AS A WOMAN who has lived my life on the side of those who have least in our society, I have tried to advocate consistently for those living with poverty and inequality. Over the past thirty years I have worked side-by-side with members of the Tallaght West communities, and so I know that the financial bust that created the Eurozone crisis has hit my colleagues and friends the hardest.
As an Independent Senator I do not represent any party’s views. I am committed to the principles and values of progressive change, social sovereignty as well as economic sustainability.
I bring these interpretive levers to my analysis of the Fiscal Stability Treaty and to the referendum that is placed before us as Irish citizens who are members of the European Community.
Do we need the fiscal discipline of a low deficit, a sustainable debt and an automatic enforcement mechanism through European oversight if we don’t follow these rules? I say ‘Yes.’ I believe that if all members of the European community, including Ireland, had maintained fiscal discipline the euro would not be in the crisis that it is today, with the consequent increase in poverty, unemployment and the lessening of social protections for our people. Fiscal discipline is fiscal discipline. It is not the equivalent of ‘austerity.’
Will Ireland need to tap the ESM for a second bail-out? Again, I say ‘Yes.’ Our sovereign debt is heading towards €200 billion in 2015, our bank debt is €64 billion and there is little growth predicted in the next couple of years. Most likely we will need inexpensive money to plug the gap between our income and expenditure post-2015. The ESM is a solidarity mechanism for Europeans. If we don’t have access to European solidarity, social protections for our citizens and residents who need it most will decrease.
This is not the whole story, though.
Do we need something more than fiscal discipline if we are to make progress on social equality as well as economic sustainability? I say ‘Yes’. We do need substantial growth measures and I believe that a ‘yes’ from Ireland provides us more leverage to achieve those than a ‘no’.
But most importantly, we need a fresh Irish vision for social equality. We need to rebuild our social infrastructure with social investment measures. Growth must be geared towards growth for everyone. A Yes will give us the best opportunity to bring about radical change. My commitment is to progress the promise of a Yes vote.
Senator Katherine Zappone is an independent member of the Seanad.