WP calls for policing review as it presents manifesto


A comprehensive view of policing in the Republic similar to that undertaken in Northern Ireland was proposed by the Workers' Party yesterday when it launched its election manifesto.

The party, which is fielding eight candidates in seven constituencies, said it was time to review and modernise policing structures in the Republic. "For the community to have confidence in the Garda, the Garda must be accountable and subject to democratic control," its manifesto said.

It also proposes greater use of community policing.

Mr Seán Ó Cionnaith, a Workers' Party candidate in Dublin North West, told a press conference in Dublin it was "very worrying" that participants in the Reclaim the Streets rally in Dublin on Monday had been "viciously attacked" by baton-wielding gardaí without numbers on their uniforms.

"I believe there is a small number of gardaí stepping out of line . . . it's important that the Garda Commissioner, Pat Byrne, brings to heel these gardaí," he said.

The party has also pledged to fight for an end to the two-tier health system, to ensure that educational disadvantage will be a priority in education policy.

It has proposed the appointment of a housing regulator to control house prices and act as an independent guarantor of tenants' rights, particularly in relation to issues such as fair rents, evictions and substandard conditions in the private rental sector.

The Workers' Party said racism in the Republic must be confronted and eradicated. The party proposes the establishment of an independent statutory body to deal with the problem.

It called for the right to work for asylumseekers, and for the policy of direct provision to be replaced by an entitlement to social welfare benefits.

Mr John Lowry, party general secretary, said that despite outward signs of Ireland's new economic wealth, the State had some of the highest levels of poverty in the EU, the gap between rich and poor was widening, the health service was in crisis, housing lists were growing, and mortgages were beyond the means of most people.

"All of the major political parties who make up the cosy political consensus which exists in Ireland have participated in, and benefited from, this state of affairs. The people who have suffered socially and economically, the working class, require a voice of their own. The Workers' Party aims to provide that voice," he said.

Mr Lowry added that successive governments had inflicted severe damage on the health service by "savage" spending cuts. "This chronic under-investment, coupled with the effects of a two-tier health system, has led to long waiting lists, inadequate casualty services, bed shortages and shortages of medical and support staff."

The party is demanding a properly funded health service capable of delivering patient care at the point of need, irrespective of personal wealth. It said funds could be generated for the health service by a review of existing health board structures, particularly the cost of their administration, and the setting up of State pharmacies.

The party's main hopes of having a TD in the next Dáil rest on Mr John Halligan, a councillor in Waterford. But they say their other seven candidates, in Dublin, Cork and Louth, are all getting a good reception on the doorsteps.