Rabbitte wants goal of full employment at centre stage


THE goal of full employment must be restored to the centre stage, the Minister of State for Science and Technology said.

"One of the most unacceptable aspects of politics in Ireland, in recent years, has been the dominant position achieved by the notion that full employment is unachievable, that mass unemployment is inevitable, and that the very idea of full employment is both fanciful and futile," Mr Pat Rabbitte added.

The general secretary of the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU), Mr Mike Allen, who was a guest speaker, praised the Government for making long term unemployment the centre of public attention, but said it would be wrong to believe that such attention and political debate in themselves constituted a solution.

"It is our view that the forthcoming programme must be a national programme to tackle long term unemployment," he said.

The chairman of the party's economics committee, Mr Paul Sweeney, called on the Government to initiate a crusade against unemployment, particularly long term unemployment, as "the boom is not remotely affecting the long term unemployed".

On taxation, Mr Rabbitte said that the Progressive Democrats, "from the tops of their very fine rooftops," were proclaiming that the Government was confronting home owners with financial ruin because of the residential property tax.

"As Michael McDowell parades up and down Aylesbury Road in a sandwich board, proclaiming that the end is nigh, the PDs would have us believe that this is what tax reform is all about."

Urging people to take a more mature view of the issue, he said they knew that the PDs did not even attempt to repeal the tax when in government with Fianna Fail.

Meanwhile, the conference rejected a proposal from Mr Tony Wright, of Dungarvan, that the party instruct its councillors to oppose service charges. He said that DL had made some limited progress on water charges, but it was well short of what was required by party members.

The Minister of State for the Marine, Mr Eamon Gilmore, said DL was the first party to make service charges an issue in negotiating a programme for government.

The progress made included the commitment to review the funding of local authorities, but it would be "profoundly anti democratic" for the conference to instruct councillors on how they should vote on any issue.

Ms Susan Collins (Crumlin) warned that DL support for the charges in some areas was alienating party supporters.

The Cork North Central TD, Ms Kathleen Lynch, said: "We will continue to oppose these charges as a taxation issue, but it is a matter to be resolved nationally".

Ms Catherine Murphy (Kildare North) said the charges were a local tax caused by a shortfall in government funding. Local services such as waste and sewage disposal, repairs to roads and footpaths, new street lighting, library and fire services had to be paid for. "That is part of the debate we are having here today."