“People are increasingly asking the question – where is Fine Gael taking us and is it really where we want to go?”

Social Democrats co-leaders Róisín Shortall TD and Catherine Murphy TD today castigate the Fine Gael government for paying lip service to a so-called squeezed middle while failing ordinary working people and putting no squeeze on those at the very top.

The party is holding its 3rd National Conference in Dublin fresh from its success in last month’s local elections which saw the number of Social Democrats councillors treble to 19, including ten women.

In their joint keynote speech this afternoon, the co-leaders will tell delegates of the frustration felt by people working hard to stand still who feel their ordinary aspirations are a pipe dream.

“People are increasingly asking the question – where is Fine Gael taking us and is it really where we want to go?

“We had many doorstep conversations at last months’ local elections about overspends on the Children’s Hospital and the National Broadband plan and people were dismayed at the laissez-faire attitude of Fine Gael to such colossal cost overruns while basic services are starved of critical investment.

“People are seeing, more clearly than ever, the disparity between the politics of privilege and the lives of ordinary working people. The flathúleach approach of the spin-perfect glossy privilege of Fine Gael is at odds with the daily lives of those working to stand still.
“Fine Gael pay lip-service to a so-called squeezed middle but they never put any squeeze on those at the very top of the tree. And, for most people who are not at the top of that tree, the current government has failed.”

The joint leaders will say that good government is about more than simply balancing the books, although the budget overruns with the National Children’s Hospital and the Broadband Plan have shown that Fine Gael can’t even manage that aspect of it.

“Good government is about creating a society and economy in which everyone can flourish. But it is impossible for everyone to flourish when so many of our citizens are denied access to basic healthcare.

“And for all the Minister’s talk about Sláintecare he has yet to provide the level of funding to make its reforms a reality. The current crisis in healthcare where over 6,000 vulnerable older people are denied essential homecare services to enable them to remain in their own homes, in spite of being approved for them, typifies all that is wrong with how health services are delivered in this country.”

On the issue of climate and the environment, the leaders said we cannot allow the capitalist model to proceed unchecked as it selfishly consumes scarce natural resources.

“That requires a social democratic approach in much the same way that social democracy provided the solutions to previous historical crises. In this case it is absolutely clear that green solutions cannot proceed without a social democratic underpinning. We need conversations about industry regulation, industrial policy, public investment and taxation policy if we are to truly tackle the climate issues of our time and indeed future generations.”

With the Social Democrats’ Parental Leave Act, which was signed into law last month, the party has stepped up the important conversation about work-life balance and overall quality of live.

“We’ve asked people to think outside the box and have a conversation about whether there’s an opportunity to work towards the option of a four-day week. This is a conversation we think it is worth pursuing for so many reasons but chief among them being the recognition that people are far more than simply economic units slogging incessantly in a rat-race and wondering if this is as good as it gets.

“Increasingly we are watching politics develop into something that is essentially turning people’s lives into a form of commodity with the continued commodification of basic services. Increasingly, an economic prism is the only prism through which most major decisions are made.

“Too often the Market is seen as the answer but more often than not, relying on the market has been the problem. We see this in health, housing, transport, childcare and many other areas.

“As Social Democrats, our single biggest aim is to improve public services. It is public services that drive equality, promote sustainability, reduce costs for businesses and families, and provide a fair chance for everyone.”

ENDS

22nd June 2019

Leaders Speech for download (PDF)