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  1.  
  2. A fairer future
  3.  
  4. Remarks of Declan Ganley to “Alternatives for Ireland” public meeting
  5.  
  6. Davenport Hotel, 8pm, Weds June12th 2013
  7.  
  8. Check against delivery
  9.  
  10. Thank you very much
  11.  
  12. I know a few people in this room, and certainly outside it, are wondering why I would be holding a meeting like this, given that although I was on the winning side on Lisbon one, I came close, but was not elected to the European Parliament.
  13.  
  14. I was on the losing side in Lisbon two.
  15.  
  16. The people did not agree with me on the fiscal treaty.
  17.  
  18. Some people say – but you were rejected!
  19.  
  20. And reflecting on this, I suppose the words of Winston Churchill sum it up:
  21.  
  22. “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another without any loss of enthusiasm”.
  23.  
  24. And it is not hard to be enthusiastic about changing Ireland today.
  25.  
  26. Because we all know that for many families in Ireland, the crisis that began in 2008 has not even begun to pass.
  27.  
  28. Half a million Irish people are out of work, including one in three of every young person under the age of 25.
  29.  
  30. For too many parents, the worry of an unemployed son or daughter has been replaced with the agony of watching their children scattered to the ends of the earth to seek a job.
  31.  
  32. I am the child of a generation raised for export. A generation that heard Eamon DeValera promise to end that tragedy. And yet now my generation finds itself raising its children for export –children who will grow up with Australian or Canadian or American accents, and find themselves, like me, speaking to their countrymen in the tones of a stranger.
  33.  
  34. That alone is why we need an alternative. We cannot export our brightest and best and call the fact that they are no longer on the dole a success - but that is where we are today.
  35.  
  36. And of those who remain here in work, thousands are so crippled by debt that they are spending their lives in service to the banks, and many lie awake at night in fear for their homes.
  37.  
  38. What hope are they offered?
  39.  
  40. This economy is one quarter of negative growth away from tipping back into recession – retail sales were weaker in 2012 than in any year of the depression and weaker in the first three months of this year than any point in 2012.
  41.  
  42. We are told that to point this out – or to point out any unpleasant reality, is “engaging in negativity”. As if ignoring a problem, or pretending that it is not a problem, will make it go away.
  43.  
  44. Now, I am a natural optimist. There is not much point in being anything other.
  45.  
  46. The fact is that there is a lot to be positive about in Ireland. We have been a beacon to world of culture, literature, and human rights.
  47.  
  48. But ignoring the problems in the domestic economy and reciting false mantras about recovery and renewal when half a million are out of work is not positivity – it is wilful blindness and denial, and it has us where we are today.
  49.  
  50. Jobs and Taxation
  51.  
  52. For hundreds of thousands of Irish people, the roadblock to recovery is not negativity, it the challenge of finding a job or finding customers.
  53.  
  54. And so if there is to be an alternative in Ireland, it must be an alternative that puts job creation first.
  55.  
  56. It must involve a fairer tax system, to simplify the process of starting a new business, to let people keep more of what they earn, and to attract the brightest and the best to our shores.
  57.  
  58. It is neither morally right nor economically sane to say to a person who earns a promotion taking them over €34,000 per year that we’ll take over 52% of what you earn – but that’s where we are today. Those who work hard are punished for it – we need an alternative that will reward them for it.
  59.  
  60. Nor is it just or defensible that a person or a corporation earning millions a year can take advantage of tax loopholes to pay 4% tax. That demoralises people, it makes them angry, and they are right to be angry.
  61.  
  62. We need a tax system that is fair. Where the harder you work the more you earn, and where if you live and do business here, you contribute your taxes here, because It is common sense to do so.
  63.  
  64. We need a tax system that is simple. Where you know how much you owe, you know how and when to pay it, and you are not incentivised to spend thousands on accountants just to keep some of your own money.
  65.  
  66. And we need a tax system that is competitive. Where our rates are low enough to attract the best people and the best companies, where success is rewarded and new jobs can be created and flourish.
  67.  
  68. One alternative is the fair tax.
  69.  
  70. It would abolish the loopholes and reliefs and deductions granted to the richest amongst us and use the proceeds to cut taxes for the middle class and those who work hard for low pay.
  71.  
  72. It would move over time to flatten rates, bringing taxes down for everybody and ending the ludicrous situation where the Government can take more than half of every extra euro you earn.
  73.  
  74. As it moves in this direction we will cut taxes for the poorest people first – those who spend every extra euro in the real economy. And then for everybody else.
  75.  
  76. Now, let’s ask the obvious question, at least before my friends in the media do. How will someone like me, who has worked hard and done reasonably okay, do under such a system? Am I just trying to push through a tasty tax cut for myself?
  77.  
  78. I’ll tell you. If everyone is getting a tax cut, then I’ll get a tax cut, and if I pay a lot of tax, and I assure you I do, then yes, I will get a proportionate tax cut. But here’s the thing: Under this system, I will pay whatever rate society decides I pay.
  79.  
  80. Not like now where we pass high rates of tax for high earners but let them whittle it down with Stephen Hawking style accountants who get their tax liabilities down so low that they almost feel cheated if the Revenue aren’t writing THEM a cheque!
  81.  
  82. Your taxes would be simpler, fairer, and amongst the lowest In Europe. You will know the effective rate everyone pays. With more money in your pocket, you’ll have more to spend in the domestic economy. It is revenue neutral, and it would provide a massive stimulus to the economy.
  83.  
  84. Welfare Reform and the basic income
  85.  
  86. And if we’re going to reform the tax system, then we need to reform the welfare system too.
  87.  
  88. I have listened with great interest to the proposals of people like Father Sean Healy in CORI, who calls for a basic income.
  89.  
  90. What is clear is that we need a welfare system that protects people. That guarantees access to help when needed. That is simple, easy to understand, and easy to reach.
  91.  
  92. It makes no sense that we have a department with a €20bn budget loaded with staff sorting out different payments to different groups.
  93.  
  94. Most of those payments are kept separate for reasons that are purely political. So the Government can buy off one group while targeting another.
  95.  
  96. I believe it is possible and desirable to consolidate welfare into a guaranteed single payment, paid directly into a person’s bank account when they become unemployed. I believe it is possible to guarantee every person in this country a basic income, and to at the same time abolish a lot of the red tape and administration that is involved in making the welfare system so unnecessarily complicated.
  97.  
  98. Welfare is about setting a threshold beneath which none of our fellow citizens may fall.
  99.  
  100. I believe our society must genuinely care for those in genuine need.
  101.  
  102. We must take a stand as a country and say this is what we guarantee you – enough to live in dignity, without constant queues in depressing government offices to fill out 10 pages of forms to get another entitlement.
  103.  
  104. It’s about fairness. It is not fair that we treat the unemployed the way we do – and neither is it fair that some families earn a living on welfare while the rest work. We must make the system simple, and return welfare to what it was designed to do – protect those who need help, when they need that help, and give them every incentive to stand on their own two feet as soon as they can.
  105.  
  106. Reforms like this – and reforms of politics, local government, and how we deal with Europe, will not happen without them being in a real and clear alternative.
  107.  
  108. Bankruptcy reform
  109.  
  110. Our alternative must be a fairer society and a fairer economy. Where there is an incentive for hard work, and hard work is rewarded.
  111.  
  112. Where welfare is a path to work and not a path to dependency, and where the number one priority of Government is to establish the conditions for genuine and sustainable job creation.
  113.  
  114. But if we want to support and help people to succeed, we must also be there to forgive and encourage them when they fail.
  115.  
  116. If you go bankrupt in Ireland, you should lose all your economic assets. That is what bankruptcy is.
  117.  
  118. But it is not a life sentence, nor should it be. Taking risks to create jobs or grow a business is the backbone of a free market economy. When people fail – and even the very best people fail – it should not mean a life sentence of debt servitude.
  119.  
  120. We need a swift and cleansing bankruptcy system for those who suffer a business failure. It should take about six months to a year. It should be comprehensive and involve a total loss of any assets than can be used to pay off creditors. Hiding your assets during bankruptcy should be made a serious criminal offence.
  121.  
  122. But once you come through it, having lost everything, and found the bottom - that should be it. Your debt is purged, and you are free and encouraged to start again.
  123.  
  124. In short, to be able to get back up, firmly on your feet, you have to be able to find the floor quickly.
  125.  
  126. That’s fairness. It’s tough, but it’s fair. And it gives people a second chance, and a third chance, if necessary, instead of casting people with talent into a situation where they are economically paralysed for a lifetime.
  127.  
  128. A new politics that respects conscience and conviction
  129.  
  130. The failure to pass reforms like these is a direct result of the political paralysis of our system of Government.
  131.  
  132. Like so many Irish people, I was willing to give this Government a chance. I wished them well.
  133.  
  134. I was pleased when Enda Kenny said he would be a chairman, not a dictator.
  135.  
  136. I was greatly encouraged when Leo Varadkar pledged not one more red cent to the banks.
  137.  
  138. I got a little bit worried when Eamon Gilmore said it was Labour’s way or Frankfurt’s way.
  139.  
  140. It sounded like a choice between hung, drawn, and quartered, or being burnt at the stake.
  141.  
  142. But even then, I was hopeful, because this was a Government that would be different.
  143.  
  144. That would be open, and transparent, and respect disagreement, and treat people like adults.
  145.  
  146. But that’s not what we got.
  147.  
  148. Instead of a being chairman, Mr. Kenny has gathered all power in a cabinet subcommittee of four ministers. (Noonan, Gilmore, Howlin, himself)
  149.  
  150. Instead of respecting differences of opinion, he responds to dissent with attacks and slurs, and then threatens anybody in Fine Gael with a conscience with political excommunication.
  151.  
  152. We elected 166 TDs, but only four of them have power.
  153.  
  154. The rest – every Fine Gael backbencher, is expected to shut up and do what they’re told.
  155.  
  156. Mr. Kenny wants to abolish the Seanad, but he’s turned the Dáil into a crèche.
  157.  
  158. He is planning on getting rid of one powerless, pointless body while removing all the teeth from another.
  159.  
  160. This is no way to run a country.
  161.  
  162. An alternative for Ireland must respect the conscience of every citizen and legislator.
  163.  
  164. It must trust in open debate, embracing reasoned dissent for the patriotism it is.
  165.  
  166. It cannot adopt the politics of telling people how to vote on an issue as deeply personal as abortion.
  167.  
  168. Issues of conscience should never be the subject of a whip.
  169.  
  170. A political party that tells us to elect their candidates, but then does not trust its TDs to make their own minds up on an issue like this is not worthy of support.
  171.  
  172. But Enda Kenny is not alone to blame.
  173.  
  174. How can any Fine Gael backbencher vote against what they believe on this issue and expect to be trusted on anything else?
  175.  
  176. How can you abandon your most deeply held principles for an imaginary political whip and expect to be taken seriously when you say you have ideas about anything else?
  177.  
  178. I don’t imagine any Fine Gael TD entered politics expecting to be forced or coerced into voting Eamon Gilmore’s conscience.
  179.  
  180. We may not agree with Peter Mathews, Roisin Shorthall, or Colm Keaveney on every issue, but they have the courage of their convictions and that is admirable.
  181.  
  182. How weird is a culture of politics that views a member of parliament like Peter Mathews as an eccentric for doing exactly what his party was elected to do?
  183.  
  184. When such integrity is looked upon askance, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions.
  185.  
  186. It takes courage to keep a promise when faced with the kind of threats issued by the Government on this issue.
  187.  
  188. And this country has suffered from a crisis of political courage for far too long.
  189.  
  190. We’re in this mess because too many people did what they were told, and not what they believed to be right.
  191.  
  192. We won’t get out of this mess because too many people in our Dáil are still just doing what they’re told. On jobs. On reform. On Europe. And on abortion.
  193.  
  194. If we wanted TDs who just did what they are told, we could elect 166 well-trained poodles.
  195.  
  196. The politics of taking a poll to see what the people think, and then saying it back to them, is not politics at all.
  197.  
  198. It’s not leadership. It is cowardice – it’s about shoring up your own job first, and worrying about the jobless second.
  199.  
  200. This Government has been devoted to distracting people from its economic record. Abortion, Constitutional Conventions, Abolishing the Seanad – there’s nothing they won’t do to take your mind off the fact that the country is still in an economic crisis and they haven’t fixed it.
  201.  
  202. It is a recipe for stagnation and depression – and we should not be surprised that that is what it has given us.
  203.  
  204. The challenge of building an alternative
  205.  
  206. I do not pretend to have all the answers Ireland needs and I honestly do not know if Ireland is ready for an alternative that is conviction, rather than consensus-driven.
  207.  
  208. I do not know if all the work that needs to be done, can be done.
  209.  
  210. I do not know if the candidates are out there, or if the money can be raised, or if the voters would give such an alternative a chance.
  211.  
  212. I do know that such an alternative cannot be about one man, or one woman.
  213.  
  214. If this is going to happen it must happen from the ground up.
  215.  
  216. What I am trying to do here tonight is not prescribe a miracle cure but start a conversation with you, my fellow citizens, and see if you are interested in answering the call.
  217.  
  218. Our country faces many challenges and any new movement will face challenges of its own. Whether they can be met I don’t know – that much is up to you.
  219.  
  220. What I do know is what I believe in.
  221.  
  222. As I have said, I believe in lower, fairer taxes, and a welfare system that treats every citizen with the dignity that we would like to be treated with ourselves.
  223.  
  224. Public services
  225.  
  226. I also believe in strong, front line public services. That’s not what we have in this country. Since January 2010 the number of civil servants has fallen by 2.2%, but the number of staff in health has fallen by 12% and the number of Gardaí by 9.5%.
  227.  
  228. That is the opposite of what every sane person in this country wants, but it is what this frankly insane political process has given us. An alternative for Ireland must set itself to redressing the balance, and delivering for the men and women of Ireland a health service to be proud of and a justice system that is capable of delivering justice.
  229.  
  230. The European Union and a new federalism
  231.  
  232. I believe in Europe. I believe that much is wrong with Brussels, but there is nothing wrong with the idea of the European Union that cannot be fixed by us, the people.
  233.  
  234. I have spent years talking about Europe. I have been saying since 2004 that Europe was on the wrong path. That voting “yes for jobs” was a nonsense and a con, and that the fiscal treaty formula would not work. Look at Greece today. Look at Spain. Look at Ireland. Where are the jobs?
  235.  
  236. I know the path to many votes and to quick popularity with a broad audience at this point is to become “Eurosceptic” or “Anti-European” and say it’s time to ditch the EU altogether.
  237.  
  238. But I am not going to do that because it is not what I believe.
  239.  
  240. I don’t believe you cure the patient by euthanizing the body. I am, and have always been, a European federalist.
  241.  
  242. I say federalist because I believe in local government.
  243.  
  244. I believe that power should be exercised closest to the people. That Brussels has too many powers that it doesn’t know how to use, and that it is too big, too unwieldy, and structurally undemocratic.
  245.  
  246. The path to reform in Europe must involve a strong and united Federal Europe that trusts people to make their own choices in their own communities, and does well the things we need it to do at European level.
  247.  
  248. At the moment, Brussels does not have a handle on the economic crisis, but it does have its hands firmly around the issue of whether a family in Roscommon can cut turf, whether or not pictures of babies can be on a bottle of milk formula, and how restaurants can provide Olive Oil dips.
  249.  
  250. That is the exact opposite of what we need Europe to be.
  251.  
  252. I also believe in reforming local Government here. In giving local people a say in what services are provided to them and how they’re provided. In changing councils from talking shops to real laboratories of democracy, where new ideas are tested and real political talents nurtured.
  253.  
  254. We have county councillors who spend entire careers calling for things and delivering nothing. Give them, and the people they represent, more of a say in their communities. It is a model for Ireland, and for Europe.
  255.  
  256. Because Democracy must always start from the bottom up.
  257.  
  258. A banking enquiry
  259.  
  260. And it must stand for justice.
  261.  
  262. We still do not know what happened in the bank guarantee of 2008, and more importantly the so-called bailout of 2010 and who benefitted from those decisions. The Irish people have a legion of questions and no answers.
  263.  
  264. As a country, we must find out what happened and why. We need a full, forensic, independent investigation into the events of that guarantee, with rewards whistleblowers who help us recover the Irish people’s money.
  265.  
  266. We should hire specialists from outside Europe and give them all the tools they need and let the chips fall where they may.
  267.  
  268. The Irish people need and deserve the truth, and the rest of Europe needs to know why it is that we are carrying the burden of the failure of French and German banks.
  269.  
  270. Abortion
  271.  
  272. This fear of grappling with the hard issues - this blinding irresponsibility of those in our political system who hide behind spin and Dáil procedure to avoid asking the hard questions, is why we are here tonight.
  273.  
  274. We have a political system that rewards cowardice and punishes conviction, and no issue makes that clearer than this fudge of an abortion bill. So let me be clear.
  275.  
  276. I believe in life. In human rights. In the sacred idea that no human life is the property of another. In the conviction that every individual is created equally and uniquely and that it is never our right to take an innocent human life – as individuals, or as a state.
  277.  
  278. This abortion legislation will legalise the taking of innocent human life, removing the shield of law from one part of humanity. It is the essence of discrimination.
  279.  
  280. It is not something I could or would ever support, and I call on any TD who shares that view to put human life first, and the transient insignificance of party politics second.
  281.  
  282. Closing remarks
  283.  
  284. Finally, I believe in this country.
  285.  
  286. I believe in a country that welcomed a 12 year old boy with a Watford accent back into the heart of the west of Ireland, and gave him all the opportunities he needed to succeed.
  287.  
  288. In my life, the best things I have seen happen came from ordinary people reaching out to help each other, working as families, communities, and a society of free people with each other’s best interests at heart.
  289.  
  290. I believe in our Irish capability for innovation, and in our determination, and in our sheer bloody-minded will to do what it takes to better ourselves and our children.
  291.  
  292. There is no easy path out of where we are. There is no alternative for Ireland that magic’s away all the pain.
  293.  
  294. But there is hope. And there is a nation of people who if set free from the chains of Government and ill-rule, can rise again to become a beacon of hope and inspiration to the wider world.
  295.  
  296. I hope that there is a will to make it happen.
  297.  
  298. I believe there is an alternative.
  299.  
  300. And I hope it will be lead by the people of Ireland.
  301.  
  302. Thank you, and God bless you.
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