16 June 2012     

Working class paying for the mistakes of the rich

By Pearse McKenna

The No camp in the Irish “Fiscal Stability Treaty” referendum are now turning defeat into victory.
     Sinn Féin and the United Left Alliance could increase their support at the next elections unless there is a major change in the political climate. Sinn Féin and the ULA are predicting an increased vote in the local and European elections in two years’ time.
     The low turn-out in border areas is a worry for Sinn Féin; this could be due to a change in the political climate. Border and poor urban constituencies were the hardest hit by the downturn in the Irish economy. They would also have suffered more through the austerity policies of the current government.
     The media interpreted the low turn-out in border and poor urban areas as voter apathy. Working-class areas have suffered more from unemployment and austerity, resulting in mass emigration from these constituencies.
     Was the low turn-out due to apathy or because those who were entitled to vote were forced to leave the country?
     No doubt the media play a very powerful role in elections and referendums. But in this case Patrick Kavanagh’s analysis may have been right when he said, “Money talks everywhere, but only money seems to talk in Ireland.”
     Unlike the 1972 referendum on entry into the then EEC, Ireland was going to get into the slip-stream of the most efficient economies in Europe.
     The 2012 “Fiscal Stability Treaty” referendum was held against a background of the working class paying for the mistakes of the rich.
     Unlike 1972, when everyone was going to get something for nothing, money for the rich and poor alike, this time there was only money for the “deserving” rich. The poor faced unemployment, with reduced welfare payments or forced emigration.
     The electorate have provided the Irish government with a strengthened mandate for a significant increase in austerity policies. Money will be leaving the country to pay off debts as fast as the unemployed are emigrating. This will cause a major change in the political climate.
     One of the reasons given for the lack of support for the Labour Party in Ireland in the 1950s and 60s was that their support was working all over the world.
     Another major change is Sinn Féin not objecting to being referred to as the new Fianna Fáil.

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