Future group spotlights Dublin South Central

It's the economy, stupid!

Candidates in the Dublin South Central constituency faced voters on Monday at a public meeting dominated by economic discussion. Reform group Claiming Our Future, (their profile here) held the event so local voters had a chance to size up the candidates ahead of Friday's general election. Philip Connolly reports.

Michael Taft, economic advisor to trade union UNITE, presented a paper to stimulate discussion, telling the meeting: "The last Government's austerity programme has failed. Taking €15 billion out of the economy between 2008 and 2010 destabilised the economy and pushed us into a downward spiral while actually increasing the deficit. Taking another €15 billion out of the economy will ensure Ireland will suffer from a low-growth, high-unemployment and high debt future."

Bríd Smith then spoke on behalf of Joan Collins of People Before Profit/United Left Alliance. She called on the Irish people to look beyond the election. "We go to the ballot box but it's not the only thing we do, we have to get back on the streets, we have to do what they have done in Egypt and Tunisia, and wrestle the power back to the people from the elite."

Sinn Féin's Aengus O Snodaigh spoke of the opportunity, in both the election and beyond, to reshape Irish society, the failure of austerity measures and the lack of confidence shown by the international financial community.

Eric Byrne, councilor and former Labour Party TD, lamented the "tragedy of not hearing enough of Michael Taft and his philosophy" in Irish economic debate. Byrne continued the theme of the failures of Fianna Fail and austerity measures, quoting a New York Times editorial to illustrate the need to renegotiate the ECB/IMF bailout deal.

From a right-wing perspective, Fine Gael candidate Ruari McGinley spoke of the difference between Taft and himself, and the need to get people back to work on "a sustainable basis". McGinley's argument centred on the need to balance the budget. Speaking personally, he showed that he had shared the impact of Ireland's economy contracting by 20% in four years, having been "between jobs four times".

Local community worker John Bisset spoke about the devastation being experienced in many of the communities in the Dublin South Central constituency. "Ireland has become one of the most unequal societies in the developed world. On top of gross levels of inequality, the people and communities suffering most are now being asked to take responsibility for banker's greed and the failed strategy of the previous government. This is not humanely possible and has to stop."

Claiming Our Future was initially developed by Is Feidir Linn, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, environmental groups, the TASC think tank and Social Justice Ireland, it now involves a much wider range of organisations including community groups, youth groups, rural networks, social justice groups and organisations representing older people, global justice, migrant workers, students, cultural initiatives, women, people with disabilities and social media.

The full list of candidates in Dublin South Central is here. Constituency profile here.

It's the economy, stupid! Claiming Our Future public meeting, Rialto from Paula Geraghty on Vimeo.