 
We want to build a Europe of Equals – a true partnership of equal sovereign states that co-operate in the social and economic development of Europe and beyond. We want an EU that promotes peace, demilitarisation and nuclear disarmament.  We want a Europe that seeks a just resolution of conflicts under the leadership of a reformed, renewed and democratised United Nations. Ultimately, we want a United Ireland that will take its rightful place and play an active role in such a reformed EU.
 
Consistent with our republican agenda at home, Sinn Féin’s Agenda for Change at EU level involves actively campaigning for:
 
– an independent Ireland of Equals in an EU of Equals
 
– an EU that respects and promotes national, collective and individual rights (including human, political, social, cultural and economic rights)
 
– an economically and socially just EU, not an EU that is merely another economic superpower
 
– a demilitarised and nuclear-free EU
 
– a globally responsible, fair-trading EU that leads the way on reaching the Millennium Development Goals for halving global poverty by 2015.
 
Unfortunately, in the name of fiscal restraint, the EU has adopted economic policies that now threaten the European social model, the democratic power of national parliaments, and the bond of mutual respect that must endure among member states. They are imposing severe austerity on weaker member states such as Ireland, Portugal and Greece which will push even more families into poverty and block any chance of economic recovery.
 
Worse than this our European partners will profit as much as €10 billion as a result of a 3% surcharge on their loans toIreland under the terms of the  EU/IMF austerity programme. Not only does this surcharge contribute to what is an already unsustainable debt level, but will starve the Irish government of much needed resources for job creation, public service provision and anti-poverty programmes.

These are not the actions of partners acting in solidarity with one another.
 
The EU mandarins appear to have learned little from the defeat of the proposed EU constitution in referenda across Europe only a few years back. And they ignore the wishes of their people at great risk. People across Europe are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the nature of a project that is being carried out against their wishes.  They, like Sinn Fein, want to see a Europe of Equals that is grounded in mutual respect.

We have always been told that the foundation of the European project is solidarity. The lesson from the recent austerity programmes in Greece, Ireland and Portugal is that solidarity amongst the EU “partners” is now in short supply. Unless real solidarity and partnership soon replaces harsh and punishing austerity, the damage to the European project may be irreparable.

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, TD


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