Socialists target Government's political agenda


THE GOVERNMENT has been accused of manipulating the political agenda to minimise economic bad news during the presidential and Dublin West election campaigns.

United Left Alliance TDs claimed yesterday that publication of the Government’s comprehensive spending review, which would reveal the target areas for cuts, had been deferred until after the elections later this month.

Speaking at the launch of the alliance’s byelection campaign in Dublin West, Joe Higgins accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny of “changing his tune” about publishing the review by refusing to commit to its early release. He claimed this was a “cynical manipulation of the political agenda”.

Another ULA TD, Richard Boyd Barrett, claimed the Government had quickly learned the arts of “spin and disingenuity” to cover up its true agenda of cuts. Hospital emergency departments were being closed in the name of “health and safety”, council housing was being phased out ostensibly in favour of voluntary housing and it was “the same” with the comprehensive spending review, he said.

The party’s candidate in Dublin West, Cllr Ruth Coppinger, said it was unfortunate that the byelection campaign was being “buried” under the coverage of the presidential election while Mr Higgins criticised the media preoccupation with the “abuse-fest that is the presidential campaign”.

Ms Coppinger said the alliance was capable of challenging for the seat, most probably against Labour’s candidate Cllr Pat Nulty. She claimed Mr Nulty would be a “prisoner” of the Government if elected to the backbenches, as would Fine Gael’s candidate Cllr Eithne Loftus.

She identified the potential downgrading of Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown; the scrapping of Metro West; and the postponement of Metro North as major issues for the constituency, along with the problems faced by heavily indebted householders.

Mr Higgins urged supporters of the late Brian Lenihan, whose death led to the byelection, not to waste their votes by transferring support to the Fianna Fáil candidate, Cllr David McGuinness.

The alliance, which currently has five TDs, is an alliance between the Socialist Party, People before Profit Alliance and the Clonmel Workers and Unemployed Action Group. However, because the group is not registered for electoral purposes, Ms Coppinger will be listed as a Socialist Party candidate on the ballot paper.

For Fianna Fáil, Mr McGuinness accused Minister for Transport and local TD Leo Varadkar of being “offhand” about important local issues such as Metro West and major roadworks on Chesterfield Avenue in the Phoenix Park.

Other candidates include Roderic O’Gorman of the Greens, Paul Donnelly for Sinn Féin and Independent Barry Caesar Hunt.