Reports and Campaigns
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Socialist MP Fights Sell-Off Fiasco
THE FIANNA Fail-led coalition government in Ireland had plans to privatise the country's state airline Aer Lingus. The airline's management (publicly appointed officials running a state-owned company) announced that they wanted to compete for a management buy-out and had implemented vicious new working practices in advance of selling the company off.
This sickened most people in Ireland. But on 5 October, Ireland's prime minister Bertie Ahern brushed aside weak questioning by the main opposition parties and still argued that the management buy-out was an option.
However, during question time in the D‡il (Irish Parliament) on 6 October, Joe Higgins, the Socialist Party TD (MP) gave voice to the widespread anger. Joe asked:
"Why has the Government not dismissed the chief executive, chief financial officer and chief operations officer of Aer Lingus in the wake of the stunning conflict of interest in which they placed themselves in seeking the privatisation of the national airline so that they could purchase it themselves and make an obscene financial killing?
"Have neo-liberal capitalist values so saturated the government that it sees no difficulty with Aer Lingus executives, charged with protecting a crucial asset of the taxpayer, sitting in their offices and plotting how they can make it their private property?
"To facilitate that plot, they are intent on stripping the asset of 1,300 jobs and core activities to make it more attractive for venture capitalists whom they want to purchase it."
Joe's question, expressing the anger of Irish workers and young people on the issue, finally forced Ahern to say that the government was no longer considering the buy-out option. Fianna Fail's deeply unpopular leadership began to see that allowing a management buy-out would reduce their popularity even further!
Challenging Kofi Annan
UNITED NATIONS Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke at a meeting of the 'National Forum on Europe', in Dublin on 14 October. Leading representatives of all the political parties represented in the D‡il then had an opportunity to respond.
In the few minutes allowed, Joe Higgins challenged Kofi Annan's speech: "I represent in parliament, working-class people and many people in relative poverty.
"Can I ask you, why should those people and the billions of working people and poor in our world, to whom you referred, place any hope for a better future in a reorganised United Nations, when two of its five permanent Security Council members can launch, and continue, an illegal imperialist conquest in Iraq, slaughtering in the process thousands of innocent people?
"And while all five permanent Security Council members, and many others... [are] wasting billions of resources, which, if redirected, could provide for example, clean water, disease relief, clothes and shelter for the billions to whom you referred."