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Does the Socialist Party really want to nationalise Dell?

One TD suggested as much at the weekend.

Socialist/AAA TDs Ruth Coppinger, Paul Murphy and Joe Higgins.
Socialist/AAA TDs Ruth Coppinger, Paul Murphy and Joe Higgins.
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

WITH THE ANTI-AUSTERITY Alliance, which includes the Socialist Party, gaining in popularity in recent months the focus is now likely to turn to their policies.

While the Socialists/AAA have gained prominence and won two Dáil by-elections largely off the back of their vociferous opposition to water charges they also have a number of radical economic policies.

Its pre-Budget submission proposed the introduction of a 5 per cent emergency tax on millionaires that would raise as much as €3.3 billion. There’s also a plan to increase the effective income tax on the top 10 per cent of earners which could raise up to €2.6 billion.

The Socialists also want to repudiate the interest and capital payments on the debt Ireland accumulated during the economic collapse that forced it into the Troika bailout which it says would raise around €6.6 billion.

The party would use the money raised to fund a major social housing programme and fund additional public services and lending to small businesses.

Over the weekend, the Dublin West TD Ruth Coppinger indicated on RTÉ Radio that the party would also nationalise some major multinational companies in a bid to secure jobs.

The Dell question

File Pics Slumping personal computer maker Dell is bowing out of the stock market in a 24.4 billion buyout. Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

One company specifically cited was Dell computers which employs 2,500 people in Ireland between sites in Limerick and Cherrywood in Dublin. But the company cut 1,900 jobs in Limerick five years ago in a major blow to the region.

During the course of a debate on Saturday with Brian Dowling, Coppinger said: “We’ve seen Dell leaving Limerick. I would have advocated that they should be taken into public ownership, that the workers who work in those industries could run them, could run those industries. We have the skills and capabilities to do that.”

The proposal drew a sarcastic response from the Fine Gael Minister of State Dara Murphy who said several times: “You’re going to nationalise Dell computers, is it?”

But undeterred, Coppinger continued: “Dell that was allowed leave under Fianna Fáil actually – rather than yourselves – which was a highly profitable multinational which left Limerick and left Limerick, by the way, devastated.

“And Limerick has never climbed out of the recession and in fact the biggest protests, by the way, have been in Limerick. The Anti-Austerity Alliance has scored massive successes in Limerick and could have a TD for Limerick. That was the kind of devastation that was left behind when multinationals pulled out.”

The proposal has since been criticised by what the Socialists would call ‘the establishment parties’ with Fianna Fáil’s jobs spokesperson Dara Calleary describing what Coppinger said as “extraordinary” .

“Most people now accept that a modern economy needs a partnership approach between public and private enterprise,” Calleary said in a statement issued yesterday.

“The merest hint that such a policy could be implemented by government would see a flight of companies from the State. However the Socialist Party appears content to put tens of thousands of jobs at risk to pursue a utopian economic model which has failed anywhere it has been tried.”

While Dara Murphy also released a statement in the aftermath of his participation in the RTÉ Radio debate, describing talk of nationalisation of multinationals as “wreckless and ludicrous”.

He said it would “place a massive burden on taxpayers and the public finances, and bring us back to the dark days of the banking crisis” when all the country’s main banks were bailed out and some were fully nationalised.

“It would destroy rather than create jobs,” Murphy claimed.

So is this really what the Socialist Party is proposing?

Seanad Referendums Campaigns Source: samboal

We contacted Ruth Coppinger this morning but have not received a response. However we did speak to her colleague Paul Murphy, the recently-elected Dublin South-West TD, who said the party proposed the idea when Dell cut 1,900 jobs in 2009.

“As well as the 2,000 jobs there were 5,000 jobs lost in surrounding services and it had benefited from €100 million in grants and tax reliefs. Even the building they were in was state-funded. Limerick was devastated as a result of Dell’s decision,” he said.

“What we argued at the time is that instead of the State standing idly by it should have stepped in and nationalised it and brought it into public ownership.”

Murphy said a similar move was taken by the Socialist government in France in 1982 when it nationalised the computer company Groupe Bull and merged it with most of the rest of the country’s computer industry. Groupe Bull was later re-privatised in 1994.

How would it work in Ireland? Murphy explained that it would involve Dell’s Irish operations only. He said: “You would do a deal with Dell and their computer manufacturers and develop a market, develop a real, sustainable industrial base in Ireland. Dell would have an opportunity to keeping the jobs in Ireland.”

On the threat of big corporations leaving or not even setting up in Ireland if they faced the risk of being taken into state ownership, Murphy said that Ireland should “not be intimidated by such threats”.

He continued: “The entire political establishment in Ireland has been about tax competition and enticing companies into Ireland. That hasn’t worked in terms of keeping multinational jobs in Ireland.

“Dell moved to Poland and then moved to China in order to get the cheapest possible labour. I don’t think we should allow ourselves to be intimidated by threats that corporations will go. We have to act to defend jobs.”

So if a left-wing government came to power is widescale nationalisation of major companies’ Irish operations in the offing?

Murphy said that “it’s not the first thing a left government would do” citing instead the aforementioned debt repudiation but it would be policy that if corporations threaten to leave they would be nationalised.

“Over time, yes, a vision of a socialist society involves key sectors being nationalised but that doesn’t mean it would be the first thing a left government would do,” Murphy added.

Coppinger: December 10th could become a day of national strike

Read: ‘Like Del Boy trying to sell discounted goods’: Socialist TDs are not impressed by water charge concessions

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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