Society even more unequal when Labour in government
And now Labour is part of a Government that is making that even worse.
It is not that the likes of Eamon Gilmore, Pat Rabbitte, Joan Burton and others are venal or have abandoned all principle for the status, income and the robust sense of importance that so often accompanies ministerial office – although possibly some of these factors apply. But that they are persuaded their participation in government makes a benign difference and, possibly (probably?) it does. And possibly, given the age profile of the Labour Ministers, that is the best they can aspire to now personally, or rather that that is how they see it.
They also seem convinced there is a patriotic duty to rescue the country from the devastation done to it by Fianna Fáil, without, it seems, at all reflecting on how they contributed handsomely to that devastation by urging Fianna Fáil to be even more excessive in the trajectory on which it was driving the nation. Remember Labour was first out of the traps in 2007 advocating tax cuts; they wanted to cut stamp duty, which would have inflated the property bubble even more?
And remember Labour went along with the bank guarantee and avoided voting for it only because of the inordinate discretion the implementing legislation gave the Minister for Finance and the failure of that legislation to impose limits on bankers’ pay.
They see Ireland as having turned some corner on the way to recovery for which they take credit, while all the relevant data shows quite the opposite is the case.
But, fundamentally, isn’t Labour supposed to be about changing the structure of wealth, income power and privilege in society? Isn’t that the purpose of the Labour Party, its foundational objective? How then does it never allude to the stark inequalities here, to the reality that we remain a very rich society and the problem is not how poor we are but how badly we distribute those riches?
Ireland remains one of the richest countries in the world. Excluding the oil sheikhdoms and the more brazen tax havens (Ireland has not quite risen to the brazen category yet), this is the 17th richest country in the world, according to the World Bank on a gross national income basis. We are just behind now France and Japan and ahead of most of our European partners, including Italy and Spain.
It is just that we can’t or won’t distribute those riches fairly and Labour in government makes it worse.