Election 2016 - beyond the five year scratch ration


Five years ago we all scratched bits of paper, and a new government was formed. Today, in 2016, with we are five years down the road, and here we are scratching more paper, and another new government will be formed. It may be different from the last one or it might be the same, but ultimately the policies will appear to be remarkably similar. To serve the economy above all others appears to be the top priority for all governments.

The last government broke the country, they took on the banking debt which cost us €67 billion. They new government came in and continued with the policies of austerity to pay for the debts that we [all of us] got landed with. So we’ve had about a quarter of a million people leave, in fact the figures for people getting out of here dropped for the first time in seven years last year, but was still a healthy 35,000 people. Youth unemployment here is around 30%. The number of children living at the risk of consistent poverty has doubled in this time. Budgets under this government have only succeeded in widening the gap between rich and poor.

In Ireland in 2015 the gross income inequality is the highest in the EU, meaning this republic is a good place for rich people to get richer. In 2013 we had 29 social houses built in Dublin, at the same time we have 37,000 households that cannot keep up with their mortgage repayments. We have about 60 houses being repossessed weekly, by the same banks that we bailed out. This leads to growing numbers of people being made homeless. We have new taxes, [water, household,] which appear to only go towards servicing debts, as there is little evidence of investment in public services, as we witness workers like the nurses asking for additional resources in services. Let’s us not forget the protection that the vulnerable were afforded with cuts to welfare, the creation of widespread exploitation, jobbridge/interns, and allowing zero hour contracts to continue.

On issues which directly impact lives, like repeal the 8th amendment, the ending of direct provision, or acknowledgement of the ethnic status of Travellers have all been ignored. The marriage equality referendum last year was a fleeting glimpse into people deciding an issue, which is what democracy is about and we said yes. But it came about due to years of campaigning and it was not a gift granted by this government.

The other matter which has been a massive achievement has been the long fight against the water tax. That is a battle which has been fought on the streets, and was a massive show of strength where communities came together to draw a line, and say ENOUGH to austerity. These issues, and the fact that Repealing the 8th amendment is on the agenda is all because people have acted and worked collectively to make this happen in spite of government, not through government.

In the last two governments, stretching over the last decade, all of the political parties,
• Fine Gael
• Fíanna Fail
• Labour
• Green Party

Sinn Fein is in government right now in Northern Ireland. The policy of the whomever is in power, and I use that term very loosely, appears to be like their predecessors. It is a policy of maintaining the status quo. Keep paying your taxes, keep privatising services, keep paying back the debts, and carry on caring for the precious economy. But maintaining the status quo is an active policy of war on all the people who suffer under the present system.
The nature of this circus means that we get bogged down in local and national issues. Enda Kenny declared that Ireland, in our ‘recovery’ from the crisis that climate change was not a priority. In January storms and flood damage which left swathes of the midlands devastated and under water hit. In the small mind of the leader, these issues are not correlated. The inability of the present system to deal with macro problems like climate change is illustrative of the need for change. Today’s election is like changing the colours of the deck chairs on the ship, but leaves us still on a vessel that is sinking.

Scratch the paper anyway you want, I know I did. Unfortunately democracy has been denuded and stripped down to this act once every five years. But do not let that be your only political act for the next five. We have collectively arrived to a time where the stakes are too high for us, for the planet, for our future. The change will come from the streets and not from counting paper.

WORDS: Dermot Freeman