DEBATE ON AUSTERITY AT FEILE AN PHOBAIL

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DEBATE ON AUSTERITY AT FEILE AN PHOBAIL

This year’s Feile an Phobail festival in West Belfast featured an important debate between Sinn Fein , People Before Profit and the Workers Party.

Joe Austin for Sinn Fein argued that his party was blocking austerity and was willing to collapse the Stormont agreement if others tried to push it through.

However, this claim was challenged by Kieran Allen from People Before Profit who cited the INTO figure that 3,000 teaching posts will be lost.

He argued that the austerity policies were being implemented across the island.

‘The pattern is the same’ he claimed. There are the ‘reluctant austerity politicians’ who claim that they have no choice. There is the same benign language with words like ‘reform’’. And there are politicians who speak from both sides of their mouth – voting for austerity policies in the Dail or the Assembly and then protesting when a school or hospital in their own constituency is hit’.

Gemma Weir of the Workers Party also condemned the austerity policies of the Stormont agreement.

Joe Austin said that Sinn Fein wanted general tax raising powers to be devolved to Stormont. But Kieran Allen wanted to know how Sinn Fein wished to use those powers.

‘ It is a simple question’ he stated, ‘Are Sinn Fein proposing to raise the corporation tax or reduce it? Do they want to take more from big business or not? '

A local West Belfast businessman then intervened to urge Sinn Fein to reduce the tax. But the Sinn Fein spokesperson refused to state whether they would raise or reduce the tax.

People Before Profit also condemned the extensive use of Private Finance Initiatives and urged Sinn Fein to state their position on it.

‘The Royal Victoria Hospital car park is a good example’, Allen claimed. ‘Here a private company has a contract from the state that allows it to rake in car parking charges for a long period. Instead of deals which guarantee vast profits to private companies, the state should be building its own infrastructure’.

Running through the debate were repeated references to the experiences of Syriza in Greece.

Kieran Allen argued that a left government in Ireland would have to take a different approach to Syriza.

‘They should not be blackmailed by the EU. They should make it clear from the start that they would unilaterally write down the bankers debt. The time for illusions about the nature of the EU is over. It has become a straight jacket for neo-liberalism’.

Sinn Fein spokespersons, however, argued that Syriza had little choice.

Joe Austin (Sinn Fein) Gemma Weir (Workers Party) Kieran Allen (People Before Profit)