Press Release

SIPTU President warns of drift to xenophobic nationalism across Europe and calls for left unity

Date Released: 30 January 2017

SIPTU President, Jack O’Connor, has said that the policies of austerity imposed by centre right leaders across the EU have devastated the lives of millions of working people and driven them into the arms of xenophobic nationalist parties.

Speaking at a commemoration today (Monday 30th January) in Glasnevin cemetery to mark the 70th anniversary of the death of labour leader, Jim Larkin, the SIPTU president said that the parties of the right in Europe “could have saved millions of their citizens from destitution and despair by measures to offset austerity with a major public investment initiative.”

“Their insistence on rendering support conditional on soul sapping austerity condemned countless numbers of EU citizens to unemployment, emigration and misery. Their brutal strategy has fundamentally undermined the legitimacy of the European project in the eyes of tens of millions of workers and young people,” Jack O’Connor said.

“All that was required was a more flexible interpretation of the stability and growth pact which would have allowed countries to disregard the expenditure of up to 3% of GDP on productivity enhancing infrastructural investment and skills development.  Instead, they chose the mean-spirited strategy of underwriting loans to the stressed countries already immersed in too much debt, simply so that they could service their borrowings which were often owed to major banks in the creditor countries themselves.”

Jack O’Connor also called on those parties and organisations on the left of Irish and European politics to put forward positive and productive strategies that can reverse austerity and reinstate workers’ rights.

“Social democracy, which first forged the prospect of a better future for all before the First World War, led the fight against fascism in the 1930s and 1940s and spearheaded a Social Europe afterwards, is severely discredited.  It has burnt a huge amount of its’ political capital in a desperate effort to mitigate the austerity agenda by participating in governments dominated by the centre right and has consequently ended up being blamed for a collapse that was not of its’ making.

“Others, on an increasingly fragmented left, seem content to be defined by reference only to what they are against rather than offering a vision of what they are for, or how it would work.”

He called on left parties “to invest their political capital in helping create a more positive, and productive programme and strategy. That is the real test of leadership.  Look at the example that is being provided by the parties of the left in Portugal where they have established an alliance for government, reversing austerity, reinstating workers’ rights and charting a course for a progressive future.”


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