December 23 2006
David Begg questions Government policy
Writing in The Irish Times on Dec 23.David Begg says "The starting point, I suggest, is to question our attitude to maximising economic growth. What is it for? We have full employment, to all intents and purposes.
The objective now should be to maintain economic growth at a level that maintains this, but without generating the high population growth that means physical and social infrastructure will always be inadequate.
It is a case of optimising growth as opposed to maximising. To continue as we are means the population will reach 5.5 million by 2026, according to the CSO".
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December 14 and 21 2006
Sinn Féin challenges the Progressive Democrats and the Labour Party on restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian workers
Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí Doolan was strongly critical of the Labour Party for endorsing the recent government decision not to allow free access to workers from Romania and Bulgaria, who join the European Union on January 1st.
Cllr. Daithí Doolan: "Thirdly and finally, the whole issue of extending international solidarity beyond the borders particularly with Romanian and Bulgarian workers. I think it is unfortunate that today's Labour Party does not feel it can extend that solidarity to Romanian and Bulgarian workers who, in our view, should be welcomed to share in the benefits of our economic development on this island, to share in it and indeed contribute to the ongoing economic development on this island.
My own view of this is that the Labour Party have, unfortunately, taken this position to appease the more vocal xenophobic or indeed racist voices in our society that, rather than appeasing, should have been outrightly challenged and say with the European enlargement that the peoples of Romania and Bulgaria too should share in the spoils of the economic development, should be welcomed to our shores, just as we were welcomed to other countries when we joined the then EEC.
So my question to Deputy Rabbitte is: is it really time for the Labour Party to reconsider its views on the Constitution next year when it comes back on the agenda and to reverse the thinking on the Romanian and Bulgarian issue and to welcome these workers to our shores?
Otherwise I would say it is an excellent contribution and I would like to take the opportunity as well to extend fraternal seasonal greetings to our colleagues in the Labour Party. Go raibh maith agat".
Deputy Pat Rabbitte: "On the job displacement question, I repeat the remarks that I made this time last year. Of course, the political agenda has caught up since. It is acknowledged now that the number of people coming to work in Ireland from four or five, in particular, of the new accession states has far exceeded predictions. In the context of circumstances where the Union Member States generally did not throw open their borders, it is prudent for Ireland to do what I suggested a year ago, which is that there ought to be some quotas fixed or work permit system from the latest accession countries for an interim period, because I think the phenomenon has to be managed patiently.
Inward migration is a completely new phenomenon for Ireland and the focus, it seems to me, has been entirely too much on the labour market situation, on welcoming a stream of generally well‑educated young people, in many cases, as a source of cheap labour. There is no point in us putting our heads in the sand. There has been exploitation of migrant labour in this economy.
Since I made those remarks we have had the creation of an entire new agency, the purpose of which is to invigilate standards and conditions in the work place. That agency wasn't there at the time. Major expansion of work place inspectors is promised. This pre‑occupied fourteen weeks of the talks between the Social Partners and the Government. It would scarcely have been the case if there were not matters to be talked about.
I wasn't at all impressed by their hurried preparation of economic reports to prove that on a macro basis there was not much evidence of displacement. Like most of my colleagues across all parties who have to do constituency clinics and so on, I know that on a micro basis there has been some displacement. I know that people here who had very limited education opportunity and so on who could expect, if they got second chance education, to progress to certain types of employment, that that is no longer available. Now that is one of the facts of life that we have to live with, because the upside is very positive. The new diversity and energy that has been brought, not just to the economy but to society, is tremendously encouraging for the future. That does not mean to say that it does not require careful management and that it is not a bigger issue than purely regarding it as a source of labour supply. There are societal questions. There are infrastructure questions. There are pressures on housing. There are pressures on education places and I can't, for the life of me, see why there can't be a frank and honest discussion about that, rather than ‑ and again the word was dragged across here this morning entirely inappropriately, of racism".
Cllr. Daithí Doolan: “By extension, would the Minister also care to review the position taken by the Government about the application of Romania and Bulgaria whereby we are opening up the borders but we are restricting the rights of people to travel over those borders to share in the wealth and share in the economic boom that we are witnessing here, particularly in this State but across Europe. It is something that we have constantly flagged up, while Europe is expanding we are now expanding at two speeds, it is a two‑tier Europe that we are ensuring develops whereby the markets are opened up, but unfortunately the people that live behind those borders are not allowed across them.
Go raibh mile maith agaibh. I appreciate your contribution and I look forward to your response, Tanaiste.”
Minister McDowell: “Finally in relation to Romania and Bulgaria, Ireland and the United Kingdom and Sweden adopted the open doors policy to the accession states in 2004 and it is very interesting to see what happened. I have forgotten how many people went to Sweden, I think about 30,000. To the UK 600,000 into 60 million people. To Ireland with a population of four million, just over four million, 200,000 accession state workers came to work here. They were welcome, and by the way on my own travels around the country now I see how important they are to our economy.
But in relation to Romania and Bulgaria the governments, Ireland and Britain, made a decision collectively that by virtue of the common travel area and by virtue of the radical divergence between per capita income in Romania and Bulgaria compared to the rest of Europe, that as long as the other Member States were not adopting an open door policy, it would be folly for Ireland to risk a further wave of migration because it would, in fact, have the potential to seriously destabilise our labour market and that in turn would lead to blue collar racism in Ireland. That is one of our primary concerns.
I would say to Daithí that when the election comes about and yourself and myself are prowling around Ringsend and other places that you won't be talking then about opening the doors to Romania and Bulgaria, I guarantee you that.”
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