HUNDREDS OF people languishing on trolleys in A&E departments, tens of thousands on hospital waiting lists, Û415,000 for an average house in Dublin, commuters wasting hundreds of hours a year stuck in traffic jams, the second highest class sizes in the EU.
These are just some of the problems that working-class people in southern Ireland have to contend with and are the backdrop to the general election on 24 May.
The 'Celtic Tiger' economic boom is long gone and now the South is facing the prospect of a downturn. House prices are falling, consumer confidence is way down and there are major crises everywhere you turn.
This is the legacy of ten years of Fianna Fail and Progressive Democrats' (PD) governments, ie huge profits for big business and mounting problems for workers. The election is a contest between two right-wing political blocs. Fianna Fail and the PDs are seeking re-election and a coalition between Fine Gael and Labour is trying to oust them.
It is unclear who will win the election but what is clear is that the next government will be right-wing and will continue to implement a neo-liberal agenda based on privatisation and attacks on workers' wages and conditions.
The Greens and Sinn Fein portray themselves as anti-establishment but both parties have said they would be prepared to go into government with either Fianna Fail or Fine Gael. This will be a sell-out for anyone who hoped these parties would be a radical alternative as they would be part of a government implementing a big business agenda.
The Socialist Party will not be part of any big business government. We are putting forward an alternative based on planning for people's needs not private greed.
We are standing four candidates. For the last ten years, Joe Higgins has been the only TD (Member of Parliament) who has voiced the anger of working-class people, and he has used his position to organise and fight for their rights. Socialist Party councillor Clare Daly is tipped to win a seat in Dublin North and would then join Joe Higgins in the Dail (Parliament) to strengthen the real opposition. The Socialist Party is campaigning hard to also get councillors Mick Murphy and Mick Barry into the Dail.
Winning more seats in parliament will help the Socialist Party to fight on the real issues that affect workers and will be an important step forward in the building of a new party that really represents working-class people.