In his final presidential address to his union’s biennial conference, Siptu president Jack O’Connor has said it is “obscene” the major political parties are promoting a tax-cutting agenda when so many children are homeless.
At the Cork conference, he called for a new alliance “of genuinely progressive forces” to prioritise investment in housing, healthcare, and education, and to guarantee collective bargaining rights for all workers.
“That should be the priority between now and the centenary of the foundation of the State in 2022, and not any tax-cutting agenda,” he said.
“It seems we are back to business as usual in this country. We are again playing by the rules of the self-interested value system that precipitated the crisis in the first place.
“It’s back to looking the other way, while exponentially growing inequality reasserts itself in our domestic and social affairs. Let us say it as it is, delegates. It is absolutely unforgivable that thousands of our children are homeless, in the aftermath of the collapse of a credit-fuelled property bubble.”
Mr O’Connor said it was not in people’s interests that young people have to pay multiples of the cost of building a house to put a roof over their heads, due to the absence of a properly funded public housing programme; that people have to waste resources paying escalating private health insurance premiums, due to the absence of a properly funded public health service; and that people do not have access to the best education, training, and reskilling facilities in the world due to the absence of a properly funded education system.
“The bottom line is that we must have decent public services and it is far better that we fund them together as a community, through taxation, rather than allowing ourselves to be ripped off by private predators,” he said.
“Those advocating tax cutting, which inevitably disproportionately benefits the better off, conveniently ignore the fact that Ireland’s public spending, as a share of gross national income, is joint bottom of the list of EU countries and one-third less than the average EU member state.”
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