Monday, July 25, 2011

Carrickmacross Councillors Refuse to Make a Stand

FG, FF & Greens vote down Sinn Féin motion

I am used to having motions I propose to Carrickmacross Town Council defeated. When I first elected to that body I was a sole Sinn Féin representative and it wasn't unique for me to fail to get a seconder for some motions. During that council term Fianna Fáil had a majority and so most motions that were critical of the government of the day were doomed for defeat.

So I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised when a motion I placed on the agenda of the last Town Council meeting was defeated. This is the motion:

"Recognising that families in Carrickmacross are already struggling to make ends meet at present and further recognising that many local businesses have been devastated by the reduction of spending power of the people of the town through job losses, taxes increases and austerity measures; Carrickmacross Town Council notes with concern the governments' proposals to introduce water charges and property taxes. That this council recognises that such a move will deflate our local economy even further and prolong the current recession. We call on the government to desist from introducing these additional taxes at this time."

The truth is, I was surprised with the outcome. I purposefully worded the motion so that not to principally object to such charges even though that is my own position. Rather than focus solely on the fact that such charges will place a severe burden on people that cannot afford them I highlighted the impact that these charges will have on our local economy and on businesses that are already on the brink of closure. The motion simply called for these charges not to be introduced at this particular time.

The motion was defeated. And not just defeated - it was roundly rejected.
The three Fine Gael members Mark Clarke, Mary Kerr Conlon and Teresa Carolan accused me of populism and all the rest and led the charge against the motion.

Fianna Fáil's Padraig McNally and PJ O'Hanlon argued against it and especially advocated the introduction of water charges. PJ voted against the motion, Padraig abstained. The Green Party's Darcy Lonergan and Kristina Jankaitiene didn't speak to the motion but voted against it without providing a rationale.

So that left myself and Noel Keelan, as the two Sinn Féin members, to vote in favour of a motion that was defeated 6-2 with 1 abstention.

Now obviously I know that even had the motion been passed unanimously it would have little bearing on the governments' plans. Indeed since our debate the Fine Gael Labour government have announced that plans are advanced for a Household charge. Support for the proposal would simply have stood as a small message to the people of our town that their local council understood the hardship that many of them were suffering and that we were on their side.

The reason I am surprised by the decision of my fellow councillors is that I know that they know how difficult many of the families they represent are already having it. I know that they know that if such a charge is introduced that it will mean more local shops will close.

Often we hear the charge that Oireachtas members are out of touch, earning huge wages and stuck in Dublin three days a week. However, local councillors are meeting people suffering as a result of austerity measures every day.

But they could not bring themselves to make a small stand against these measures. They will not accept the argument that it is those who can afford to pay more (and they are out there) that should pay more. They will not agree that public money should not be used to pay private banking debt. Instead they agree that everyone should pay the same and if that means that there is less money to pay for groceries or utilities then so be it.

Why is this the case? Well, I have my theories but I cannot say for certain.

Maybe the next time you meet one of them you will ask them.