Op-Ed: Grassroots Movement

 
 

Students must play a vital role in resolving the future of the nation’s government if we our to recuperate from the current crisis, writes Liz McManus TD.

It began as a mathematical formula as follows: If the government runs its full term in 2012, I’ll have been a TD for 20 years. My oldest child will be 40, my youngest child will be 30, my oldest grandchild 22 and my youngest grandchild two. My life as a public representative, 33 years, will be one year longer than my life not as a public representative, 32 years.

The magic of figures convinced me it was time to make the break. I announced that I would retire at the next election whenever it is called. Does that make sense? Not really, I know. The truth is that it is not always possible to know all the reasons why one makes a decision.  Too many factors and influences, I suppose, but I can state one reason without equivocation.

Ireland is in an economic quagmire and the up-and-coming generation holds the key to getting us out of the mess. Younger people are bearing the terrible price of Fianna Fáil incompetence and corruption as well as the greed of developers and banks. The toxic triangle of vested interests has been exposed but, in particular, their poison seeps into the lives of younger people  – those who are getting hit by redundancy, or graduate unemployment or having to pay bloated mortgage repayments.

These are the people who have to take an undue burden of the pain and, in my view, they are the people who should be in Dáil Éireann making the decisions and creating the policies to guide us forward. I don’t argue that you have to be under-40 to be in Dáil Éireann, but I do believe that it would be great if a lot more people under the age of 40 get in at the next election. To make that happen, my generation have to give way to an extent. I’m choosing to jump. Other older TDs may join me out in the cold without a choice. They may find themselves being swept out by the voters’ intent on change.

Democracy has its own dynamic. It is a pitiless but vital force. Just ask Fianna Fáil when they face the wrath of the public. There is a deep anger that will be evidenced at the ballot box. It will be a war of attrition but it will also be a fresh start for our society. The opinion polls show that Labour will do very well in the next election. For the first time ever, we can argue with credibility for a Labour-led Government.

That would be the strongest, most potent message that the old regime is gone and that the people are sovereign.

We know that even under a Labour-led government, times will be tough. It will take five, seven or maybe ten years to get back on our feet properly. The sad reality is that we’ve been here before. Fianna Fail bankrupted the country and Labour and Fine Gael had to govern our way back into solvency. When we left office in 1997 for the first time, there was a Budget surplus delivered by a Labour Minister for Finance, Ruairi Quinn TD. A thousand new jobs were created every week, a record number of new homes built and, for the first time, third-level college fees were abolished.

The abolition of third-level fees was an important step in public policy. It was proof that Labour’s commitment to equality could be translated into effective action. It established the importance of third-level education as a bedrock part of any person’s education, regardless of class. It has already been eroded by Fianna Fáil and the Greens in government. The current obstacles being put in the way of students, whether in delays in paying grants or upping the charges, should be eliminated in order to ensure that our young people have easy access to education just when they need it most – during a recession. It is particularly hard to stomach the threat of access to third level when billions of euro are being shovelled into the black hole of the Irish banking sector.

In other countries they seize oil refineries and set fire to the buildings. In Ireland, all we do is phone up Joe Duffy and whine. That is the commonly held view of the public mood. I disagree.  I’m old enough to remember the marches of the Dublin Housing Action Committee when students and homeless people came together and marched in their thousands in the 1960s. In the 1980s, the huge PAYE marches gave the government food for thought and in the 2000s, the pensioners came out in droves and brought their Zimmer frames with them. At that time students were marching in Dublin too. The young and the old were out. To what end, you might ask? Well, the pensioners forced the government to do a U-turn; the PAYE tax reforms happened and the housing programme in Dublin was enhanced in the early 1970s.

We are in for a rocky time and we are in it together. What a Labour-led government will do is provide a programme that is fair to all, unafraid of vested interests and is capable of rejuvenating this country. As an inspired leader, Eamon Gilmore TD will – I hope – be the first Labour Taoiseach. He learnt his politics early as a student leader. He had the vision and tenacity to shine in the bear pit of student politics. That experience holds to him now.

Such momentous change will not happen easily. The parties of the right – both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael – will fight tooth and nail to stop such a transformation taking place in Irish politics. Whether as a TD or an ex-TD, I will be fighting hard to help make it happen. It will be a new start for Ireland, a new hope and a new generation.

Liz McManus TD is an Irish Labour Party politician.

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Title: Grassroots Movement

Author: Liz McManus TD

Intro: Students must play a vital role in resolving the future of the nation’s government if we our to recuperate from the current crisis, writes Liz McManus TD.

Pull quote: The toxic triangle of vested interests has been exposed but, in particular, their poison seeps into the lives of younger people  – those who are getting hit by redundancy, or graduate unemployment

Word Count: 971

Image Caption: Eamon Gilmore is one of many current TDs with a background in student politics.

It began as a mathematical formula as follows: If the government runs its full term in 2012, I’ll have been a TD for 20 years. My oldest child will be 40, my youngest child will be 30, my oldest grandchild 22 and my youngest grandchild two. My life as a public representative, 33 years, will be one year longer than my life not as a public representative, 32 years.

The magic of figures convinced me it was time to make the break. I announced that I would retire at the next election whenever it is called. Does that make sense? Not really, I know. The truth is that it is not always possible to know all the reasons why one makes a decision.  Too many factors and influences, I suppose, but I can state one reason without equivocation.

Ireland is in an economic quagmire and the up-and-coming generation holds the key to getting us out of the mess. Younger people are bearing the terrible price of Fianna Fáil incompetence and corruption as well as the greed of developers and banks. The toxic triangle of vested interests has been exposed but, in particular, their poison seeps into the lives of younger people  – those who are getting hit by redundancy, or graduate unemployment or having to pay bloated mortgage repayments.

These are the people who have to take an undue burden of the pain and, in my view, they are the people who should be in Dáil Éireann making the decisions and creating the policies to guide us forward. I don’t argue that you have to be under-40 to be in Dáil Éireann, but I do believe that it would be great if a lot more people under the age of 40 get in at the next election. To make that happen, my generation have to give way to an extent. I’m choosing to jump. Other older TDs may join me out in the cold without a choice. They may find themselves being swept out by the voters’ intent on change.

Democracy has its own dynamic. It is a pitiless but vital force. Just ask Fianna Fáil when they face the wrath of the public. There is a deep anger that will be evidenced at the ballot box. It will be a war of attrition but it will also be a fresh start for our society. The opinion polls show that Labour will do very well in the next election. For the first time ever, we can argue with credibility for a Labour-led Government.

That would be the strongest, most potent message that the old regime is gone and that the people are sovereign.

We know that even under a Labour-led government, times will be tough. It will take five, seven or maybe ten years to get back on our feet properly. The sad reality is that we’ve been here before. Fianna Fail bankrupted the country and Labour and Fine Gael had to govern our way back into solvency. When we left office in 1997 for the first time, there was a Budget surplus delivered by a Labour Minister for Finance, Ruairi Quinn TD. A thousand new jobs were created every week, a record number of new homes built and, for the first time, third-level college fees were abolished.

The abolition of third-level fees was an important step in public policy. It was proof that Labour’s commitment to equality could be translated into effective action. It established the importance of third-level education as a bedrock part of any person’s education, regardless of class. It has already been eroded by Fianna Fáil and the Greens in government. The current obstacles being put in the way of students, whether in delays in paying grants or upping the charges, should be eliminated in order to ensure that our young people have easy access to education just when they need it most – during a recession. It is particularly hard to stomach the threat of access to third level when billions of euro are being shovelled into the black hole of the Irish banking sector.

In other countries they seize oil refineries and set fire to the buildings. In Ireland, all we do is phone up Joe Duffy and whine. That is the commonly held view of the public mood. I disagree.  I’m old enough to remember the marches of the Dublin Housing Action Committee when students and homeless people came together and marched in their thousands in the 1960s. In the 1980s, the huge PAYE marches gave the government food for thought and in the 2000s, the pensioners came out in droves and brought their Zimmer frames with them. At that time students were marching in Dublin too. The young and the old were out. To what end, you might ask? Well, the pensioners forced the government to do a U-turn; the PAYE tax reforms happened and the housing programme in Dublin was enhanced in the early 1970s.

We are in for a rocky time and we are in it together. What a Labour-led government will do is provide a programme that is fair to all, unafraid of vested interests and is capable of rejuvenating this country. As an inspired leader, Eamon Gilmore TD will – I hope – be the first Labour Taoiseach. He learnt his politics early as a student leader. He had the vision and tenacity to shine in the bear pit of student politics. That experience holds to him now.

Such momentous change will not happen easily. The parties of the right – both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael – will fight tooth and nail to stop such a transformation taking place in Irish politics. Whether as a TD or an ex-TD, I will be fighting hard to help make it happen. It will be a new start for Ireland, a new hope and a new generation.

Liz McManus TD is an Irish Labour Party politician.

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