Following a process of engagement regarding the Framework Document proposed by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, the Social Democrats have earlier today written to the leaders of those parties confirming that they will not be proceeding any further with negotiations for a Programme for Government. The Social Democrats made clear in the letter that they intend to provide constructive opposition if the Fine Gael/Fianna Fail/Green Party coalition emerges from the current negotiation process.

In outlining its reasons for disengaging from the process the Social Democrats co-leaders Catherine Murphy TD & Róisín Shortall TD pointed out that the Social Democrats’ priority is the provision of high-quality public services and that such an approach would require significant investment in the coming years. They said that nothing in the replies received from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to date indicate anything other than a ‘business as usual’ approach  – an approach the Social Democrats say led to the years of austerity and unequal recovery suffered by ordinary households in the wake of the last crash.  The party had posed a series of detailed questions to the leaders of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil regarding their thinking on the funding of the measures outlined in the Framework Document but said today that the answers simply don’t add up.  They said they weren’t convinced that Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil intended to take a robust position regarding EU financing and what they described as the traditional fiscal orthodoxy.

Co-leader Róisín Shortall TD said:

“Getting through the Covid crisis is one thing but getting through the aftermath is crucial – and will determine how we shape Ireland for decades to come. We have seen the result of the post-2008 approach, a decade of austerity, hardship and lost opportunities for so many and the creation of what we have come to refer to as the Locked-Out Generation.  Sustainable strategic investment is the only way Ireland can emerge from this crisis in way which puts the principles of equality and fairness at the heart of the economic recovery operation. We are strongly of the view that trying to continue on with more of the same and a ‘business as usual’ approach will inevitably be damaging to the vast majority of ordinary households in Ireland.”

Co-leader Catherine Murphy TD said:

“We are of the view that, in the first instance, the full extent of the scope of the fiscal rules to allow for borrowing should be utilised. We believe that a sustainable instrument or facility should be available on an EU wide basis. This is essential to ensure long-term European solidarity. The Spanish proposal for example, which advocates for a 1.5 trillion-euro perpetual bond is, we believe, a sound idea with a lot of backing from financiers and experts and avoids adding to national debts. We also believe Ireland must commit to forming a ‘blocking coalition’ on the European Council to make sure that the escape clause is used to Ireland’s advantage as much as possible. Thereafter, a very assertive and robust approach should be taken at European level to the longer-term suspension of the fiscal rules followed by a reform which would exempt vitally needed public investment from the excessive deficit procedure.

We see no evidence by either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil of a willingness to engage in such a robust and demanding manner with the controlling blocks of the EU and it underlines yet another fundamental difference of approach – the kind of difference that cannot allow for a cohesive government.  That is why we have, as a party, taken the decision to disengage from the process and instead commit to participating in the next Dáil as a constructive opposition party which will support measures from across the political spectrum so long as those proposals are evidence-based and ensure equality and fairness.”

13th May 2020

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