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‘Using Greece as an argument not to vote Sinn Féin is a political smear’

At best, linking events in Greece with a vote for Sinn Féin reflects a lack of understanding of the causes, consequences and solutions of the Greek situation, writes Mary Lou McDonald.

Mary Lou McDonald

THE CYNICAL POLITICAL adage of not letting a good crisis go to waste is in full play at the moment. Political opponents and lazy commentators have sought to link what is happening in Greece as an argument against voting for Sinn Féin here in Ireland.

At best, this reflects a lack of understanding of the causes, consequences and solutions of the Greek situation. At worst, it is political smear at the cost of the economic hardship and poverty that has been forced on the people of Greece.

Sinn Féin stands with the ordinary people of Greece. We believe that the austerity economics of the EU elites have failed and will continue to fail the Greek people.

It failed here with the price of the mistakes of Fine Gael, Labour, and Fianna Fáil  being paid in emigration, unemployment, low pay and struggling families faced with water charges and property tax. Generations to come will be paying off the debts of these parties.

The current crisis facing the Greek people has been brought about by decades of corrupt government and speculation by European and other banks. When this came to a head, the debt was passed on to the people and austerity was imposed by other EU powers. This sounds very familiar indeed.

Through two bailouts, successive Greek governments received €240billion since 2010. The Greek Finance Minister has stated that 91% of bailout funds went to repay mostly northern European banks.

At the same time, their economy has shrunk by 25%, poverty has soared and over 25% of its workforce is unemployed.  Youth unemployment stands at 61% and that only includes those still left in the country.

It is this unsustainable situation that the current Greek Government inherited.

Greece needs debt relief

This catastrophe was brought to Greece courtesy of New Democracy and PASOK, sister parties of Fine Gael and Labour respectively. A third round of bailouts and austerity promised more of the same. Recent documents leaked from the Troika indicate that the current bailout offer, even with moderate growth, would still leave Greece with unsustainable debt in 2030.

Much has been said about the terms of the bailout. The current proposals seek a 23% VAT rate on tourism, a mainstay of the Greek economy. Given that this government dropped the rate here to 9% to promote growth, does anyone think the Troika proposals are viable?

Greek pensions have already endured massive cuts, some by a third, others by nearly 50%. Currently 45% of Greek pensioners receive pensions below what is considered the poverty line of €665 per month. Would these further cuts be acceptable here?

It should be remembered that the Greek economy before debt repayments had a surplus and the banks were capitalised.

The issue for Greece is debt relief.

We know that neither Enda Kenny nor Joan Burton have an ideological opposition to debt relief per se.  After all, it was conceded to bankers, developers and investors

Yet they are not prepared to take a stand for debt relief for the Irish state and Irish citizens. They won’t challenge the big boys in the Troika.

‘Cheerleaders’

In fact, they have been cheerleaders for the big boys club, fearful that any advances secured by the Greek government would expose Irish government failures.

Last Monday, 23 June, according to The Financial Times, Finance Minister Michael Noonan, along with the German Finance Minister, pressed for emergency financial support for Greek banks to be stopped unless capital controls were imposed.

Michael Noonan got his way and the banking sector in Greece ground to a halt. It was his and other EU Finance Ministers’ plans that closed the ATM machines. It was their actions in the face of a call for a democratic referendum that brought the chaos.

The next general election here will be about fairness and change, or about more of the same old cronyism and inequality.

It’s a choice between parties who believe that lone parents can take cuts while justifying tax write-offs for the richest people in the country, or a party that believes that citizens should be protected first while ensuring that the richest in society are made to pay their fair share.

It is a choice between a two-tier recovery and a fair recovery.

Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or Labour have failed to deliver a fair recovery. They will rely on fear and excuses.

The Government’s explanation for forced emigration, inequality, child poverty, low wages, housing shortages and hospital bed shortages has been that there is no other way. They were simply following orders. They cannot afford to be proved wrong and so are willing to put the Greek people to the sword.

Mary Lou McDonald is a Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Central and the party’s deputy leader 

Read: Does the Greek crisis show the danger of electing Sinn Féin?

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