14th April 2000
So Charlie McCreevey reckons that anyone that doesn’t agree with his policies is a ‘pinko leftie’. It was a sly little jibe meant more to claim credit for Ireland’s economic success rather than to insult anyone in particular.
But the truth is that right wing policies were not responsible for our success. The totems of the modern Right, privatisation and deregulation, are only being introduced now, long after Ireland turned the corner.
In fact, the two main policies that gave us our growth rates were free education and partnership between the State, the unions and the employers. These are socialist or social democratic policies.
Charlie’s darling, Margaret Thatcher, wouldn’t let the unions near Number 10 and one her first policies was to pick a fight with the mineworkers.
The brutality of her policies reduced employment in the coal mines from over a quarter of a million before the 1984 Miners’ Strike to less than 10,000 today.
Meanwhile, Germany’s coal industry is more or less intact giving the lie to the claims that coal mining had its day.
Maggie was the great populist who gave the taxpayers back their money. This is the image that our Charlie wants to cash in on. He wants us to believe that the tax cuts are down to him.
That is a blatant perversion of the truth. Tax cuts were brought in by the partnership agreements to subsidise wage restraint agreed by the unions.
Our economy was built on State intervention in the provision of skilled labour, advance factories, top-class power and telecommunications infrastructure and industrial planning.
It is an absolute travesty that progress is now being put down to greedfests like the privatisation of Eircom and the deregulation of the mobile phone network.
Right wing commentators are crowing about the success of the free market without a thought for Ireland’s national interest. It is galling to listen to the mouth-slavering anticipation that a giant multi-national will come in and buy Eircom.
We will then have a peripheral system controlled by those with little interest in Ireland other than the profits they can extract. It is little short of treasonous to promote this policy so that the middle classes can make a few hundred quid on the shares.
At present the Eircom shares are worth a billion more than the Government sold the company for. This decision, which is the hallmark of populist privatisation, is to deliberately sell State companies cheaply to gain support for right wing ideology. It is a criminal misuse of state assets.
In Britain, now that all the State companies are sold off – and sold to near monopoly private companies – many people are wondering how the country benefited.
Charlie and his friends in the PDs want us to go down the same route. It will make their chums in the stockbroker community very happy.
The populism that Fianna Fail and the PDs have now embarked upon will cheapen politics. Are we to have a contest as to who will sell the most State assets cheapest to the middle classes?
Or can we keep our heads and steer a middle course based on common sense, the broader interests of the community and the country?
Social democratic policies have been far more successful for us than the ‘greasy finger in the till’ of the Right.