There were demonstrations across France yesterday, Thursday, in memory of young anti-fascist Clém
This week has witnessed some of the most savage cuts of the crisis so far. Under pressure from their ‘troika’ paymasters, the Irish government has committed to cutting €130 million from the HSE budget by the end of the year.
This will cause real hardship as care packages for the old and vulnerable are reduced, as are home help hours and a raft of life improving medications.
The man directly responsible for implementing these cuts is Minister for Health, James Reilly.
Reilly, who lives in a stately manor in Co. Offaly, made his fortune as a medical doctor, rising to become President of the Irish Medical Organisation in 2004.
As a key representative of the Irish consultants, Reilly helped to negotiate massive salary increases for medical elites during his term of office.
Today there are more than 500 Irish consultants earning over €200,000. This breaches the salary cap imposed by the government, but rather than taking on the vested interests, Reilly has predictably chosen to go for the vulnerable.
This has caused widespread anger among ordinary people and the Labour party have suddenly found their social conscience.
Last year Labour were more than willing to cut €700 million from the social welfare budget, crucifying single parents, the elderly and those with big families.
Between them Joan Burton and Brendan Howlin slashed billions from the budgets of the poor. But with a Fine Gael minister now in the firing line, senior Labour Party figures are suddenly making noises.
Party Chairman, Colm Keaveney responded to the latest news by stating that “there is blatantly an issue of social justice here where the most vulnerable are being targeted”, whilst an unnamed Labour minister charged Reilly with “going for soft targets rather than taking on the pharmaceuticals industry, the insurers and the consultants”.
No doubt this is all true. But the real reason for Labours’ protest has less to do with patient care and more to do with self-preservation.
In March 2011 the Labour Party promised to use their mandate to curb the right-wing excesses of their Fine Gael partners.
Since then Labour has consistently betrayed their pledges to working class people, but they have always made sure to keep in with the unions.
Keaveney himself is a former SIPTU official, whilst SIPTU President Jack O’ Connor regularly strategizes with key figures in the Labour hierarchy.
This is why the home help issue in particular has become so important.
Scores of meetings have already been held by home help workers furious with the government’s latest attacks. This has been a remarkable showing of resistance from below, and such as been the momentum that it has forced SIPTU to reluctantly act.
Over the last few weeks SIPTU has initiated a national campaign to defend the terms and conditions of home help workers.
This threatens to drive a wedge between Labour and the unions and with Reilly charging SIPTU with blocking pay cuts for consultants through the Croke Park Deal, Labour strategists have had to respond.
This is the real reason for their sudden concern. After all, there has already been 20 times (€2.5 billion) the level of heath cuts announced last week without so much as a whimper.
Labour are only too happy to implement cuts so long as they maintain their political position.
A point confirmed by the fact that they will support Reilly if a vote of No confidence is tabled against him in the Dail this week.
Like the Greens before them Labour will speak left when they think it will help them.
But they are far more worried with managing Irish capitalism than with managing to defend the interest of the people.
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