Stop the Cuts - Scrap the Charges

by Kevin McLoughlin

Socialist Voice January 2003

OVER THE last weeks two facts emerged which sum up Ireland as we enter 2003. The first was the tragic and completely preventable death of a baby during birth. The second was a survey that revealed that Ireland is the most 'globalised' country in the world!

The death of baby Bronagh Livingstone, in an ambulance on the way to Cavan Hospital happened because the maternity unit in Monaghan Hospital had been closed down. This is a disgusting indictment on the state of the health service and the treatment of women in this country.

This was a terrible tragedy. It is a brutally graphic illustration of the fact that in general, working class people are second-class citizens in Ireland Incorporated! This government wasn't prepared to put money into essential services because their overwhelming concern is to help big business and the rich get richer and they don't care if it is at our expense.

The people of Monaghan have been campaigning for the restoration of their hospital's maternity unit and other services which have been cut. This campaign warned that it was only a matter of time before a death would occur.

Since McCreevy's Budget, price hikes have hit us all. Electricity, gas, travel, motor tax, TV licenses, have all gone up. Inflation is driving up the cost of food and clothes. Now the government is threatening to introduce a €1 per item per item prescription charge on all medical cardholders as well as a €200 a year water charge.

All the government has to offer people is cuts in public services, tax increases and price hikes. It's time to follow the example of the people of Monaghan. Their campaign to stop the run down and possible closure of their local hospital should get the full backing of the unions.

On a national scale, similar campaigns should be organised which are linked to a more general trade union led campaign to fight all of the government attacks.

Social partnership may be on the verge of collapsing. The union leaders should bury it and get back to their real job of ensuring that working class people have quality public services that are properly funded.

What does this have to do with 'globalisation'? Quite a lot actually. Globalisation means the freedom for big business to do whatever it wants to in order to maximise it's profits and privileges. Is it more important that big business is given a tax break of over €1 billion over the last year than to use that money to invest in essential services? According to the government yes! Super profits are more important than people’s lives.

In the same vein, notwithstanding that working people created the 'Celtic Tiger', as soon as a change in the capitalist economy threatens profits and the governments finances, they off load the burden on to us through cutbacks, countless price hikes and a squeeze on pay. Living standards and certainly quality of life are going backwards.

For the last ten years successive governments done everything in their power to sell off Ireland for the benefit of domestic and international big business. In general the trade union leaders stopped this gravy train, but only long enough so they could climb on board. Their inaction at price hikes, cutbacks and privatisations is a disgrace. It is time to challenge 'capitalist globalisation'. In countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece working class people have already taken successful action to defend their living standards.

The logic of capitalism during economic crisis is to attack again and again the living standards of working class people. People are increasingly coming to the realisation that the idea that Ireland was going to become a modern, democratic and prosperous place for everyone when it is owned and controlled by the likes of Ahern, Harney, Dermot Desmond and multi-national capitalism was a fraud. They represent a minority. If working class people get organised, we have the power to change this country, to end the abuse of power and the domination of profit. In order to do this we need to get active in the struggle for socialist change.

You can find other articles like this on our sitemap.