FINE GAEL CONFERENCE, The Report Back

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By  Aoife Molloy

As Fine Gael wrap up their absolute farce of self-congratulatory prattling and more optics than an airport bar; let’s just examine their actual track record. They’ve bragged for three days about getting the country ‘back on track’, and improving employment figures; as if this is something they have actually accomplished. The reality is, that economic recovery has been the result of international market forces. After the crash, the economy hit rock bottom; so literally anything is an improvement. A dead budgie as Taoiseach, with a pile of couch lint in Finance, could have accomplished exactly the same thing ,and perhaps may have negotiated a bit more strenuously.

Employment figures have improved because, on paper, it is virtually impossible to be unemployed in this country. Anyone more than six weeks on the live register is being forced into training or ‘voluntary’ work. So, this ten per cent unemployment figure is the cumulative gap of all of the people currently working for nothing ending one six month exploitation, and beginning another. Nobody is opposed to ending poverty cycles, providing training opportunities, or offering gateways into the workforce for the long-term unemployed. Just don’t try to sell the idea that forcing qualified hardworking temporarily out of work people to work for no money, so you can massage your figures, is doing anyone any favours, or means anything, in terms of recovery. There’s the smokescreen cleared; now the facts.

JUSTICE: Alan Shatter, bugging scandal, penalty points.

EDUCATION: Haddington Road, Junior Cycle savage cutbacks disguised as reform, funding cuts for SNAs meaning children with disability are excluded from education, teachers/lecturers/students vs Ruairi Quinn .

HEALTH: Just don’t get sick or injured. Fair deal/epic fail, ‘bed-blocking’, discretionary medical card travesty, trolley waits, consultant’s wages, James Reilly.

ENVIRONMENT; Pat Rabbitte, gas and oil rights, Irish water, housing crisis, spending all your road tax money on a quango, Alan Kelly.

The FG Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, was forced to resign as Minister because he ignored and insulted a whistle-blower, he may have colluded in wide-scale corruption, he used data from the illegal surveillance of his own staff, and he disclosed confidential information about another TD on television. Any one of these could and should have brought down the government, but didn’t.

Labour Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn, based his entire career around promoting education as the only means of achieving social justice. He then betrayed his values and mandate by increasing the cost of college education beyond the means of working class families, slashing grants, and applying the worst of the cuts to children with disabilities. His vicious cuts to funding for Junior Cycle education, which have led to strikes by all teachers in all unions, added insult to injury by labelling cuts as ‘reform’. His resignation surprised nobody, and his successor Jan O’Sullivan has antagonised teachers by persisting in trying to force through cutbacks which will damage the Irish education system, while presenting media optics antics of trying to force lazy teachers to do the ‘right thing’. Any one of these could and should have brought down the government, but didn’t. (and before you tell me they’re both Labour- no. They were voted in on a Labour ticket and mandate, they became Fine Gael the second they landed those comfy seats)

James Reilly, presiding over the death of the Irish healthcare system, mishandled every single interaction, negotiation, cut, and decision. Wage cuts and hiring freezes, exhausted overworked nurses and doctors forced into unpaid overtime, botched negotiations with consultants, leaving vital posts empty. Children, infants, and the elderly in need of hospital care have been catastophically affected, people have died because of these cuts. The families of children with terminal illnesses or serious physical disabilities- families coping with tragedy and crisis- were worst impacted by Minister Reilly’s bodging. He withdrew 15,800 discretionary medical cards without warning, causing untold distress to families whose children were dying of leukemia, coping with cystic fibrosis, and various other serious and terminal conditions. Any one of these mistakes could and should have brought down the government, but didn’t.

Environment, we’ve heard enough about. Pat Rabbitte selling out and shipping out. Phil Hogan’s sexist bullying, diminishing local authority powers, selling out and shipping out. Alan Kelly and Irish Water, listening carefully to the silly ordinary people, and then telling them what they really want, but are too stupid to understand. Cuts to vital services leading to the death of homeless people, and greedy landlords given free reign to generate a housing crisis. Any one of these could and should have brought down the government, but didn’t.

This is Fine Gael’s actual track record. Corruption, surveillance, incompetence, lies, failure. Failures which have cost lives. Failures which have deprived disabled children and their families of access to education, healthcare, and- in some cases- subsistence. Failures which have led to State-owned National assets being sold off, temporary small gains which will result in massive long-term losses. Failures which have seen hundreds of families becoming homeless.

Three Cabinet Ministers, from the backbone fundamental aspects of governance, have been forced to resign their Ministerial positions in disgrace, for catastrophic mistakes they have made, which the most vulnerable people in society have been made to pay for. They have, however, kept their seats; and this travesty government has stayed in power. Congratulations, Fine Gael. Go sit in an expensive hotel, eating overpriced food, congratulating one another on how well everything is going. Book hours of RTE coverage, to tell everyone how fantastic you are. Work on your optics, your presentation. As if we were all blind. As if the facts didn’t speak for themselves. If these Fine fools had any integrity, values, ethics, spine, decency, pride, professionalism, or intelligence, they would have resigned from government when Shatter did, when Quinn did, when Reilly did. As it is, they think this blither-fest will impress anyone? They need to think again