The election of a new Fine Gael/Labour coalition government in the Twenty-Six Counties will change nothing because the wealthy one per cent in society continues to control vast wealth and uses the power this confers to advance its interests.
That was the message from the 1% Network last Thursday [March 10] as activists gathered at the Central Bank in Dublin’s city centre to highlight the fact that the rich are still very much in charge. The 1% Network is comprised of éirígí, the Workers Solidarity Movement and the Irish Socialist Network, along with non-aligned left-wing activists.
The Central Bank was sealed off with ‘crime scene’ tape to symbolise the crime and corruption of the private banking system which has brought such hardship on working people. While the Dublin government continues to protect the wealthy and to pay off the gambling losses of bankers and speculators, nothing is being done to address mass unemployment and emigration and working people continue to suffer from pay cuts, increased taxes, as well as cuts to social welfare and public services.
Newly-elected taoiseach Enda Kenny and tánaiste Éamon Gilmore made an appearance outside the Central Bank on the night, their strings being pulled by the rich. Activists dressed as members of the 1% per cent elite pulled the strings of these political puppets while holding speech bubbles that asserted “No matter who’s in government, I pull the strings” and “I don’t need to stand in elections. I still have the power.”
Just how much power the wealthy retain was highlighted by last week’s publication of the Sunday Independent’s 2011 rich list. It shows that, despite the recession, the rich have, in fact, got richer by a staggering €6.2 billion [£5.4 billion] compared to 2010. The richest 300 individuals in the Twenty-Six Counties control €57 billion [£49 billion] in wealth, almost double the entire tax take of the state. There are now 11 billionaires residing in the Twenty-Six Counties, two more than last year. The establishment mantra that somehow ‘we are all in this together’ has been exposed as the sham that it always was.
Indeed, Enda Kenny’s assertion that the general election marked a ‘democratic revolution’, suggesting that the old order had been swept away, was derided by éirígí spokesperson Daithí Mac An Mháistir.
“While there are plenty of new faces in Leinster House and around the cabinet table, it’s the same old Fianna Fáil-inspired policies and IMF-imposed austerity. A new government has been elected to pursue the same old policies that favour the rich while punishing working people.”
Since the recession, wage rates have been driven down and the minimum wage rate slashed. However, in an important development last week, workers at the Davenport Hotel took a successful Labour Court challenge against the Noel O’Callaghan-owned business, and the court recommended that the five workers should be reinstated and their previous pay rates be restored.
Mac An Mháistir added: “In recent weeks, a prominent member of the business class, Noel O’Callaghan, who has contributed considerable funds to both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, attempted to sack five hotel staff who refused to accept a cut in their minimum wage rate.
“But for the brave stance of these workers, O’Callaghan, who controls €70 million [£61 million] in wealth would have gotten away with it. The Dublin government has consistently demonstrated its willingness to facilitate the wealthy and the new coalition will be no different in this regard. Their successful challenge should give confidence to other workers in fighting the cuts and the coming attempts to dismantle the Registered Employment Agreements and Employment Regulation Orders.”
Commenting on the need to build a movement of resistance against the IMF-induced austerity programme and attempts to introduce water charges and a new tax on the family home, which are included in the ‘new’ programme for government, Mac An Mháistír continued: “Working people in the Twenty-Six Counties have been constantly fed the lie that cuts are ‘necessary’ in order to plug the budget deficit. éirígí and our companion organisations in the 1% Network have consistently highlighted the fact that a tiny elite continues to control vast wealth in this state. The Sunday Independent ‘rich list’ demonstrates that the one per cent are now even richer, yet the living standards of working people are declining.
“The previous government introduced a punitive Universal Social Charge, which is having a detrimental impact on the income of working people and the new government will continue to impose this crippling burden. However, there is a continued refusal within the political establishment to even contemplate the introduction of a wealth tax aimed at the parasites that comprise the one per cent. It is imperative that we mobilise in our communities and our workplaces to highlight the gross inequality that pertains in this society and to fight the cuts and stealth taxes that will be imposed by the new Fine Gael/Labour coalition.”
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