Never has so much manure been dumped on a gullible electorate

IT IS ironic that the Government, which is urging a Yes vote for the Nice Treaty to protect jobs and our future, cannot protect the jobs in a company in which it is the major shareholder.

It is also ironic that another State-owned company, Bord Gáis, cut off credit to IFI, adding another 8 million to their problem.

Or maybe it’s not ironic at all. Maybe the reality is that the present Government doesn’t really care. Tánaiste Mary Harney said during the week that it’s just not viable to produce fertiliser in Ireland. The Government of which she is a member belies that statement, because never has so much manure been dumped on a gullible electorate. They have that market well and truly cornered.

Despite her belated commiserations, the IFI workers believe she and the Government led them up the garden path even while discussions were going on in relation to a rescue package.

There will, of course, be the domino effect from the fall-out from this IFI debacle, with far more job losses than the ones directly lost with the closure of the company.

Much has been made of the fact that workers got the news of the closure from The Guardian, an English newspaper. The workers, quite rightly, felt incensed that their future should have been dismissed in such a cold-hearted fashion. Many believed that the company could have been rescued, or, at the very least, that its demise could have been delayed for another six months.

In the event, the way the news was delivered was a major source of embarrassment to the Government, coming as it did just a few days before the eferendum. No doubt the announcement would have been made once the Nice referendum was safely out of the way, in the same way that so many announcements were made when the Jekyll and Hyde coalition were safely ensconced in power again.

In this case, neither Mary Harney nor Bertie Ahern could put any spin on the fact that a decision was taken by the Government to close the company it spun out of their control once the news was leaked in the English newspaper. Any regret Government members had about the closure was not grounded on any sympathy for the unsuspecting workers and the way they heard about it, but because it was another threat to the Yes vote.

Compounding the bad employment news in the county, the US-owned computer company, EMC, in Ovens, two days later announced that it was seeking redundancies, possibly as many as 120, because of a downturn in the technology industry worldwide. The company, which was founded by the American Ambassador to Ireland, Richard Egan, let 300 people go last March, although it still employs 1,700 in this country.

But back to IFI. The Tánaiste insisted the loss-making IFI could not be propped up by taxpayers’ money any more.

“It’s just not viable to produce fertiliser in Ireland,” she declared, once knowledge of the closure was in the public domain.

“I left the workers in no doubt taxpayers’ money could not be put into this company unless we got a viability plan. No viability plan was forthcoming.”

Wasn’t there?

Strange, then, that the workers were planning to take a substantial cut in their wages. Strange, too, that union leaders and politicians have accused her of ignoring a rescue package, if none existed.

What it boils down to, is that people simply do not believe this Government any more. In this case, the balance of truth lies with the workers.

According to Stephen O’Riordan, a workers’ representative at the Cork plant, the firm could have been saved. They were working on a viability plan and had asked the Government to hold on for another two weeks. With 25 years in the company behind him, Mr O’Riordan obviously knows what he’s talking about.

The workers were organising the details of a 31 million rescue plan, which included the workers being prepared to take a 3.8 million cut in their wages.

A pay cut, though, is something Ms Harney would not understand or appreciate because hers, like the rest of the Government and members of the Dáil, is on an upward spiral.

She won’t have to worry about where to find money for Christmas this year because her already hefty annual salary just recently soared by another 7,000 a year, or 135 per week before tax. Bertie Ahern has an extra 8,000 to play around with, which works out at 154 a week, before tax.

The Government put 34 million into the fertiliser plant in the last two years to keep it afloat, and Mr O’Riordan maintains that the workers’ rescue plan, costing about the same, would have kept the plant going until the market recovered.

We’ll never know now whether it would have worked, simply because the Government couldn’t hang on for another miserable two weeks to at least allow the workers put the finalised plan to them.

Just two weeks.

Contrast the treatment of the IFI employees with the kid gloves with which the farmers are treated. At the Fianna Fáil two-day bash in the luxury of the Great Southern Hotel in Killarney last month, it was announced that farmers would have a higher percentage of Brussels aid paid to them, as well as bringing forward other payments to an earlier date.

The reason for that was because the farmers made a dismal showing for the first Nice referendum, which was defeated. This time around, the Government has dangled the carrot of a 500 million package in front of them to encourage them to vote Yes.

Understandably, in a reaction to the manner in which their jobs have been destroyed by the Government, workers interviewed during the week vowed to vote against the Nice Treaty in the referendum tomorrow.

There are countless thousands of others who feel the same way because of the appalling deceit practised by this Government before and after the general election.

John Bruton’s advice to get the retaliation in at the next local elections rather than tomorrow is good advice, although the referendum will be seen by many as an opportunity too good to miss to put Bertie Ahern in his place.

However, the referendum is not about taking him down a few pegs. It’s far more important than that.

The arguments for and against the treaty have been confusing to the public by those who have represented both sides. While there is a certain validity on both sides of the coin, on balance, I think the wiser course is to vote for it.

Simple things need to be remembered.

When we joined the EEC, as it was known as 30 years ago, there were just over one million people who had a job in Ireland. Now, there are about 1.7 million.

In the interim, the EU has bolstered Irish agriculture to the extent of €29 billion, and, consequently, has been instrumental in giving a renewal of life to many rural communities.

Our infrastructure has also dramatically improved beyond recognition, and beyond what Ireland on its own could have done.

Quite simply, we are either in Europe or we are not.

But whether you are for or against, at least take the trouble to go out and vote tomorrow.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

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